Comparing Bamboo and Organic Cotton Fabrics

There have been quite a few changes in how we think about organic baby gifts since our parent’s time and one significant change has been around the fabrics used for baby clothing. In the turn towards safer and healthier living parents are more concerned about harmful pesticides and herbicides that are used on the plants that are manufactured into the fabrics for baby clothes. The result of this has been the increasing popularity of organic cotton and, more recently, bamboo baby clothing. 

Cotton has been used for clothing as far back as 5500 BCE in the Indus Valley and there is a rich history of cotton domestication in ancient Mexican civilizations. Cotton as a commodity has shaped the economies of many countries, with perhaps the southern United States on the top of that list. Cotton plants require a long frost-free period of growth and a significant amount of water. It takes around 700 gallons of water to make a cotton shirt, and 2,600 gallons to make a pair of jeans — most of them to grow the cotton.

Cotton plants are susceptible to pests and require a significant amount of pesticides as well. That is where the organic part comes into this and you’ll often see certifications on baby clothing that indicate they are free from the pesticides that can be used during the growth of the plant as well as other toxins that could be used to manufacture the fabric. The mostly common certification is GOTS – Global Organic Textile Standard. The great thing about the GOTS certification, and this may surprise you as much as it did me, is that it also addresses the social aspects of the supply chain. The fabric must be manufactured without the use of forced labour or child labour to achieve the GOTS certification.

And now on to a fabric that is getting more popular recently… bamboo!

About 40 million hectares of the earth is covered with bamboo, with most of that area being in Asia. There is a long history of bamboo being used for clothing in China and Japan. Bamboo differs from cotton in that it has a high growth rate and can grow in diverse climates. This makes the bamboo plant a sustainable and versatile resource. Each cane reaches maturity in three to five years. The average yield from a hectare is about 20 tonnes of bamboo, whereas cotton yields are typically around 2 tonnes. When a bamboo cane is cut down, it will produce another shoot and is ready for harvest again in as little as one year.

The process to turn the bamboo into fabric takes more effort than it does for cotton and government consumer agencies have repeatedly ruled that it is actually classified as rayon! While the benefits of bamboo from a sustainability and ecological perspective are clear, there is still some work to be done on finding a cheaper way to create the fabric that uses fewer chemicals.  From a durability and texture perspective, bamboo really does stand out. The fabric is very strong and so incredibly soft.

To close off this blog posting I’ll give you a few more facts about the two types of fabrics:

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_cotton

http://www.cottonsjourney.com/storyofcotton/page3.asp

Image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f8/Cotton_plant,_Ware_County,_GA,_US.jpg

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