Bamboo Fabric: Patagonia's Surprising Truth

Bamboo Fabric: Patagonia's Surprising Truth

Trent Johnson
Aug 16, 2010

We've blogged before about the debate surrounding bamboo. Now, Patagonia has taken its stance on whether bamboo is appropriate for use in fabrics... and the answer might surprise you.

Most of us are aware of bamboo's purported benefits: it's an incredibly fast growing plant that produces more oxygen per square foot than most trees, it can be harvested without damaging the original plant, it's incredibly strong and very light, and grows with nearly zero inputs.

For building products, it's arguably far more sustainable than hardwood. Similar adhesives and finishes are required to make a durable product. However, the transportation and CO2 costs are substantially larger when compared with locally harvested FSC-certified hardwood.

Fabrics, however, are a different story. Besides the habitat destruction (for pandas) that takes place, some of the chemical inputs required to convert bamboo into a soft and usable product are not so green. We wrote about this last year, and now Todd Copeland from Patagonia is saying the same thing:

According to Patagonia's Todd Copeland:

Most bamboo fabric in the market, however, has a smooth, silky hand that feels similar to rayon—because that's essentially what it is. Rayon is a regenerated cellulose fiber, which means that a natural raw material is converted through a chemical process into a fiber that falls into a category between naturals and synthetics. The source of cellulose can be wood, paper, cotton fiber, or in this case bamboo.

To make bamboo fabric, bamboo is essentially dissolved in a strong solvent to make a thick, viscous solution that is then forced through a spinneret and then allowed to solidify into fiber. The solvent used for this process is carbon disulfide, a toxic chemical which is a known environmental hazard and human reproductive hazard.

Read the entire story at Ecouterre.

(Image: Flickr member strollers licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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