The Truth Behind Bamboo

Taking on Plastic-Free July for the second time, I thought would be simplified since I had participated before. I could not have been more wrong. Unfortunately, eliminating plastic is not as easy as it sounds. We rely on plastic more than we realize. A few years ago, it was reported by the Huffington Post that Americans threw out 31 million tons of plastic, making up 12.4% of the nation’s municipal solid waste. Plastic isn’t completely going away anytime soon, or ever. We are very dependent on plastic. So, what’s the alternative? My research and experience indicate many are turning to bamboo. From beauty products to reusable silverware, bamboo seems to be the rage for the eco-friendly alternative. Just how eco-friendly is it? Here’s what I’ve found:

After reading about bamboo as an alternative to plastic in beauty items since it can be composted, I decided to give it a shot and purchased a bamboo toothbrush from Brush with Bamboo. I admired the company for being honest about their product and every element was accounted for, including the packaging. My Plastic Free Life also gave it a good review, with a few suggestions for the company. I am intrigued to give bamboo silverware a shot, but after learning that a number of disposable chopsticks in China have led to the destruction of 3.8 million trees, I definitely want to find more reusable options, bamboo or not. My verdict from the research on bamboo toiletries and silverware: Nothing is perfect, but if bamboo is compostable and we can use it for a more sustainable lifestyle, I’ll give it shot.

Tortoise and Lady Grey, my trusted source for sustainable fabrics, also reviewed bamboo to see how eco-friendly it was and determine if its hype was just green-washing. Her report illustrated that bamboo uses no chemical fertilization or pesticides and less water than cotton. Some of the drawbacks of bamboo materials, however, are in chemical processing. Transforming the wood into fiber requires bleaching and if it is produced in China, coal burning is used in the process. Thus, bamboo fibers have some benefits, but some setbacks as well.

After learning these truths about bamboo, does this mean I will stop using the material? My thoughts on the matter are to continue to use the product for specific purposes. I’ll continue to use my bamboo toothbrush and investigate more about bamboo silverware, but as far as fabric is concerned, I’m hesitant to see it as a full on eco-friendly material. Bamboo has some benefits for toiletries, but fabric may be another story until the process of turning the wood into fabric changes.

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