Bamboo vs. Cotton – What is the deal?
Bamboo, organic cotton, traditional cotton – what is the difference? The short answer is…there is no short easy answer – you need to take awhile to educate yourself about the environmental impacts of all of these textiles if you really want to understand the issues.
We don’t need to recreate the wheel here, so let me point you in the direction of a few good articles:
- Bamboo and the FTC from O Ecotextiles
- Retailers, Check Your Shorts (or be Bamboozled) from EnviroMedia
- FTC Bamboozles Public About Bamboo Fabric from Green Earth Bamboo
- Bamboo: Facts behind the Fiber from Organic Clothing Blogs
If you have taken the time to read the above articles, you can see there is a lot to get your head around. And, unfortunately, there are no perfect answers. The only thing that is certain is that almost anything you purchase has environmental consequences. Under the current state of technology, plant fibers such as bamboo require chemical processing to process into fibers and that processing can be environmentally damaging. Additionally, in terms of the environmental footprint of every product, you must also consider how far the plants and then fibers have to be transported to be made into fabric and how far that fabric has to go to be made into clothes. Not all organic cotton stays organic through the manufacturing process. And, while some dying processes are organic and less environmentally damaging, not all cotton is treated as gently. Some cottons are dyed with harsh chemicals, or combined with non-organic fibers to create the end product.
Check out the Patagonia Footprint Chronicles if you want to get a sense of their organic t-shirt production process from plant to production: