The cotton vs bamboo discussion has been ongoing for years. But to be completely honest, there is very little to debate. Bamboo is 100% better for the environment and for your body. Let’s rewind a little and go back to when I received a cute cotton bathrobe from CAUSEBOX. I was so excited about everything that I didn’t put two and two together. It may be a natural resource but growing it is far from eco-friendly. Synthetic alternatives are also not great, every time you wash them, millions of micro plastics are released into the ocean. Bamboo is one of the better fabric alternatives, second only to hemp.
Cotton vs Bamboo: Why Is Cotton So Bad?
Cotton has been used to make clothes since 3,000 BC. 5,000 years ago and maybe even 200, cotton was a great option. Why? Because there weren’t almost 8 billion people sharing the planet and fashion wasn’t so fast. When something ripped, you sewed on a patch and passed it on to your kids to keep wearing for years and years. Today we rarely wait for something to have any issues before we swap it out for something new and shiny – but that is a discussion for another time.
Cotton Is Thirsty
The biggest reason why bamboo wins in terms of cotton vs bamboo is water requirements:
“Cotton’s most prominent environmental impacts result from the use of agrochemicals (especially pesticides), the consumption of water, and the conversion of habitat to agricultural use. Diversion of water and its pollution by cotton growing has had severe impacts on major ecosystems such as the Aral Sea in Central Asia, the Indus Delta in Pakistan and the Murray Darling River in Australia.”World Wildlife Organization
Cotton uses so much water that it is the number one among all agricultural commodities. Surface and ground waters are often diverted to irrigate cotton fields, leading to freshwater loss through evaporation as well as inefficient water management.
Cotton Is Dirty
I know I’m making cotton sound like your crazy ex, but it is so much worse. After too much water is used to grow it, more water suffers from the pollution caused by the pesticides and fertilizers that are required to produce cotton.
“Pesticides threaten the quality of soil and water, as well as the health of biodiversity in and downstream from the fields. Heavy use of pesticides also raises concern for the health of farm workers and nearby populations.
Runoff of pesticides, fertilizers, and minerals from cotton fields contaminates rivers, lakes, wetlands, and underground aquifers. These pollutants affect biodiversity directly by immediate toxicity or indirectly through long-term accumulation.”World Wildlife Organization
Cotton Is Degrading
Cotton is just like a problematic guest. It comes into your home uninvited, drinks everything in sight, then pukes toxic fumes into your Brita pitcher. On top of that, it parks on your lawn, leaks oil into the soil then stomps on the gas pedal, shredding your grass to bits.
“Cotton cultivation severely degrades soil quality. Despite the global area devoted to cotton cultivation remaining constant for the past 70 years, cotton production has depleted and degraded the soil in many areas. Most cotton is grown on well-established fields, but their exhaustion leads to expansion into new areas and the attendant destruction of habitat.”World Wildlife Organization
Cotton vs Bamboo: Why Is Bamboo Better?
Let’s review the three things that make cotton horrible for the planet. These include using too much water, polluting the water it didn’t use up and finally degrading soil. Now, let’s talk about bamboo:
“Bamboo textiles have been around for a long time. In fact, the earliest patents involving these materials go back to 1864 by Philipp Lichtenstadt. His original idea was to create a “new and useful process for disintegrating the fiber of bamboo so that it may be used in manufacturing cordage, cloth, mats, or pulp for paper.” Yet somehow, despite the availability of the material, it’s only been within recent years that commercially viable bamboo clothing has made it into the mainstream.”News Room
Bamboo Drinks in Moderation
Think of bamboo as the designated driver. Bamboo will have a drink or two max like the responsible resource that they are, leaving plenty for everyone else to enjoy. In fact, bamboo only needs a third of the water that cotton requires to grow. It literally requires no irrigation at all. It is self-sufficient and uses water a lot more efficiently than binge-drinking cotton. Plus it will refrain from puking and it parks its Tesla safely in your driveway.
Bamboo Is Low Maintenance
Bamboo grows without any pesticides at all! It is naturally resistant to insects or infecting pathogens.
“Bamboo has always been grown without pesticides where some non-organic cotton requires 1/3 pounds of fertilizer per pound and can be determined to use 25% of all chemical pesticides used on American crops.”Cariloha
Bamboo Is Into Self-Growth
Cotton is needy while bamboo is a strong independent resource.
“Bamboo rarely if ever needs replanting. The miracle of bamboo is that it miraculously will sprout on its own and one acre of bamboo will yield 10 times more than one acre of cotton. Cotton needs harvesting and re-planting each year which can be a process. Some species of bamboo can grow up to 4 feet a day and can be fully harvestable within 3-4 years all while replenishing the crop on its own.”Cariloha
Cotton vs Bamboo: Is It Better for People?
Similarly to the concept of ‘happy wife, happy life,’ if something is good for the planet it is also good for the people. Because until we find another inhabitable planet, we need Earth to survive as a species. In the cotton vs bamboo competition, bamboo wins when it comes to our needs as consumers as well.
Bamboo is Strong
Bamboo is one of the strongest and most affordable fabrics to wear, sleep in, or just cozy up against. It is extremely resistant and won’t wear out as fast as cotton. It is also cheaper to produce, so once it becomes more mainstream it will be cheaper than cotton to buy as well.
“Whether you are talking about a shirt or pants, or bed sheets or towels, bamboo will outlast cotton in keeping shape, strength, and durability three times over when cared for properly. The care methods are simple and efficient and don’t require any special methodology. Bamboo materials also require less washing than most cotton which also plays a part in life cycle of a product. On top of this, the bamboo fibers require less dye that cotton for coloration, and are noted to keep their bright colors significantly longer.”Cariloha
Bamboo is Soft
And now I sound like I’m quoting that song from Mulan II. But I’m not just making this up. Not only is bamboo stronger than cotton, it is also softer and much more comfy.
Viscose from bamboo has been compared to some of the most luxurious fabrics like silk and Egyptian cotton but costs significantly less. Plus it is also hypo-allergenic and can be worn by anyone without causing any allergic reactions or skin irritation.
Bamboo Is a Breath of Fresh Air
In the cotton vs bamboo comparison, bamboo simply wins in every single category. Bamboo is more breathable than cotton as well as more absorbent. In fact, bamboo is 40% more absorbent than even the finest organic cotton, wicking moisture away from the skin much faster and keeping you drier.
Bamboo is Clean
It is seriously time to ditch that dirty cotton. The final perk of bamboo is that it is cleaner. Bamboo has antimicrobial properties referred to as “Bamboo Kun”. These natural antimicrobial bio-agents make help reduce bacteria that thrive on clothing and other materials as well as on the human skin.
“Ever wondered why bamboo floor mats are so popular in countries where shoes aren’t worn inside a whole lot? It might have something to do with the fact that these antibacterial properties keep things from smelling on a constant basis.”Cariloha
Summary: Cotton vs Bamboo
The jury is in on the cotton vs bamboo debate. Cotton is officially out for committing crimes against the planet. Like Marie Kondo always says, pick up the item that no longer brings you joy, thank it for it’s services and discard it forever. Transition to a cleaner, greener, softer, fresher bamboo fabric! You can shop bamboo clothes, bed sheets, towels and even switch to bamboo furniture. Bamboo is an amazing resource and we should take full advantage of it! The only thing that may be even more efficient and green is hemp. But we will get to that another time!
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