Why bamboo is a more eco friendly alternative for pajamas (& when buying your favorite products)

Why you should consider seeking out this amazingly renewable material

Bamboo from below

Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world and can be a great material--from building homes to making your clothes, bamboo is a kind of grass called a sedge, but it's much stronger than any other type of grass that you would normally see in your back lawn…maybe. Bamboo can be used as a material to make products such as bed sheets, pajamas, and many other products that are possibly more eco-friendly than what is currently being used for these products. In this article we are going to touch base on:

  • How bamboo material is created
  • How bamboo harvesting is more eco-friendly compared to cotton
  • Why you should consider switching over to bamboo-based materials for everyday commodities like your pajamas!

How Bamboo Fabric is Made

From textiles to machining

Bamboo fabric is made out of the fibers of the bamboo itself. After the bamboo reaches maturity around summertime, it is harvested and transported to be processed. Much of the harvested bamboo comes from bamboo forests in China. The typical maturity that a bamboo stalk has to reach before harvesting is around four years, and since the woods are heavily protected in China, it is customary to find stalks around this size. 

After being harvested, the stalks are crushed and then treated with sodium hydroxide to break down and isolate the cellulose in the fibers for use. After the bamboo is treated with sodium hydroxide, the Carbon Disulfide ties up the loose ends of the bamboo fibers and is left to dry. After this process, the material is now a white, wispy pulp, ready to be spun into yarn. Sodium Hydroxide and Carbon disulfide are environmentally friendly as long as they are treated correctly before waste, particularly carbon disulfide, which must be broken down with natural enzymes, or it can be a caustic inhalant and a threat to the environment. Still, this process is already considered if buying from the right supplier or manufacturer. After all of this process takes place, now, it is time to use the material in products! 

Bamboo shoots inside of buckets
The harvesting of bamboo is more eco friendly than the harvesting of most crops.

Bamboo is more eco-friendly than cotton?

The agricultural perspective on the bamboo trend

Compared to cotton, bamboo has a lesser impact on the environment for a variety of reasons:

  1. There isn't a need for pesticides when growing bamboo
  2. Bamboo is a faster-growing plant
  3. Bamboo does not require as much water or fertilizers

We all know by now that pesticides are terrible for the environment--the insect population has dropped sixty-fold since the 1980s, and our little buggy friends could do less assault on the human world. But unfortunately, not just bugs but our river and oceanic environments are affected by pesticides, destroying possible habitats for our aquatic organisms.

The world is also starting to face a freshwater crisis as well. Given the pollution we have scoured the Earth with, there will be less freshwater use for everyday people and agricultural production. This is another area where bamboo outpaces cotton too. 

Bamboo requires significantly less water compared to cotton. 

One pound of bamboo only requires 12 gallons of water compared to a pound of cotton material, which requires over 100 times more. Bamboo does not require fertilizers. Unlike cotton, fertilizers oversupply water sources, which sparks immense growth of algae and other microscopic organisms and can destroy entire ecosystems, and since bamboo does not require this material, we can lessen fertilizer use and protect our water sources.

From an agricultural and conservation standpoint, bamboo is a far superior alternative to cotton because it is much safer to grow. In contrast, cotton needs all of the things that bamboo goes without. But the processing is about the same between bamboo and cotton, using the same chemicals and processing. So regardless, the process of gaining the fabric for products like bedding, clothes, pajamas, and what have you is close--but bamboo is more eco-friendly. 

Argument for Cotton

The issue with simply using bamboo is that cotton has the same chemical treatment process as Bamboo, at least from an environmental standpoint, but not precisely down to the same chemicals. Even in a mechanical process, heavy machinery is necessary to extract the fibers, and specific kinds of enzymes are required to treat the bamboo as an alternative to cotton, which would lead to more carbon dioxide within the atmosphere. So you can also purchase sustainability-certified cotton, but you cannot buy sustainability-certified bamboo. Not to say that the plant is not exceptional as a faster and less resource-dependent plant for clothing. It's just important to know whether or not the products you use contribute to the environment's health. It is a relatively new material for mainstream clothing and industry, but with time I am sure there will be sustainability-certified bamboo as well!

