From Part 1 of our blog from last week, we continue to explain the different processes that are an integral part of our quality Canadian made bamboo.
From Fiber to Fabric
Viscose from Bamboo is made from the leaves and soft pith inside the bamboo stalk. These are extracted through an industrial steaming process and then mechanically crushed and dissolved in vats of sodium hydroxide, otherwise known as lye. Lye is environmentally safe when used responsibly—it's one of the main ingredients in 'hippie' homemade soap.
When the bamboo pulp is reduced by lye to a smooth liquid, it is extruded through tiny nozzles into threads that are then soaked in acid. The acid bath neutralizes the lye and sets the threads, which then can be spun into yarn, dyed and woven. This process is the reason we use the term 'Viscose from Bamboo', as per the Canadian Labelling Standards Act, but bamboo is used to make the viscose instead of the usual wood pulp.
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. This includes energy use and water consumption during manufacturing. The objective is to keep both consumption rates to a minimum.
Unlike many other nations, Canada has implemented very stringent regulations covering our industry that monitor and control both what is applied to the fabrics and what is discharged from our textile facilities; the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Chinese textile factories alone produce about three billion tons of soot—air pollution linked to respiratory and heart disease—every year by burning coal for energy.
The most visually striking and often the most reported problem around the world is the discharge of untreated (or even treated) wastewater from dyeing plants. In developing nations, it is released directly into the environment and contaminates drinking water sources that humans depend on.
As previously mentioned, in Canada, ecologists have worked with our elected officials to put in place the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. A very important part of this legislation was the Effluents from textile factories. In other words: water that is rejected from textile dyeing plants.
Our textile dye house is the only one in North America to install advanced finishing equipment that uses a closed-loop system. They use a combination of hydroelectricity and natural gas, which is used to heat the boilers that heats the water used to dye the fabric. This is a system that dramatically reduces the expelling of smoke into the environment and oils and impurities into the water. They filter wastewater to be free of lint and debris and monitor, record and neutralize the pH of the water on a daily bases. Four times a year, they have an independent lab test their water to ensure they are producing water with the lowest pollution possible. They also work with an environmental company for waste management. In contrast, textile mills in developing countries generate one-fifth of the world's industrial water pollution and use 20,000 chemicals, many of them carcinogenic, to make clothes.
What happens to your garment once it's been worn and discarded? The final life stages are just as important as the beginning. Natural fabrics are biodegradable. Garments made from synthetic fabrics like polyester take decades to biodegrade whereas natural fabrics like wool can biodegrade in one year. Bamboo is a natural cellulose fiber and is 100% biodegradable in soil by micro-organisms and sunlight. The decomposition process does not cause any pollution in the environment.
Along with all the eco-benefits of quality Canadian bamboo comes an amazing longevity, which is one of the primary reasons why we use it to make our garments. We're dedicated to the #slowfashion movement and thrilled to have customers reporting to us that they have worn our clothing for years and years.
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