A bamboo textile is cloth, yarn, or clothing that is made from bamboo fibres. While historically used only for structural elements, such as bustles and the ribs of corsets, in recent years, different technologies have been developed that allow bamboo fibre to be used for a wide range of textile and fashion applications. Bamboo yarn can also be blended with other textile fibres such as hemp or spandex. Bamboo is an alternative to plastic, but is renewable and can be replenished at a fast rate.
Bamboo planting can slow deforestation, providing an alternative source of timber for the construction industry and cellulose fibre for the textile industry. It allows communities to turn away from the destruction of their native forests and to construct commercial bamboo plantations that can be selectively harvested annually without the destruction of the grove. Tree plantations have to be chopped down and terminated at harvest but bamboo keeps on growing. When a bamboo cane is cut down, it will produce another shoot and is ready for harvest again in as little as one year. Compare this to cotton – harvesting organic cotton requires the destruction of the entire crop causing bare soils to bake in the sun and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Before replanting next year’s crop the cotton farmers till the fields which releases yet more CO2.
Yield and land use
Land use is of global importance as the world’s seven billion people compete for water, food, fibre and shelter. Sustainable land use practices provide both economic and environmental advantages. Bamboo can be used as food, fibre and shelter and due to its ease of growth and extraordinary growth rate it is a cheap, sustainable and efficient crop. Bamboo grows very densely, its clumping nature enables a lot of it to be grown in a comparatively small area, easing pressure on land use. With average yields for bamboo of up to 60 tonnes per hectare greatly exceeding the average yield of 20 tonnes for most trees and the average yield of 2 tonnes per hectare for cotton, bamboo’s high yield per hectare becomes very significant.
Growing forests absorb CO2 but deforestation results in fewer trees to soak up rising levels of CO2. Bamboo minimises CO2 and generates up to 35% more oxygen than equivalent stands of trees. One hectare of bamboo sequesters 62 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year while one hectare of young forest only sequesters 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
Very little bamboo is irrigated and there is sound evidence that the water-use efficiency of bamboo is twice that of trees. This makes bamboo more able to handle harsh weather conditions such as drought, flood and high temperatures. Compare bamboo to cotton which is a thirsty crop – it can take up to 20,000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of cotton and 73% of the global cotton harvest comes from irrigated land.