Bamboo vs Cotton – Bamboo Rises Above Cotton, Literally and Figuratively

Bamboo vs Cotton

You may have noticed lately that bamboo fabrics and textiles seem to be more available for purchase with each passing day.  But did you know that bamboo is one of the most sustainable resources that Earth offers?  Here is why bamboo and products made from bamboo are so sustainable and eco-friendly.  For comparison, cotton and its statistics are also reviewed.


Bamboo is a woody grass, and it is one of the fastest growing plants on Earth today.  Some bamboos have been recorded as growing more than three feet in a single day – that’s over 36 inches in just 24 hours.  Bamboo also reaches maturity in anywhere from one to three years, depending upon the species.  Because of the unique structure of the plant, bamboo can be harvested and used in many different ways.  Bamboo can be used for lumber, making it a much more sustainable resource than wood from trees, since trees can take anywhere from 20 to 60 years to reach maturity.  Bamboo fibers can also be harvested and used to make textiles, or fabrics.

National Bamboo Forest in Kyoto, Japan

National Bamboo Forest in Kyoto, Japan

Here is why bamboo is such a sustainable and renewable resource (for more information on the topic, go here):

  • Bamboo needs no more water than is provided by Mother Nature, when grown in its natural habitat.  This means no irrigation in needed to grow bamboo for harvest and use in production.  This means that in choosing to purchase bamboo products, you are choosing to help conserve water as well.
  • Bamboo doesn’t require any pesticides or insecticides.  This also means good things for the environment, as pesticides and insecticides are notorious for killing birds, fish, and other wildlife, as well as causing diseases such as cancer in humans.  Most pesticides used in the world contain 15 of the most dangerous chemicals on Earth, which is dangerous for all living things.  So when bamboo is used to manufacture products instead of other crops, living things that can be affected by pesticides and insecticides are also kept safe.
  • Bamboo helps combat soil erosion.  There are two different types of bamboo:  running bamboo and clumping bamboo.  Running bamboo is the kind that is notorious for spreading like wildfire, while clumping bamboo in noninvasive and only grows where it is planted.  However, because of the net-like root system of running bamboo, when these bamboos grow, they help to combat soil erosion.  Their roots essentially hold the soil together.  Additionally, the leaves of bamboo combat soil erosion because the runoff from the rain is 25% less than most other plants, thanks to their unique shape.

Now, for comparison, here’s how cotton stacks up against bamboo.


Cotton is grown on 3% of the world’s farmland – so it is a major crop worldwide to say the least.  Most of us own many cotton products, but are unaware of the of the damage that this crop does to the environment.

cotton field

  • Cotton needs an immense amount of water to grow.  In order to produce a single cotton t-shirt, the same amount of water is needed that a single person drinks over a three-year period.  Generally speaking, about 2.5 acre-feet of water is needed to grow cotton.  This is a substantial amount of water, and for those of us concerned about water’s conservation, cotton suddenly seems to be a villain.
  • Cotton uses 25% of the world’s pesticides and 17% of the world’s insecticides.  And remember, cotton is only grown on 3% of the world’s farmland.  Not only does cotton growing require unusually high amounts of pesticides and insecticides, but keep in mind that these contain some of the most dangerous chemicals on Earth to organisms.  8 of the chemicals found in cotton cause cancer and 5 cause birth defects, to name a few of the problems posed by these chemical solutions.
  • The growing of cotton causes soil degradation.  The runoff from the large amounts of water required to grow the cotton results in the salinization of the soil, rendering it unusable after a period of time.  In the Eurasian country of Uzbekistan, half of the farmland is now unusable due to this unfortunate process.  The salinization of the soil ultimately makes it nearly impossible for native plants to ever grow again in soil that has been so saturated with salt.  This destructive nature of cotton is in high contrast to the protective net-like root systems of the running bamboos, which prevent soil erosion.

Ultimately, bamboo is a highly renewable resource on its own.  But when compared to cotton, it becomes astonishing just how valuable a resource bamboo is for Mother Earth and her children.  In the end, textiles made from bamboo are a better choice than those made from cotton.


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