Friday, January 22, 2010

How Green is Your Bamboo?

We are seeing more and more new products into your shelves. We don't always know from what source. As material and goods are traveling from place to place and retails is giving us very basic information about the product, more research may give us more background on the road of the manufacturing of this product. Bamboo is getting more and more popular and is very trendy in the green movement. Jennifer from Awakened aesthetics says it so well on her blog. This article is written on January 12, by Jennifer Nicole.

Keeping up with the Joneses used to mean buying the newest, most expensive car and parking it next to your immaculately-manicured lawn.  Now it means getting a hybrid and building a compost bin.

But the idea of sustainable living – the basics of it – is not new.  The hippies were doing it in the sixties, the bohemian kids kept it going through the seventies and eighties, and the nineties saw an influx of consciousness that has travelled through the changing of the decade.  Now, earth consciousness is not just a movement for a few choice alternative kids; it's a way of life.

Some of us thought that making sustainability "mainstream" would be a big hurdle, but its popularity grew overnight, featuring yoga and solar power, protests and tofu.  Instead, the struggle has come down to one small part of the way we live: our beauty, and our aesthetics.  The reality is that making enlightened choices has always been possible, but it hasn't always been pretty. As global consciousness grows, however, the community of aesthetics – fashion, design, beauty, perfume – has had to use their creative teams for adapting to the "green trend:" creating beautiful, inventive clothing and textiles out of non-toxic, natural, and earth-friendly materials.

Many companies have turned to organic cotton, but others are using a different plant fiber: bamboo.  It's no surprise, as bamboo is one of the most ecologically useful plants in production: it grows up to four feet per day, takes less time to harvest than cotton, and is quite hardy.  Once processed and weaved into clothing, it's also incredibly soft.  But how does this sturdy grass go from hard wood to soft fabric?

Well, that's where the harmful chemicals come in.

Bamboo: The Good

Bamboo got its eco-friendly reputation because of its naturally human- and earth-friendly properties.  Not only is it hardy and fast-growing, but it also does double duty as a major oxygen producer – way more than a forest of comparable size – and its huge root network prevents erosion, even after the stalks have been harvested.  It doesn't require pesticides or chemicals to grow (organic!), is naturally biodegradable, and its "forests" regenerate on their own, using that same erosion-avoiding network of roots to sprout new stalks whenever and wherever they're removed.  Using the right techniques, it can be used for flooring, furniture, decorative items and, of course, fabric.

When manufactured for clothing, bamboo becomes a powerhouse, boasting ecological, health and beauty benefits.  It's softer than most cottons, yet drapes so smoothly and elegantly that it can be used as a cheap alternative to silk.  Bamboo is also hypoallergenic, and can even be anti-microbial, if it's manufactured mechanically.  It will resist the growth of odor-causing bacteria, making it a great choice for socks, exercise clothing, and anything else you could even think of sweating in (like a dress shirt at your annual performance review).

However, if bamboo isn't mechanically produced, it can lose its hypoallergenic, bacteria-killing properties, as well as all of its claims of "eco-friendliness" and, in some cases, the right to even be called bamboo.

Bamboo: The Bad

That's right: some companies use the "bamboo" label much like others use the "organic" label: to make money.  It's all part of a marketing ploy called greenwashing, and in this case, it can mean the difference between your skivvies being eco-friendly and eco-harmful.

There are two ways to process bamboo into fabric: mechanically and chemically. The mechanical process is pretty straightforward: the plant is crushed, and natural enzymes are added to break down the woody parts into a mushy compound.  A machine "combs out" this compound so it can be spun into yarn.  It's a truly eco-friendly process, but it's also labor-intensive and costs more than chemical processing does.

In chemical processing, the same bamboo is "cooked" in acid (among other things).  The result isn't an organic bamboo yarn, or even a remotely eco-friendly fabric.  Instead, it's called "regenerated cellulose fiber" or, more commonly, bamboo rayon.

Unlike its mechanically manufactured counterpart, this chemical bamboo fabric is soaked toxic chemicals, including lye, bleach, carbon disulfide and sulfuric acid, and "regenerated" into a fiber that can be woven into fabric.  It's a long, arduous process that not only harms the environment, but can cause serious health effects for the people that work to create the fabric:

Keep in mind that this process – all of these chemicals, all of these health risks – goes for cotton-based rayon, too.  The difference is that, as of now, companies are required to list chemically-manufactured cotton as "rayon" or "cotton rayon," so you can easily avoid them by looking at the label.  However, there are still no laws that force companies to make the same kind of distinction for bamboo.  Every time you buy bamboo fabric, you run the risk of getting a rayon blend instead – one that may be tainted by the chemicals that pollute our air and destroy health of the workers that created it.

