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Is Bamboo Fabric Really Environmentally-Friendly?

There is growing speculation about the ‘eco-friendliness’ of bamboo fabric.  Bamboo Fabric is a textile that is chemically produced by extracting cellulose from raw bamboo pulp.  Bamboo Fabric is used to make socks, bed linens, duvets, towels, and clothing materials that are popularly coined as having ultra-soft and durable fibers.

Let’s dive right in and dig deep into this speculation, the conclusion to which not only enlighten you but also encourage your stance on eco-living.

The process of extracting cellulose from bamboo pulp is a chemical process that involves hydrolysis alkalization, which makes use of chemicals like sodium hydroxide (may cause eye and skin allergies) and carbon disulphide (which is known to increase risk of neural and reproductive system disorders) to dissolve raw bamboo. This process is combined with multi-phase bleaching.

The manufacturers of such products are primarily located in developing countries where environmentally-friendly and safe chemical disposal practices are not fully followed nor enforced. Not only does this pose an increased risk of human exposure but also a risk to the ecosystem.

Did you know that the end result of this manufacturing process is a fiber colloquially known as Rayon?

Rayon is an artificial fiber made from plant cellulose. The majority of Rayon is made from raw bamboo, due to bamboo’s sustainable nature attributed to its rapid plant production, with little or no need of pesticides or fertilizer to encourage growth.  Although it’s uncommon for retailers to claim that Bamboo Fabric is a sustainable option, it certainly implies that it is because of its originating raw material. And with the sustainability movement on a rising trend, which is well-deserved, it’s rather a common marketing exercise to insinuate so.

On the flipside, one can argue that retailers of bamboo fabrics may actually be helping the sustainability movement by allowing others to become newly aware of a growing environmental problem for which the solution is to begin choosing sustainable products over non-sustainable sources.

Another may additionally argue that similar processes are used for other plant-based textiles and therefore should also come under the same scrutiny.  Although, it should be noted that bamboo is a sturdy and strong plant, and requires much less maintenance and therefore has significantly less environmental impact overall compared to other raw plant sources.

We at Karunaki actually believe that we may be decades, or even a century or two, behind any real sustainable means to produce authentic eco-friendly textiles. There will likely be an environmental impact from raw material to end product, from packing to shipping, everything in between and implications of end-of-life disposal.  

We published this article for two reasons: the first is to give you an exercise to begin questioning where your products really come from and how they impact everything else at a global level; and second, to see some goodness in, although seemingly disagreeable,’ eco-friendly’ practices.

With that, we believe that no one ever has to drastically change their lifestyle, nor to uphold themselves to unachievable standards, in order to rightfully be labeled as eco-conscious. Our technology to produce authentic eco-friendly textiles is currently still in its infancy; we have to give it some time; and also give yourselves some space.

This is our belief: take one small change a time, live a doable eco lifestyle, and if enough people take the same small change, results in ripples of transformation and positive impact. Strength in numbers almost always wins. To illustrate, Mother Teresa put it so well, “We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”

If you agree, we invite you to live an eco lifestyle that is not only achievable but also difference-making. Why not begin by replacing everyday products with sustainable versions? We invite you to browse through our collection and consider buying an eco-friendly product today. This is the easiest and most attainable change. And we guarantee that you will feel fulfilled, at peace and aligned with your true Self after each use.

If you’re ready to go a step further, then perhaps also take transit, ride a bike or walk instead? Maybe practice meatless Mondays or attempt Plant-Based M-F? Why not volunteer at your local shoreline or park cleanup groups? Start your own sustainable urban farm in your own backyard?

Be sure to share this article, because THAT is just as effective as doing something great for you and the planet today.  

With love and compassion,

Team Karunaki


Top Photo by Alex Keda on Unsplash
Second Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Third Photo by Raychan on Unsplash
Fourth Photo by Artem Kovalev on Unsplash
Last Photo by Andrew Spencer on Unsplash