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Sustainable Uniforms – Is Bamboo For You?
I’ve heard some people say that they struggle to find topics to write about for the news articles and posts; whether it’s just because corporate uniform is such an interesting business to be in, which it is, or simply that we have a diverse and interesting customer base, I’m not sure – but we don’t struggle! Our news articles are always customer-driven.
The focus of this article is “Bamboo”.
Following a very interesting debate this week on the pros, cons, and sustainability of Bamboo use for company uniforms, we’ve put together some interesting facts and figures that provide a window into the subject for you. Even if uniform isn’t directly part of your remit, don’t overlook the benefits of sounding an expert on the subject when you wine and dine this weekend – the information below won’t fail to impress your friends, family, and those in tow!
The concept of bamboo textiles is not new and in fact has been around for a long time; the earliest patents involving these materials go back to 1864 and filed by Philipp Lichtenstadt. His original idea was to create a “new and useful process for disintegrating the fibre of bamboo so that it may be used in manufacturing cordage, cloth, mats, or pulp for paper.” Yet somehow, despite the availability of the material, it’s only been within recent years that commercially viable bamboo clothing has finally made it into mainstream production.
For many though, it raises questions:
- What impact is this having on the ecosystem?
- Are there really benefits in bamboo fibres in clothing?
- Is it cost effective?
- What about those cute looking pandas who need bamboo to survive?
The Bamboo Economy and the Environment
The bamboo industry generates over $2.4 billion a year. It’s native to every continent except Antarctica and Europe (though it was introduced later to Europe) and can survive, or thrive, in areas that would be inhospitable to other plants. It can grow in both rich and poor soils and withstand temperatures that range from -4 F to 117 F and rain levels from 30” up to 248” in a year.
More than 1,500 species of bamboo exist in the world, but only about 50 of them are used commercially. As a raw material, it’s one of the most renewable, biodegradable, and fastest-growing resources on the planet. It uses space and water efficiently, has amazing carbon sequestering abilities (it uses up to five times the CO2 that a group of trees the same size would), and it does not need replanting. As a resource, its environmental benefits are unquestionable.
The Bamboo Pros
Due to the inherent properties of bamboo, there are in fact some benefits in blending it with traditional fibres in textiles compared to traditional materials used in clothing manufacturing. Some of these include:
- Bamboo fabric is softer than cotton with a texture similar to silk.
- It contains a natural antimicrobial compound called bamboo-kun although most bamboo fibre is processed using the viscose method, which strips it of the bamboo-kun.
- It is also quick to absorb moisture, therefore keeping you dry and odour free. It holds much more moisture content than cotton.
- Pure bamboo clothes can dry twice as fast as cotton clothes.
- Bamboo clothes can be worn all year round as they keep you cool in summer and warm in winter with bamboo being a better insulator than cotton.
- Bamboo is a perennial grass;
o You don’t need to put annual effort and energy into its cultivation.
o You don’t need to disturb the soil, so the soil ecosystem stays intact.
o No soil erosion
- Bamboo suppresses the growth of other plants (weeds) around it so it requires no herbicides.
- Bamboo grows extremely fast.
- Bamboo takes less water to grow, and is drought tolerant.
- Bamboo textiles wick water away from the skin much more quickly than cotton textiles.
- Bamboo fibre requires less dye than cotton for coloured textiles, and results in more vibrant textiles.
- Bamboo fibres do not pill as much as cotton fibres.
The Bamboo Cons
- Although it is suggested that bamboo has natural antibacterial properties, because it is so absorbent the fibres absorb a lot of sweat and can actually encourage microbial growth.
- Bamboo fibres also allow UV light to penetrate the cloth and it does not offer great protection from the sun.
- Bamboo is sensitive to the timing of harvest.
- Bamboo fibres are less durable than cotton fibres
- Cost is a big concern…bamboo is a hot product now and will carry a higher price tag compared to cotton.
How Does The Use of Bamboo Affect Pandas?
A panda’s daily diet consists almost entirely of the leaves, stems and shoots of various bamboo species. Bamboo contains very little nutritional value so pandas must eat 12-38kg every day to meet their energy needs. But they do branch out, with about 1% of their diet comprising other plants and even meat.
Bamboo grows very fast and does not need to be replanted as it sends up new growth from its vast root system. Therefore, there is no threat to the world’s panda population from this process – these adorable black and white bears have plenty to chew on!