What’s an Eco Designer to Do about Bamboo?

Having read a lot of recent coverage of the FTC’s August 2009 ruling about bamboo, I wonder what will become of brands whose staple fabric is “bamboo”? The problem is, most of these designers and the textile sales reps they buy from, were sold rayon fabric labeled as bamboo.

Rayon is a semi-synthetic fiber based on wood pulp. Sure, some of that wood pulp could be bamboo, but try getting a Chinese textile mill to tell you what they’re actually putting into the mix, as opposed to what they know you want them to tell you is in there.

While Viscose Rayon (known simply as Rayon in the US) is a wonderfully breathable fiber with great texture, strength, and drape-ability, it does require a lot of nasty chemicals to turn that wood pulp, bamboo or otherwise, into soft textile products. In Delia Montgomery’s recent article on the subject, one of the comments mentions the impact of cotton, complaining that cotton has a more negative net impact than bamboo.

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Photo of Bamboo Dress by Anna Ostrovskaya, Courtesy Reuters Oddly Enough