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Organic Cotton Vs Bamboo - Who's The Real Deal?

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Let's not beat about the bush. Chemicals and plastics are hurting our babies' future home.

At the same time, we use these things to save money, because having a baby makes us more financially cash-strapped than ever.

Plastic and synthetic fibres are most often cheaper for manufacturers than some of the more sustainable options, but many products are "greenwashed" so as to appear to be a sustainable choice, justifying their higher prices.

This annoys me, 'cos if products are priced similarly, I prefer to choose the more sustainable option.

I'm a great fan of recycled clothing, and that is a big tick on the environmental scorecard. It's also usually cheaper. I say "usually", have you seen the prices of op shop clothing these days?

You can't always get the right recycled piece in the right size and you can't give a recycled product as a gift. So, let's look at the fabrics that go into new baby clothing and baby carriers.

Remembering my mantra, if the baby carriers or baby clothing are similarly priced, I will choose the more sustainable option.

Petrochemical fibres like nylon, polyester and elastane, plus man-made fibres from wood pulp and bamboo get "E"on the environmental scorecard from not-for-profit environmental organisation Made-By.

Hold on, "bamboo" is natural and marvellous for the environment, surely? Bamboo grows quickly and it sounds natural. It feels me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. Well yes it is when it's used in its natural state. But most often fabric incorrectly labelled "bamboo" is actually viscose.

In fact, the FTC in USA has fined companies stating their products were"bamboo" and not "viscose from bamboo" $1.26 million in penalties.

When tested by not-for-profit environmental organisation Made-By, bamboo viscose (the most widely used in Australia, see Catalyst excerpt lower in blog) got an E on the scorecard.

As far back as 2011, ABC TV's Catalyst was investigating the term "bamboo"  and the resultant implied environmental claims. Here's a short excerpt from the show:

What (research scientist) Tara found out was that most of the bamboo fabric available in Australia is in fact viscose.

Tara Afrin "Looking into the structure, I realized they are nothing but viscose, which is prepared in a non-eco-friendly manner."

Viscose is produced by taking a cellulose source, most commonly woodchips, which is then dissolved in sodium hydroxide and carbon disulphide. This solution is pushed into threads through a device like a showerhead. The fibres are drawn out through an acid bath that makes them go hard, producing a viscose fibre ready for spinning.

Tara Afrin "In viscose production method, we are mainly concerned about carbon disulphide. It is highly toxic, and bad really bad for workers' health. They are dissolving bamboo in those harmful chemicals."

So it seems bamboo fabric isn't as green as we've been led to believe. But what of the claims of the material's unique properties?

Tara Afrin, "We found the UV blocking property and anti-bacterial property of the commercial bamboo fibre that is basically viscose is missing. That means their claims, they are not true."

Made-By (www.made_by.org) and Textile Exchange (www.TextileExchange.org) are two not for profit organisations working to improve environmental and social conditions within the fashion industry.

Made-By looks at the production process of natural and man-made fibres and associated human and environmental impacts, and the table above ranked 28 fibres on six common parameters.

The six parameters have been given different weights in terms of impact. Greenhouse gas emissions human toxicity and eco-toxicity are weighted to 20% each, while energy, water and land use has been given a 13.33% weighting.

Based on these parameters, each fibre was scored and placed into one of five classifications: Class A to Class E. An additional category, "Unclassified", has been added, in which fibres that are not (yet) part of this Benchmark are listed due to a lack of available robust data. An updated scorecard is expected this year.

Organic cotton gets a B rating, just behind the A-rated recycled fibre and linen. It's something we at Hug-a-Bub are enormously proud of. And, given Hug-a-Bub is similarly priced to less green choices, it doesn't make sense to be actively choosing a carrier or clothing that leaves the earth poorer off.

There is also a point to be made about the authenticity of the claim "organic cotton". Hug-a-Bub uses only 100% GOTS Certified Organic Cotton, which you can read about here.


It's a nice feeling to know your choice is having minimal impact on the environment.

aboutorganiccotton.org is an initiative by Textile Exchange, an international non-profit organization committed to the responsible expansion of textile sustainability across the global textile value chain.

But, what use would "organic", or even GOTS Certified organic, be if the factory wasn't environmentally friendly itself. Think about the effluent and waste and even more importantly, the wages and conditions of the people working in it.

That's  why Hug-a-Bub is careful to work only with a manufacturing partner is certified Fair Trade, and those conditions and environmental considerations are applied across the whole supply chain.

We all need to arm ourselves with information to make simple but careful decisions on a daily basis. I hope this blog post helps.

As American political activist Eldridge Cleaver said 'There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem.'

<< Previous Blogs | Back to Blogs | Next >> 15 reasons to choose organic cotton for newborns

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