Corsets and bustles
In the west, bamboo, alongside other components such as whalebone and steel wire, was sometimes used as a structural component in corsets, bustles and other types of structural elements used in fashionable women's dresses.
Benefits of using bamboo for clothing
Naturally Organic - bamboo is grown without pesticides or fertilisers, unlike conventional cotton which uses 25% of all the worlds pesticides less than 10% of the agricultural land mass. Luxuriously soft - bamboo feels like silky cashmere. Sustainable - Moso bamboo is one of the world's fastest growing plants, growing up to a metre in a day. Bamboo is a grass, so once cut it will regenerate quickly without the need for replanting (in the same way as your garden lawn). It grows very densely and so the yield per acre is excellent in comparison to cotton. Eco-friendly - one of the most positive things about bamboo is that it absorbs 35% more carbon dioxide than equivalent stands of trees. More bamboo would help to cut the globally rising levels of carbon dioxide and help in the fight against global warming. Absorbent - bamboo absorbs up to 60% more water than cotton. This makes it an excellent choice for towels and bathrobes. Breathable - the porous nature of the fibre makes it breathable and extremely comfortable against the skin. Thermo-regulating - keeps the wearer warm in cool weather. Hypoallergenic - bamboo's organic and natural properties make it non-irritating so perfect for extra sensitive skin.
The raw bamboo canes
Most of the bamboo used to make bamboo fibre and bamboo clothing is grown in China by Hebei Jigao Chemical fiber Company. They hold the patent on the process for turning bamboo into fibre. This facility produces all of the bamboo viscose on the market. The bamboo is certified organic by OCIA (The Organic Crop Improvement Association). To strictly control the quality of raw material, Hebei Jigao Chemical fiber Company has built its own bamboo plantation in Sichuan Province, China and keeps strict control over it. The bamboo is grown in accordance to the international organic standard of OCIA/iFOAM and the USDA National Organic Program, so as to ensure each bamboo stalk is of 100% natural growth and without any chemical pesticides. The proof of the ecologically sound methods behind bamboo production is the fact that all of the fibre produced at the facility in China is Oeko-Tex 100 certified. This certifies that the finished fibre has been tested for any chemicals that may be harmful to a person's health and has been found to contain no trace chemicals that pose any health threat whatsoever. This means that every company working with bamboo starts with the same raw material and that this material is not contaminated.
Ecological reasons for using bamboo as a raw material for textiles and clothing
Growth: Bamboo has many advantages over cotton as a raw material for textiles. Reaching up to 35 metres tall, bamboos are the largest members of the grass family. They are the fastest growing woody plants in the world. One Japanese species has been recorded as growing over 1 metre in a day. There are over 1600 species of bamboo found in diverse climates from cold mountains to hot tropical regions. About 40 million hectares of the earth is covered with bamboo, mostly in Asia. The high growth rate of bamboo and the fact that bamboo can grow in such diverse climates makes the bamboo plant a sustainable and versatile resource. The bamboo species used for clothing is called Moso bamboo. Moso bamboo is the most important bamboo in China, where it covers about 3 million hectares (about 2% of the total Chinese forest area). It is the main species for bamboo timber and plays an important role for the ecological environment.
Harvesting: Once a new shoot emerges from the ground, the new cane will reach its full height in just 8-10 weeks. Each cane reaches maturity in 3-5 years. Bamboo can be continually re-harvested with no damage to the surrounding environment. It is a grass and so regenerates after being cut just like a lawn without the need for replanting. This regular harvesting is actually of benefit to the health of the plant studies have shown that felling of canes leads to vigorous re-growth and an increase in the amount of biomass the next year.
Yield and Land Use: Land use is of global importance as the world's six 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. Yields of bamboo of up to 60 tonnes per hectare greatly exceed the yield of 20 tonnes for most trees and only 1-2 tonnes per hectare for cotton with a one-time planting for bamboo and little care and maintenance needed. In a time when land use is under enormous pressure, bamboo's high yield per hectare becomes very significant.
Greenhouse gases and global warming: Human activity is
not only producing more carbon dioxide, but it is also severely
damaging the ability of the planet to absorb carbon via
its carbon sinks
the forests. 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.
Deforestation: 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 decimation of the entire crop causing bare soils to bake in the sun and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Before replanting next years crop the cotton farmers till the fields which releases yet more CO2.
Water Use: Very little bamboo is irrigated and there
is sound evidence that the water use efficiency of bamboo
is twice that of other 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 1kg of cotton and 73% of the global cotton harvest comes from irrigated land , Some estimates indicate that cotton is the largest user of water among all agricultural commodities.
Soil Erosion: Yearly replanting of crops such as cotton leads to soil erosion. The extensive root system of bamboo and the fact that it is not uprooted during harvesting means bamboo actually helps preserve soil and prevent soil erosion. The bamboo plants root system creates an effective watershed, stitching the soil together along fragile river banks, deforested areas, and in places prone to mudslides. It also greatly reduces rain run-off. Conventional cotton growing also causes a severe reduction in soil quality through the impact of constant use of pesticides on soil organisms.
Pesticides and Fertilisers: Only 2.4% of the world's arable land is planted with cotton yet cotton accounts for nearly 25% of the world's insecticide market and 11% of the sale of global pesticides. Many of these pesticides are extremely hazardous and toxic:
Aldicarb, a powerful nerve agent, is one of the most toxic pesticides applied to cotton worldwide and the 2nd most used pesticide in global cotton production. Just one drop of aldicarb, absorbed through the skin, is enough to kill an adult.
Endosulfan is widely used in cotton production and is the dominant pesticide in the cotton sector in 19 countries. In a single province of Benin, at least 37 people died from endosulfan poisoning in just one cotton season.
Monocrotophos Despite being withdrawn from the US market in 1989, it is widely used in developing world countries. In 1997, Paraguay's Ministry of Health and Welfare identified it as being responsible for causing paralysis in children living in cotton growing areas.
Deltamethrin a nerve agent is applied in over half of the cotton producing countries. Medical analysis in a community in a South African village located on the edge of a major cotton production area found traces of deltamethrin in human breast milk.
An estimated 1 million to 5 million cases of pesticide
poisoning occur every year, resulting in 20,000 reported
deaths among agricultural workers and at least 1 million
requiring hospitalisation. Even organic
cotton farming uses pesticides
copper and copper salts.
Fertilisers are also applied to cotton fields to increase
growth rate and crop yields. A huge benefit of using bamboo
as the organic base for textile fibres is that there is
no need for pesticides or fertilisers when growing bamboo.
Bamboo grows so rapidly there is no need for fertiliser.
It also contains a substance called bamboo-kun
an antimicrobial agent that gives the plant a natural resistance to pest and fungi infestation. It is not now believed true that the finished bamboo fabric retails this antibacterial property
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