In this trendy debate we are contextualizing the battle of bamboo vs. organic cotton for the eco-friendly title. It seems as if the war is stooped in tradition: cotton being the American staple for centuries, while bamboo has been an east Asian staple for thousands of years. This article will briefly summarize some of the advantages and disadvantages to both.
The United States has an initial bias against changing its economy. Farmers in America have grown and sold cotton internationally since before it was a nation. Currently, the government subsidizes the growth of cotton and often negatively affects the international market by undercutting prices in a huge way. As bamboo fabrics have come onto the scene, the FTC was quick to announce that they are a “man-made” fabric and promptly raised the tariff. Their decision states that none of the original characteristics of the plant remain after being washed in chemicals in order to prepare them for textile use. The current designation for bamboo fabric is rayon. It is achieved by washing the fibers in a chemical, much the same as cotton, although cotton stands as a natural fiber. Rayon from bamboo was castigated for being a phony advertisement for an eco-friendly fabric, and the FTC decided it had no beneficial characteristics that the actual bamboo plant has. However, scientists from the College of Textiles and Clothing Engineering, Soochow University, in China, reported that tests on bamboo rayon fabric indeed retain their antibacterial nature. Their studies even report defense against harsh strains of bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. Even though America is far from being invested in bamboo academically, somehow it has decided to put the kibosh on all ideas of eco-friendly grandeur when it comes to bamboo.
Cotton fabric, even organic cotton, is one of the largest consumers of water on the planet. Cotton consumes more than three times as much water as bamboo in the growth process alone. The production process checks off an even higher water demand. Cotton is also one of the largest users of pesticides and herbicides in the world. Although organic cotton strives to rise above this staggering chemical flow, it is a lot less common that it would seem. Organic cotton makes up a miniscule amount of the total cotton grown, and even the organic claims here have some issues.
The growth process for bamboo is entirely organic and sustainable. It is accepted as an extremely renewable plant that requires no pesticides, herbicides, and saves a lot of water. It can grow in even harsh climates, and does not ruin the soil fertility. It does not have to be uprooted when harvested and saves the ground from soil erosion and nutrient depletion. Bamboo is one of the most efficient producers of oxygen on the planet. Some species can grow up to four feet per day and can be harvested every year or so.
Bamboo fabrics have an extremely soft feel. The antibacterial qualities are superior to cotton and most other fabrics. These qualities are retained even after being prepared as rayon. Organic bamboo sheets, for example, are extremely durable, they breathe well, and their retain moisture. They are the ideal for practical sleeping use and comfort. This material can be made into bamboo blankets, sheets, and many other types of apparel. Bamboo fabric is superior in every way.
 Qin et al., 2010 Z. Qin, Y. Chen, P. Zhang, G. Zhang, Y. Liu, Structure and properties of Cu(II) complex bamboo pulp fabrics, Journal of Applied Polymer Science, 117 (2010), p. 1843.