The organic lifestyle meets much of the same in-fighting that you can see in many religions and politics. It is a touchy subject to the extremists. For the large majority of us who do not live off the grid and eat all home grown produce, going green is a process – sometimes a very difficult process. Bamboo has gained a lot of popularity for consumers in the United States recently, and has come under a lot of scrutiny from those losing business because of it.
So is bamboo eco-friendly or not? Bamboo has come under scrutiny largely due to the use of chemicals during its production process. For example, bamboo timber is ground up and its pulp is washed in a solution of sodium hydroxide (lye – used in soap) which is the 1st of two chemical baths. However, sodium hydroxide can be neutralized with a few different acids and yields salt water. The second chemical bath can releases a few chemicals that have been deemed as pollutants.
The main issue with bamboo rayon-substances is the effluent (waste water) produced. Because viscose from bamboo (rayon from bamboo) is just growing in popularity, it has not be the source of extensive research. Some scientists are developing ways to effectively treat the waste water from bamboo textile production. These developments will most likely become increasingly effective as scientists continue researching these processes.
The issues related to bamboo’s textile production process are indeed small when compared with the alternative: cotton. Cotton is one of the thirstiest (water and chemicals) crops in the world. It is grown on only 2.4% of the world’s crop land, but uses over 24% of the world’s insecticides and over 11% of the world’s pesticides. Then cotton will go through similar chemical washing and bleaching processes to that of bamboo. I would suspect that the millions of gallons of chemical pesticides and insecticides would far outweigh the chemicals used in bamboo textile production.
Bamboo as a crop is one of the most sustainable and renewable plants in the world. It is the fastest growing plant, with some species being able to grow up to 3 feet in a day. It requires very little water, and it doesn’t need chemicals during its growth process. Bamboo is also one of the most versatile crops in the world. It can be used for thousands of recorded functions, including paper, food, textiles, flooring, siding, construction, biomass, charcoal, and more. Bamboo can grow around 20 times faster than trees, produce up to 35% more oxygen than trees, and can produce around 12 times as much timber per acre than trees.
Bamboo is effectively, one of the most efficient and useful plants in the world. With millions of acreage of forests being lost every year, bamboo is an extremely viable option for reforestation across the globe. Few issues are as pressing as our current need for greenhouse gas absorption and bamboo fits the bill as a fast and efficient candidate for the job.
Not only does bamboo renew the earth, it can also have a renewing impact on economies and social structures. Bamboo is a lucrative crop; China is currently the only real supplier of bamboo for most of the world. If bamboo were to start being grown commercially in any of the poor Latin American countries, it would be a large source of jobs and money for the struggling economies down south.
Bamboo has real potential for saving our planet. Bamboo can be made into wonderful products like bamboo sheets that far exceed the comfort and quality of cotton’s equivalent. In products like bamboo sheets, bamboo can be some of the softest sheets in the world! Bamboo has over 1,000 recorded uses – it is about time that we start utilizing this wonderful resource. We can use bamboo in many of out daily items, from bowls and plates, to organic blankets and sheets. As consumers, we can make choices to purchase bamboo, so that more and more companies will start to produce it in greater quantities. So, is bamboo an eco-friendly product? I would say that it definitely has high marks in the eco-friendly category. These will only increase as it continues to become more popular, and as scientists continue to explore more efficient ways to produce bamboo products.