Bamboo – If Responsibly Produced Can Be a Sustainable Textile Fabric

Bamboo plant fabric at Amberoot. Reproduced with the kind permission of the Director and the Board of Trustees, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. © Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Quite possibly the world’s most sustainable resource, it is the quickest growing grass. Bamboo is grown and used widely among Asian countries and has increased in popularity as an ‘eco-friendly’ option. The texture of bamboo is beautifully soft, with a natural sheen similar to silk.


Thanks to the prolific growth of bamboo, which even renews itself and replenishes the soil – it requires minimal labour and agricultural maintenance, as well as no chemicals. Bamboo is suited to use in apparel due to its numerous technical features. It is naturally antibacterial, antifungal, moisture-wicking, hypoallergenic, thermal-regulating, and more breathable than cotton. Meaning that bamboo is particularly suited to sportswear as well as hygienic socks. It launders well at low temperatures, and with its anti-bacterial properties, washing isn’t so imperative.


Unfortunately, though the plant is sustainable, the production of bamboo fibre raises serious environmental and health concerns due to the chemicals used to ‘cook’ the plant into a viscose solution before it is reconstructed into a fibre. The chemicals involved in this process include; sodium hydroxide, linked to eye and skin irritation; and carbon disulfate, which has been connected to neural disorders. It is very important to question this aspect of the production process when bamboo fibre is described as ‘eco-friendly’. There are new methods available for manufacturing bamboo with lower impact, which use safer chemicals within a closed-loop system. Chemicals are recycled with minimal opportunity to escape into the atmosphere or water.


Since manufacturing facilities in developing countries are often unregulated, it is easy for toxic chemicals to escape into the atmosphere through air vents and smokestacks, and into water supplies via inadequate waste disposal systems, as well as affecting workers. You can look for bamboo certified by reliable organic bodies such as, Oeko-Tex or the Soil Association.

This article is part of series “Biodegradable Textile Fabrics”:
Hemp – Perhaps The Most Environmentally Friendly Textile Fabric,
Banana – Excellent Durable Food Waste Textile Fabric,
Abaca – Highly Versatile and Breathable Textile Fabric,
Sisal / Agave Sisalana – Very Durable and Highly Absorbent Textile Fabric,
Kapok – Lightweight and Water Resistant Textile Fabric,
Jute / Hessian / Burlap – Durable and Versatile Textile Fabric,
Cotton – World’s Dirtiest Natural Textile Fabric,
Linen – Leading Environmentally Friendly Textile Fabric,
Ramie / China Grass – Antibacterial and Versatile Textile Fabric,
Bamboo – If Responsibly Produced Can Be a Sustainable Textile Fabric,
Coconut / Coir – Durable and Antibacterial Textile Fabric.
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