Bamboo, hemp, flax, organic cotton, is it for real? Eco-friendly textiles - what does it all mean?
Back a few years ago, bamboo towels, home textiles and clothing were the eco-rage until the FTA blew the horn off the bamboo textile industry and acted to restrict some of the more outrageous claims being made about textiles, bamboo fabric specifically: they charged four sellers of clothing and other textile products with deceptive labeling and advertising. Their intention was to demonstrate that unsubstantiated green claims in the clothing and other textile related product categories will not be tolerated.
It's a good thing, because claims are being made for “green” textiles of all kinds – often thoroughly green-washing the truth. But to categorically say bamboo fabric is NOT green is a step in the opposite direction. There are some naturally retted bamboo products (processed like flax or hemp) on the market though it’s hard to find. The process used to turn bamboo into a fiber which is used almost exclusively today, the viscose process, can also be eco friendly IF the manufacturer makes the effort to capture emissions and treat effluent. We have to evaluate the claims.
How could I possibly tell if I'm buying an Eco-friendly textile?
A good place to start is to specify textiles with GOTS certification.
GOTS is a third party certifying body made up of four reputed member organizations, namely OTA (USA), IVN (Germany), Soil Association (UK) and JOCA (Japan), which contribute to the GOTS, together with further international stakeholder organizations and experts, their respective expertise in organic farming and environmentally and socially responsible textile processing.
Only textile products that contain a minimum of 70% organic fibers can become certified according to GOTS. All chemical inputs s.a. dyestuffs and auxiliaries used must meet certain environmental and toxicological criteria and also the choice of accessories is limited under ecological aspects. A functional waste water treatment plant is mandatory for any wet-processing unit involved and all processors must comply with social minimum criteria. The key criteria of GOTS, its quality assurance system and the principles of the review and revision procedure are summarized on their website.
It's a great start and the world is following suit.