Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Organic Fabrics: Bamboo or Cotton?

If you’re into the eco-friendly concept at all, then you have probably heard of, or bought something made of organic bamboo fabric. Bamboo is an abundant, renewable, cheap and well, great, source for textiles and many other applications. I love bamboo. It is one beautiful plant.

And who doesn’t want the word “organic” stamped on their purchase somewhere? I know I do.

But did you ever wonder where that wonderful organic bamboo fabric comes from, hmmm? I’ll give you three seconds to think about it.

Give up?

The answer is CHINA! Gee who woulda thunk it? Not only is China the sole supplier of organic bamboo textiles for the world, but the reason for this monopoly is because they slapped a patent on the process. So now no one else (ie. more earth-friendly and trust worthy) could take advantage of this miraculous resource. *sigh*

I learned this info quite by accident when I emailed a company featured on another Made in the USA web site. The online retail store which specialized in USA made products offered organic clothing for babies and kids. The company is called Shirts of Bamboo.

I went on the site to snoop around. I followed up with an email to their customer service department asking them where their fabric was manufactured. Here is my email and their response.

-----Original Message-----

From: Maxine Columbia []
Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2008 3:07 PM
To: Shirts Of Bamboo Customer Service
Subject: Contact from Shirts Of Bamboo: Other: Country/state of origin

Other: Country/state of origin

Where do your fabrics come from? What state or country? I need to know this information before I can purchase any goods from you.

-----Reply Message-----

RE: Contact from Shirts Of Bamboo: Other: Country/state of origin
1 message
Heather Brodesser Thu, Feb 7, 2008 at 3:23 PM
To: Maxine Columbia

Currently China holds the patent on bamboo textile manufacturing .That fabric is then imported and sent to our manufacturers in the U.S. The
manufacturing is done in non-sweat shop environment.
Please contact me if you have any other questions.

Thank you for your interest in bamboo the eco-friendly fiber.

Heather C. Brodesser
Wholesale Representative


True, their products are assembled here in the USA but they are not 100% made in the USA. Further, I would question their "eco-friendly" status as well. The main component of Shirts of Bamboo products --the fabric-- comes from China, a country not know for it's toxic-free environment or concern for worker safety.

So, if you are seeking organic bamboo fabric grown in the US or other (safer) countries than China, you are wasting your time.

On the other hand, you can find safe, 100% made in USA,
organic, cotton clothing. Texas has a struggling but determined group of farmers who grow organic cotton. I say struggling because they, like so many US producers, are fighting a losing battle against cheap imports and big agri-business.

One of these home grown organic cotton grower/sellers is SOS from Texas. They don’t have a wide selection of clothing but what they do have is good quality and at a good price. And best of all, they are completely made in the USA.

Last fall I bought some organic cotton t-shirts and baby items from SOS and was very happy with my purchase. I’m hoping they will expand their selection soon.

Another certified organic cotton company is Earth Wear out of Tennessee. I haven’t bought anything from them, but I plan to.

Other Links of Interest:

Organic Essentials

Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative

Though I have been offering ideas and information about buying American made clothing in this blog, I have a final thought and a heartfelt plea I want to make. Before you run out and buy any new clothes, please stop and read this article by Stan Cox of entitled “Dress for Excess: The Cost of Our Clothing Addiction.” It is an eye-opening and important article about how American clothing gluttony is harming our environment. This article really shook me up and made me think. After reading it I made a promise to myself:
If you don't need it, don't buy it. But if you do need it, buy it used or buy it USA.

On the positive side, this article also made me feel better about my love of thrift store shopping. Yeah!

Remember love your country but most of all, love your planet.