Until I posted a few days back on Green sex I had never heard of cloth of any kind made from bamboo. Now it seems, that’s all I see. Even the stodgy Wall Street Journal has in bamboo-towels.jpgthe Catalog Critic section a comparison of various bamboo towels.
As I discovered at Expo West from my conversation with the lady in the bamboo/cotton clothing booth, bamboo needs to be mixed with cotton for stability. All the towels tested by the Wall Street Journal staff were made of a bamboo/cotton mix, with more cotton than bamboo.
According to the accompanying commentary, apparently bamboo isn’t as eco friendly as many would have us believe. If the textiles professor can be trusted, the Green properties of bamboo are, sadly, the result of marketing hype.

As for the environment, bamboo can theoretically be grown with fewer chemicals than cotton. But processing gets more complicated. The fibers are made by extruding chemically liquefied bamboo into strands — similar to the process used for rayon, most of which is made from pine trees. Peggy Goutmann, an associate professor of textiles at Philadelphia University, says there are two reasons for calling bamboo ecologically friendly: The plant itself is very fast-growing and it is more plentiful than pine trees. Otherwise, she says, “It’s a marketing thing.”

If it truly is marketing hype – and, admittedly, all I have to go by in writing that is the comment of this one professor – I’m eating it with a spoon. I love it when the Greenie eco-friendly veggie types are taken in by the Madison Avenue big ad agency hype that they all so loathe and profess to be immune to.
On a sensory level, though, it sounds like bamboo towels are soft and absorbent, which is just what I want towels to be. I’m going to rustle one up and try it myself. I’ll compare it to my own tried and true thin Euro-style waffle cotton towels that I use daily and let you know what I think.


  1. Sir thankee yr post on car-beau-Hi-Drate
    BTW do your sen a favour and read ‘Tournament of Shadows’ if you havent..wonderful.
    Hi Simon–
    I’ll add it to the list.  I always love reading about The Great Game.  If you haven’t read it already, you should get a copy of Flashman by George McDonald Fraser.  The entire series is great, but if you haven’t read any, start with Flashman, the very first.

  2. If you want to be a true tree hugger (go on, I know you want to!) hemp might be a better bet (as far as I know it can be grown pesticide and herbicide free and has upsides in processing as well, at least for paper, not sure about cloth) Before the ridiculous (and always counter productive) prohibition, I believe hemp was a much greener alternative for just about anything (paper, rope, clothing, fuel etc) I seem to recall Henry Ford even wanted to use it as a construction material in his cars as well as a fuel source (methanol from the plant, as well as biodiesel from the seed oil) But what would he know?
    Geez, I write one little post on veggie porn and now I secretly want to be a tree hugger…
    Yeah, it’s too bad that hemp has such a ‘mellow’ reputation.  I have seen clothing and other cloth articles made of hemp in different shops, so it’s being used.

  3. Hemp always makes me think of burlap.
    I’ve seen and felt some great, very soft yarns made of bamboo blends. I’ll need to try some out in a knitting project and see how it does.
    Hi Esther–
    Once you do, let me know how it works.

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