As a UGA grad, I am a die-hard SEC football fan...Go Dawgs! I also love the NFL and basically any other football game I can find on tv. I love to camp, scrapbook, read, watch movies, hike, take pictures, and hang out with friends. I'm a little bit girlie-girl, a little bit tomboy, a little bit southern belle and probably a little bit redneck... does a pink camouflage ball cap from Bass Pro Shops qualify me as redneck?
That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the stings and chemicals of fabric processing, or to take arms against a sea of industries, and by opposing end them? The Bard I'm not, but I do ask the same time-honored question.
When I started to write this blog, it was to tout the comfort and softness of my new favorite socks (which are bamboo), and revel in my self-righteous purchase of a more sustainable fabric product. As I started to research bamboo fiber, however, I discovered that my righteousness may be premature and there is more to this bamboo phenomenon than meets the eye. While the eco-friendly nature of bamboo has been widely publicized, the debate about its processing is a lesser known trend.
Botanically categorized as a grass and not a tree, bamboo just might be the world’s most sustainable resource. It is the fastest growing grass and can shoot up a yard or more a day. Bamboo reaches maturity quickly and is ready for harvesting in about 4 years. Bamboo does not require replanting after harvesting because its vast root network continually sprouts new shoots which almost zoom up while you watch them, pulling in sunlight and greenhouse gases and converting them to new green growth. And bamboo does this the natural way without the need for petroleum-guzzling tractors and poisonous pesticides and fertilizers.
Recent heralding of bamboo as the latest and hottest sustainable eco-fabric has ushered its arrival into current fashion, being seen on runways in New York, Milan, and Paris, as well as in the lines of today’s top designers. And some of the hoopla is justified. Growing bamboo is a wonderfully beneficial plant for the planet and most is naturally organic bamboo. The manufacturing processes where bamboo the plant is transformed into bamboo the fabric are where the sustainability and eco-friendly luster of bamboo is tarnished because of the heavy chemicals, some of which are toxic, that are often required. Here’s the scoop.
Bamboo, the plant, is wonderfully sustainable; bamboo, the fabric, isn’t so easy to categorize. There are two ways to process bamboo to make the plant into a fabric: mechanically or chemically. The mechanical way is by crushing the woody parts of the bamboo plant and then use natural enzymes to break the bamboo walls into a mushy mass so that the natural fibers can be mechanically combed out and spun into yarn. This is essentially the same eco-friendly manufacturing process used to produce linen fabric from flax or hemp. Bamboo fabric made from this process is sometimes called bamboo linen. Very little bamboo linen is manufactured for clothing because it is more labor intensive and costly, and let’s be honest…hemp and flax linens aren’t well known for their comfort.
Most bamboo fabric that is the current eco-fashion rage is chemically manufactured by “cooking” the bamboo leaves and woody shoots in strong chemical solvents such as sodium hydroxide (also known as caustic soda or lye) and carbon disulfide. This is basically the same process used to make rayon from wood or cotton waste byproducts. Ay, there’s the rub. Does the chemical processing of bamboo, which yields the soft, smooth fibers for which bamboo is known, decrease its viability as an environmentally-friendly fabric alternative?
I found substantial research to support both “yes” and “no” answers. The most compelling information, at least for me, was the fact that sodium hydroxide is one of the most widely used chemicals in the world. It is used in food production, soap making, manufacturing of bio diesel, production of paper, and is used on nearly all cotton fabrics, including organic cotton, during wet processing. Bamboo fibers also go through a bleaching process, which most often uses hydrogen peroxide. Perhaps the real clincher for me is that caustic soda and hydrogen peroxide are both approved for use on textiles under the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). My educated guess is that if we delve deeply enough into textile processing, we may find more than we ever wish to know about fabric processing…enough, in fact, that we might consider naturism as THE most earth-friendly clothing option.
For now, I still have a firm conviction that bamboo is a great alternative for fabric and wood products. While there are some unanswered questions about processing, I think we’ll find that’s the case with polyester, rayon, and nylon as well. Plus, those fabrics don’t have the intrinsic qualities that make bamboo such a wonderful material. Bamboo fabric is absorbent, breathable, and naturally antibacterial and antifungal. And did I mention that it is soft? I mean "puppies on a cloud of cotton balls" soft.
The bottom line is that there may be room for improvement in the processing of bamboo fabric. But, isn’t that case in almost every industrial endeavor? I’m drawn to natural fibers in general because they aren’t petroleum-based products like their synthetic cousins. When combined with the human health and sustainability of bamboo, I guess my socks ARE perhaps the eco-jewel I originally suspected they were. I think bamboo is a great, sustainable material. I’m hoping that as demand for these materials increases, the regulation of their processing will too. For now, I’ll just be content that my socks are soft and cozy, which is the really desirable characteristic for things we put on our feet, right? So, having mentioned the words “feet” and “rub” in the same blog, I’m off to find someone to pay the appropriate attention to my overworked tootsies. Ay, there’s the (real) rub…
We hear so much about the 3 Rs of waste reduction. To recycle is to process used items so that the material can be used to make new products. Reduce refers to lowering the amount of items or resources that are consumed. Reuse means repurposing an item rather than discarding it. Recycling generally prevents the waste of potentially useful materials, reduces the consumption of raw materials and reduces energy usage.
