Spun Bamboo: Sustainability while Cutting the Toxins

The positive results of wearing Spun Bamboo clothing go well beyond the consumer’s enjoyment of soft, breathable, moisturewicking, organic fabric, but also include benefits that can affect the entire global community. Purchasing and wearing Spun Bamboo promotes and supports the growth of our bamboo plantations which are harvested on a rotational basis. That means that while other crops like cotton must be entirely decimated at the time of harvest thereby causing bare soils to bake and release more carbon into our atmosphere, Spun Bamboo plantations are harvested in portions at a time. There will always be some part of the plantation still standing and doing good for the environment. And since bamboo grows like grass, sending up new shoots continually and in a sustainable manner, harvesting bamboo is similar to mowing your lawn. Replanting is not necessary as it is with other crops, thereby reducing the carbon footprint even further. And contrary to the claim that land is clear cut to make way for bamboo, our bamboo plantations have been in existence for decades. People need to understand China and Asia in general have been utilizing bamboo for generations, for everything from building material to furniture to food.
Meanwhile, as the Spun Bamboo plantations are growing, the bamboo itself is working to make our environment a better place. Among other benefits, bamboo takes in 5 times as much greenhouse gas, and produces 35% more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees. What an amazing natural source to replenish our fresh air and fight global warming!

 Our Spun Bamboo plantations are also pesticide and fertilizer free, as bamboo flourishes on its own, and naturally resists pests. This is a breakthrough fabric when you consider that conventional cotton uses more insecticides than any other single crop and epitomizes the worst effects of chemically dependent agriculture. The typical spraying application results in volatile organic compounds released into the air and contributing to greenhouse gases. Additionally, such spraying harms the health of the soil and pollutes the ground water, lakes and streams. Five of the top nine pesticides used on cotton in the U.S. (cyanide, dicofol, naled, propargite, and trifluralin) are KNOWN cancer-causing chemicals. All nine are classified by the U.S. EPA as Category I and II— the most dangerous chemicals. Here’s something to think about: it takes nearly a pound of such chemicals to grow the cotton for one pair of pants and a shirt. Spun Bamboo provides a superior and ecofriendly alternative to such pesticideintensive crops, and to petrochemical based fibers like nylon and polyester.

   While the creation of Spun Bamboo fiber seems to have mystified a few and even spurred some erroneous reports on how bamboo fiber is manufactured, the process is really quite simple. The bamboo culms can be pumped through a process of mechanical combing, and/or baths of sodium hydroxide. These processes are completely closed, which means that the release of byproducts into the environment is negligible. The chemicals involved are “good” chemicals compared to the truly dangerous ones used to produce cotton and polyester. Sodium hydroxide is reactive but it is not toxic, i.e. it does not cause DNA damage, does not enter the food chain and is short lived because of its reactivity. It is easily neutralized into salt and water. Furthermore sodium hydroxide is used as a washing agent for almost all organic cotton textiles and is certified by the global organic textile standards. The proof of the ecologically sound methods behind bamboo production is the fact that all Spun Bamboo fabric is certified under OekoTex Standard 100, which has become the best known and most successful label for textiles tested for harmful substances.

Mechanical breakdown of the bamboo results in a fiber much more like linen and has properties like linen only silkier. No real chemical processing, however benign is necessary. This type of fabric is very new and Spun Bamboo will be offering men’s and women’s shirts and other garments made from it soon.
It is important to understand our company distributes bamboo textiles to distributors in Canada, Australia, Belgium, the UK, Japan and the Czech Republic. It is also important to consider all the large plantations growing timber bamboo suitable for bamboo fiber and bamboo paneling (for furniture, our other business) are located in China, specifically to the south and west of Suzhou and Hangzhou.
At this point in time, we source our bamboo from China because that is where the bamboo plantations are and the only place in the world with the factories that have the knowhow to produce high quality bamboo fiber. We believe that by introducing this fantastic, renewable material to the general public here and abroad, we will be educating others about bamboo and inspire the growth of more bamboo in the U.S. and around the globe. In order for farmers to start growing bamboo as a cash crop where historically it has not (i.e. the US) requires them to see a strong demand for products made from bamboo.

It is paramount that the public learn bamboo is an incredible natural resource that is severely underutilized in a large part of the world. We hope by showing the seemingly limitless possibilities this old plant has in a modern world, and explaining why bamboo clothing in particular is beneficial to our environment, we can help the world add yet another more sustainable product to their everyday lives.

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