Bamboo will never be organic, but not for the reasons you think. Bamboo is probably not a new concept to you either because you’ve seen those adorable videos of baby pandas falling or because you’ve recently bought bamboo clothing, sheets, or toothbrushes. Since 2000, the demand for bamboo has more than doubled, and with it, the amount of bamboo-based products you probably see while shopping. But what is it about bamboo that makes it so coveted, especially as an “organic” fabric?
The first thing we probably have to discuss is what bamboo even is. Yes, it is tall stalks of tree-like grass, but it is also so much more. Grown in highly humid climates like Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America, Bamboo is a fast-growing and renewable plant that can grow up to three feet per day. About 70% of the plant, currently available, is grown in China. Due to its fast-growing nature, Bamboo doesn’t require any pesticides or chemicals to grow, and it even produces more oxygen and absorbs more carbon dioxide than any planted tree.
Knowing all this, you’re probably asking why bamboo can’t be organic? After all, aren’t the guidelines for “organic” goods simply not to use pesticides and growth hormones? A lot of why it can’t be deemed organic is because of the lack of monitoring throughout the farming process. Because while bamboo doesn’t NEED pesticides to grow, that doesn’t keep farmers and producers from attempting to escalate the already incredibly fast process– especially as demand for bamboo continues to grow.
“The Federal Trade Commission has had to call out various brands for greenwashing bamboo as ‘organic.'”
This need to escalate the farming process also translates into the way bamboo is cultivated, instead of allowing the plant to grow naturally with some distance in between each stalk, producers plant the bamboo in tightly-packed rows– similar to groves of apple trees. This style of farming, while efficient for production, makes the bamboo more susceptible to diseases because of its close proximity. This forces farmers to use chemicals and pesticides to keep the bamboo healthy.
In recent years, the Federal Trade Commission has had to call out various brands for greenwashing bamboo as “organic.” Even the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) which is the leading standard for organic products and materials (obviously) has not identified a single product on the market as “organic bamboo.”
Yet despite all of this, there continues to be a rise of “organic bamboo” clothing and fabrics. These brands lean into marketing terms and buzzwords such as: organic, natural, eco-friendly, and sustainable.
One of the main issues with bamboo being non-organic is that many people, and brands themselves, are uneducated about the plant because the bamboo itself– out in nature– is actually quite sustainable. It grows efficiently, renews quickly, doesn’t need pesticides or insecticides, prevents soil erosion (thanks to its deep-set roots), doesn’t need lots of water, improves the atmosphere (as we mentioned), and absorbs sunlight helping the natural eco-system surrounding it.
“Just because something isn’t organic doesn’t mean that it isn’t good or that it is inherently bad for you”
Where issues start to really arise (besides the lack of monitoring of farming) is the process of turning bamboo into the fabrics we know and buy. You see, most of the bamboo fabric on the market is actually a type of rayon (a plant-based fabric) that requires a large number of harsh chemicals to soften the material enough to feel silky soft on the skin. Therefore even if bamboo COULD be defined as organic in the field, by the time it has gone through this process of being melted and regenerated into a fabric, it can no longer be deemed “organic.” These chemicals (such as caustic soda and carbon disulfide) are also very harmful to the environment. This fabric is known as viscose bamboo rayon.
The less harmful way to turn bamboo into rayon is called the lyocell method which follows Lenzing’s Tencel fabric method which is a closed-loop production process. This type of process uses the water and chemicals over and over again– keeping waste to a minimum. Lyocell bamboo is the safer alternative to creating textiles.
The third method is known as bamboo linen and is least common because of how time-consuming and expensive it is. But this method simply crushes the bamboo into fibers before spinning it into yarn.
Having said all that, it’s important to be educated on the topic, just because something isn’t organic doesn’t mean that it isn’t good or that it is inherently bad for you, it simply could be that it can not be deemed 100% organic and thus standards can not deem it as such.
Thankfully, there are a number of brands that are working to transform the bamboo textile industry by making truly environmentally friendly products. One such example is ettitude, which invests only in sustainably-sourced materials and has crafted their own bamboo-lyocell-based fabric: CleanBamboo™. While there are no government regulations to define bamboo as “organic,” ettitude only sources their bamboo from FSC-certified origins that are 100% pesticide- and chemical-free. These farms use organic farming practices and are EcoCert certified organic according to EU regulations and standards. ettitude has also been deemed Climate Neutral certified since 2021.
We’ve compiled some of our favorite products– if you’re looking to change up your bedtime routine.
SIGNATURE SATEEN SHEET SET
Get that picture-perfect Pinterest bedroom look, with all the benefits: thermoregulating, breathability, and hypoallergenic. You shouldn’t have to stress about sleep!
Bring the spa day at home with this extra gentle, quick-absorbing towel. Made of bamboo, it’s perfectly comfortable for anyone who’s looking to lay on their bed for an hour post-shower and just contemplate life.
WAFFLE HAIR TOWEL
Bring the spa day at home with this extra gentle, quick-absorbing hair towel. Gentle on your head, for an easy and comfortable experience so you don’t have to worry about catching a head cold.