As a famously versatile plant, bamboo continues to make its way into our daily lives. In a single day, bamboo can be eaten as food, used as furniture, worn as clothes and slept on, but how is it that tall strong stalks of bamboo can be transformed into soft bed sheets?
We’ve uncovered the secrets of the Swiss army knife of the plant world, so you know the journey of your sheets from forest to bedroom.
BAMBOO Bedding KEY QUESTIONS AND INFORMATION:
- What is Bamboo?
- Uses of Bamboo
- What is Bamboo Bedding?
- How Bamboo Bedding is Made
- Bamboo Bedding Benefits
- Problems with Bamboo Bed Sheets
- Is Bamboo Bedding Sustainable?
- Alternatives to Bamboo Bedding
WHAT IS BAMBOO?
The strong and useful plant is thought to have originated in China. Indeed, it is well-known as the diet of choice for one of China’s most popular inhabitants, the giant panda. Additionally, the first evidence of bamboo being used by humans has been found in the remnants of ancient China, proving humanities long-term relationship with bamboo.
Bamboo is highly adaptable and is able to grow almost anywhere on earth from the optimal conditions of a warm, humid jungle to the dry and dusty heat of a desert or even amidst chilly, wet rains. Its only limitations are excessive periods long, freezing climates as the bamboo shoots can get damaged.
Thanks to its incredible adaptability that allows it to grow across the globe, bamboo is widely available for human use. In optimal conditions, bamboo can grow at a rate of up to 5 feet per year, making it the fastest growing plant in the world and an easily replenishable, abundant material.
USES OF BAMBOO
Having been in use for thousands of years, bamboo has become an established material in fields of construction, medicine, gastronomy and home furnishings.
Bamboo shoots are a popular addition to many east Asian dishes. Not only are they delicious, they provide health benefits thanks to the vitamins and fibre they contain.
In construction bamboo is often used as scaffolding to support the development of large building. It is also sometimes used to build houses and other buildings. It’s strength and durability make it capable of supporting heavy weights.
Bamboo has also historically been used in medical practices. It is a very hygienic material and is therefore a preferable choice for surgical wear, bandages, sanitary products and more.
Most recently, technology has developed to transform bamboo plant fibres into fabrics used for textiles, clothing and bedding.
WHAT IS BAMBOO BEDDING?
Popular bamboo textiles on the market fall into two categories, either bamboo linens or bamboo rayon. Although both are sourced from bamboo plants, they are vastly different.
Bamboo linens are the genuine bamboo article. Compared to bamboo rayon they are the natural option. Unsurprisingly, bamboo linens are more expensive, take longer to produce and are therefore produced at much lower volumes. They are made from the bamboo fibres in an eco-friendly process that results in biodegradable fabrics.
Bamboo rayon on the other hand uses the cellulose from bamboo which is put through chemical processing and then regenerated to form the fabric. Bamboo rayon is cheaper, produced in higher volumes and softer but uses a very environmentally damaging method of production.
In marketing, many companies emphasise the bamboo origins without specifying clearly whether it is bamboo linen or bamboo rayon. It is important to check labels thoroughly to ensure that the right one is being purchased.
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HOW BAMBOO BEDDING IS MADE
The process for creating bamboo fabrics is labour intensive, time-consuming and costly. It involves crushing up the bamboo plants with a natural enzyme that breaks down the structural elements, creating a mush. Individual bamboo fibres are carefully combed out and then spun into yarn which is then woven into the fabric known as bamboo linen.
BAMBOO BEDDING BENEFITS
Both bamboo linen and bamboo rayon are biodegradable materials. Once bamboo bed sheets have been used and worn out, they can be discarded without any physical or conscientious problems. Once submerged in the soil, it will take approximately 1 year to degrade.
Bamboo linen can provide a respite for people with allergies. Those that find they are affected by dust mites, pet dander or other common allergens will be able to use bamboo bedding without a problem.
Bamboo linen is generally a very hygienic material. As well as being hypoallergenic it is also antibacterial and anti-fungal. Very few substances can survive naturally on bamboo which is why it is great for use in medical environments.
Bamboo as bedding provides the user great temperature regulation. The fabric is highly breathable and absorbent which means it will pull the moisture from the skin preventing overheating in the summer whilst retaining warmth in the winter.
Bamboo is a very strong and hardy substance which is why it is so often used as scaffolding and building materials. When transformed into textile and bed linens, bamboo retains its strength and durability and will be able to easily withstand daily wear and tear.
PROBLEMS WITH BAMBOO BED SHEETS
Despite its lengthy process and high prices, bamboo linen is a somewhat coarse fabric. It does not provide the same comfortable, relaxing feel as other expensive bed sheet options such as silk, organic cotton or Tencel™.
Bamboo rayon provides the much softer feel that buyers may be searching for and at a much lower price. However, the process of creating bamboo rayon has terrible environmental impacts and is not the ideal choice for conscientious shoppers.
Unfortunately, browsing the market for authentic bamboo linen products is not as easy as it should be. Many products on the market are labelled as bamboo but turn out to be rayon. Due to the unethical production of rayon products, this is an unacceptable confusion for many buyers.
IS BAMBOO BEDDING SUSTAINABLE
Bamboo grows organically, without pesticides and without fertiliser. It can be grown and harvested quickly without the need for replanting. Additionally, the method of making bamboo linen uses a natural enzyme and has no toxic waste. In theory, bamboo is the ideal, eco-friendly solution.
This is the perception that marketers of bamboo products would like consumers to have. However, the reality of bamboo is not so great and bamboo fabrics are often accused of greenwashing the produce.
Greenwashing is marketing and implying that an object or company is eco-friendly and sustainable in order to attract more customers when the truth is that they are not as good for the environment as they pretend to be.
You will often find many bedding companies selling bamboo bed sheets omit this key information when marketing their products. So be careful before you buy!
The vast majority of the bamboo that is grown to be made into bamboo bed sheets are being grown in China. Unfortunately, there is limited information on the intensity of bamboo farming ad what effects it is having on the land.
Additionally, bamboo is a very invasive plant and once introduced into an environment, it is likely to compete with native plant species for nutrition, water and sunlight and ultimately win.
ALTERNATIVES TO BAMBOO BEDDING
The coarse texture of a bamboo bedding set combined with the higher price can leave customers unsatisfied and disappointed. Despite striving for a more eco-friendly decision, it can be difficult to exchange cash for a lower quality material.
Other materials in the same price range as silk and organic cotton offer a comfier night sleep and a more luxurious feel but are often neglectful of their environmental impact.
One increasingly popular choice that combines the luxury of high quality, comfortable fabrics with trust-worthy, sustainability is Tencel™. The relatively new luxury fabric is made from wood pulp cellulose in a closed loop system with minimal waste. The wood pulp is sourced sustainably, and the entire process is designed to work in balance with the environment.
Check out Ethical Bedding's Eucalyptus & Bamboo Pillow