What You Can Do

Until there are more stringent laws requiring companies to list the kind of bamboo their clothing is made of, it's up to consumers to buy responsibly.  It may seem like a daunting task – how do you know whether a company uses natural enzymes or harmful chemicals? – but there are a few ways to ensure that the bamboo you're wearing has been produced ethically:

We've been battling uphill for sustainable living for decades.  From our hybrid cars to our farmers markets, we've certainly come a long way.  Without "the beautiful people" behind the movement, though, we'll never be able to create a higher standard of ethical consumerism.  We need to begin holding the fashion community accountable for what it creates, from source to production to delivery, to send the message that it's not just about keeping up with the Joneses.  It's about a better way of life.

The following sources offer more information:
*Center for Disease Control – ToxFAQs: Carbon Disulfide and Sodium Hydroxide
*General information on bamboo processing:
*In-depth information on bamboo manufacturing, including step-by-step processes and links to certification websites:

Images via and (2).

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A New Working Wardrobe for Her

After an article consecrated to Men, I have to address the Women way to dress up for work. I choose an article from a friend:

Let’s be honest: dressing up for work is way different than dressing up for class. One of the big realities that young professional women face upon graduation is that they will need a whole new wardrobe for work. No fear, Ms. Career Girl is here!Don’t you dare go into debt over starting your professional wardrobe! You can buy one piece at a time. Here’s where to start!

  1. Pencil Skirt. Need I say more?
  2. High quality white collared shirt. Brooks Brothers has shirts that don’t wrinkle. Ann Taylor’s collared shirts are pretty high quality too. The goal is to buy a shirt that you don’t need to dry clean or iron every time it gets out of the wash. Take the time to make sure it fits like a glove. You’ll be wearing this shirt a lot and it will drive you crazy if it doesn’t fit. Don’t be afraid to get a shirt tailored to fit your body if necessary.
  3. Black work heels. Work heels mean they are classic, easy to walk in and worn only at work for the most part. In fact, it might be a good idea to leave this pair of shoes in your desk so they don’t get trashed at the bar, in the mud, or in the snow on your walk in. Make sure your shoes aren’t falling off when you walk. It looks stupid and you’ll be more worried about saving face than focusing on the tasks at hand.
  4. 2 pairs of tailored pants. Yes, I said tailored. This means that if you’re short like me, get your pants hemmed! Dragging baggy bottoms are gross and unprofessional. Even worse, you may trip! I would get one nice pair of black trouser pants (Banana Republic’s are awesome)? and one boot cut pair. Make sure they aren’t too tight. If you have to buy a size bigger, do it. If you hate looking at your size on the tag, cut it off. You do NOT want your co-workers talking about your booty because your pants are too tight.
  5. A great belt. Buy a belt that can be worn over your pencil skirt, over your cardigans, with a dress, and to spice up your collared shirt and trouser pants.
  6. Tights/Nylons. Although every office is different, my general rule of thumb is to wear nylons or tights unless it is over 85 degrees. If you work in a law firm, conservative bank, or see clients in the financial world then nylons are a must. If you work in a creative advertising agency nylons may not be necessary but they definitely polish your look. Other things:
  7. Painted nails. Not ones that are chipped and not hot green ones. Yes, details matter and people notice these things.
  8. Lipstick/gloss. There’s nothing that screams Go-Getter more than lipstick. It shows attention to detail, and it finishes your look. We’ve all heard it before: women who wear lipstick to their interviews are more likely to be hired.
  9. Be aware of your roots. If you are not a natural blonde (like me), you know that roots are a scary reality. There is nothing worse than a fake blonde with 2 inches of black roots. Goodbye professionalism! If you can’t afford to be blonde, then it’s time to go darker. Fake-blonde addicts: plan ahead for this expense by setting cash aside after pay day. This may change your mind about being blonde!
  10. Consider buying an in-expensive cropped black blazer so that you can buy fun, cute and cheap tops to go under it. I did this a lot at my last job, and I would always laugh when my co-workers would pull me aside and say, “Oh my gosh you have so many clothes!” No, I don’t. My apartment is tiny and so is my closet! I just buy cheap accessories, wear headbands and fun shirts underneath that same jacket to spice it up, show a bit of personality and change my look!

Nicole Crimaldi is the founder of, a personal and professional development blog for ambitious young professional women. Nicole works in Finance in Chicago.