Clothing made of Bamboo!?

The Surprising Clothing Super Fabric

Almost 8 billion people are on the planet, so the need for clothing, bedding, and other cloth materials will increase. The better option is a faster-growing and more eco-friendly plant to supply us with these materials. With the already ongoing climate crisis, bamboo material can be an excellent way for humanity to lessen its impact on our sick Earth. 

So you may be asking yourself right now. "Okay, cool, now that I have a rundown on why bamboo is far superior to cotton, what kind of products are made with bamboo?" let's put it in a nicely curated bulleted list. 

  • Bamboo pajamas 
  • Bamboo underwear
  • Bamboo bedding products 

Bamboo products are more environmentally friendly, and there are numerous reasons bamboo is a better material than cotton. For example, Bamboo has thinner fibers, so the fabric can be more breathable, especially when it comes to clothing. Cozy Earth would be a great place to find these products online and have all of the listed products above, in many different styles and colors.  

 Bed sheets with bamboo designs
Bamboo embedded sheets that would look perfect for the guest bedroom courtesy of Overstock.

Bamboo bedding can be an excellent investment if you get hot at night. Bamboo fabric moisture-wicking properties and thermal regulatory qualities can make it an ideal material for bed sheets, blankets, pillow covers, etc. In addition, bamboo fabric can create unique cooling clothing that would make for incredible athletic apparel, from shirts to pants to underwear, especially if you are more muscular or live in an area with a higher temperature or a more humid climate.  

Due to fast fashion and the throwaway culture, particularly in the West,he amount of waste that comes from cotton clothing and bedding is immense. We can lessen the impact of this waste if we take advantage of this highly renewable material. This also puts the icing on the cake--it only takes about a year for Bamboo fabrics to break down when in decomposing environments.

These sheets, shirts, and pants are also three times as durable compared to cotton fabrics, so not only are you investing in the environment when purchasing bamboo clothing but also an investment into yourself since the material will last much longer compared to cotton—allowing the consumer to hang on to their bamboo products as compared to fast-fashion cotton. 

Bamboo cutlery laid next to leaves ‍
Bamboo cutlery that would serve as an amazing replacement for plastic silverware. Image courtesy of The Green Turtle.

Bamboo is a Good Replacement for Plastics

We should all know by now that pollution (specifically plastic pollution) is one of humanity's most destructive forces on the environment. Billions of pounds of plastic lay in our ocean, destroying the world and making it less sustainable for generations to come. Besides throwing away plastic products, what if bamboo was instead able to replace these plastics? 

  • Bamboo cutlery
  • Bamboo plates 
  • Bamboo straws 

Products like these can reduce the amount of waste and destruction in the environment. Because at least if you throw away the bamboo items, they are biodegradable. 

With around 600 million pounds of plastic straws in the ocean, a more eco-friendly and reusable replacement for plastic would be bamboo straws, especially since bamboo is more durable than literal steel (tensile strength). Goodbye metal straws, hello bamboo. Plus, the fact that bamboo is biodegradable. Unlike bamboo, when that metal straw gets thrown away, it'll spend some time in the landfill. This goes for the rest of the tableware products listed--bamboo is a fantastic alternative to regular ceramic, plastic, or metal. 

To conclude our article about bamboo items...

Next time you are on that online shopping spree, consider purchasing bamboo-sourced products. Whether you are the tree-hugging type or the everyday mom, everybody wants a better and greener earth for tomorrow. And this is a great way to help with the environment, from a replacement to plastics to the next sweatpants you can buy. Bamboo can supply a fantastic, comfortable, and eco-friendly experience with whatever you purchase. 

Christian Mitchell

Christian Mitchell is a Biology major at Slippery Rock University. He has strong aspirations for writing and is seeking to become a freelancer.
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