At first glance, scrapbooking and recycling may seem mutually exclusive. And to be honest, I've seem some scrappers that are contributing a legacy of wasteful disposal of paper, plastic wrapping and containers, and out-dated equipment. But upon further inspection, I've decided that a conscientious scrapper can also practice the 3 Rs in a harmonious partnership. Paper is the primary material in scrapbooking. With so many recycled options available, it can be a very renewable resource, making it an environmentally friendly medium.
There are so many fun and easy ways to make your scrapbook personal and unique by reusing things from around your own home. The handcrafted items made from common everyday goods add the ultimate personal touch that can't be duplicated in mass production. Here are a few ideas on how you can increase your recycling while you scrapbook:
Set up an area near where you scrapbook for items that can be recycled like papers or ribbon scraps, this will encourage you to consume more and throw away less.
Use the scraps on several pages in the same album to carry an overall theme.
Donate the papers in your someday pile to charity or your local senior center
Share or trade your idea books with your friends. I actually cleaned out my paper supply about a week ago and donated my extra paper to the Nature Center to be used for art/nature summer camps. Purchase slightly used items scrapbook garage sales (or host your own).
Find a way to use the packing material often included with scrapbook items (remember you may need to treat these items to make them archival safe). There have been several recent articles in popular scrapbooking magazines that highlight creative ways to use packaging plastic. I've seen it punched, painted, sewn into pockets, and fashioned into shakers.
Don't just buy your buttons collect them from old blouses or shirts in your closet.
Purchase durable, long-lasting products.
Use every bit of item that you do purchase.
Don't buy the newest item if you already have a similar item. This is particularly important because we are in an era of "newer is better." It is so tempting to buy the latest gadget or fad when we already own perfectly useable supplies.
With a little thought, we can ensure that we aren't creating a legacy of waste as we work toward telling the stories of family traditions. We can be sure we are preserving the planet as well as the pictures.
Yep, after a quick hiatus in April...I'm back on track for 12 of 12. The sad thing is that I actually took all my pictures in April, I just never had a chance to upload them and write pithy captions. But, I did have a great day on May 12, and that inspired me to get back in the proverbial saddle. Enjoy! NOTE FROM NATURE GIRL: Holy Cow! I just checked Chad's original 12 of 12 website and I realized that I've been doing my captions incorrectly for years! I am now striving to remedy my blatant oversight. I've been forgetting the location part...
8:22 am- My Office My fashionable footwear. I'm really into silly patterns on socks these days and these are no exception. Since I was scheduled to do an edible bugs presentation I felt that ladybugs were appropriate.
9:18 am- Ijams Nature Center While I was waiting for a school group to arrive, I snapped a quick shot of these beardtongue flowers. Weird name- pretty flower.
10:45 am- Ijams Nature Center Pond A preschool class from Garden Montessori. We were looking for tadpoles, newts, and frogs.
11:30 am- Animal Care Room I snapped this shot of our little one-eyed screech owl before I put her back in her cage. I used her for the program with Garden Montessori. In case you're wondering, she got hit by a car and her eye wouldn't heal, so the vets had to remove it. She's, by far, the sweetest bird we have at the center.
11:55 am- Ijams Flower Bed The kids found these monarch caterpillars while we were on our hike. I wanted to snap some photos of them because they'll probably be butterflies by the time June 12th rolls around. These guys are devouring the milkweed in front of the Nature Center.
1:20 pm- Walgreen's I took a quick trip to Walgreen's to get some party mix for the edible bugs program...you'll see why in later pics :)
3:05- Ijams Multipurpose Room We celebrated Sarah's birthday at our weekly staff meeting. Most photos that I have of her involve a double thumbs-up. In case you can't read her shirt, it's a mustachioed beaver saying to a wide-eyed starlet beaver, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a dam."
4:40 pm- My Office In preparation for the edible bugs program, I whipped up some cheddar cheese mealworm chex mix!
5:15 pm- Ijams Multipurpose Room Setting up for the presentation. I like to start my presentation with a quick Disney reference. Timon and Pumbaa are prominently featured in this particular slide show.
6:17 pm- Ijams Multipurpose Room Folks partaking of mealworm chex mix and chocolate covered ants. Mmmm...tastes like chicken! Well not really, the mealworms actually taste more like popcorn.
7:45 pm- Calhoun's on the River A celebratory dinner at Calhoun's. Emily and Than's field crew came down for the evening to attend the presentation. Before heading up to LaFollette to chase warblers, we grabbed dinner and drinks at Calhoun's.
9:05 pm- Calhoun's on the River Jess and Phil proudly sporting their "I Ate a Bug" Club stickers :)
Bonus 13th photo: OK, so this one was stolen from the local paper's website this morning (5-13-09). There was a reporter and a photographer from the Knox News-Sentinel at the presentaiton and they wrote an article for today's paper. The article was pretty cute, complete with an adorable photo of a child with a mealworm on his tongue! To check out the complete article, click here.
So that was my day, hope you enjoyed a brief look into my life! For a look at what other folks did on the 12th or to learn more about the project, go here.