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Organic cotton vs. bamboo – and other sustainable alternatives

Sustainable materials for our products are very important to us and therefore we almost exclusively use organic cotton, bamboo and other sustainable alternatives. But what are the differences?

Bio-Baumwolle vs. Bambus

Especially when it comes to textiles, more and more customers are turning to garments that can be labelled with ecological, organic or fairtrade labels. It should be sustainable and environmentally friendly, and at the same time consumers appreciate the great wearing comfort of cotton in particular. But how sustainable is organic cotton? And are there alternatives?

What is organic cotton?

No chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilizers may be used in the cultivation of cotton that deserves the designation organic cotton. The entire cultivation and processing chain must be traceable in this respect. 

Bio-Baumwolle

Advantages of organic cotton

They are obvious: textiles made of ecologically grown cotton are super wearable. The soft, pleasant fibres last for years, even decades, do not harm health and do not pollute soil or groundwater. People working in the cotton industry do not have to suffer from toxins either. And since cotton is a renewable resource, it can be cultivated infinitely.

Disadvantages of cotton cultivation

Well... Cotton is a renewable agricultural product. However, the water consumption of plants is enormous. And for a single T-shirt, even with sustainable cultivation, enough chemicals are still consumed – about 200g could be it.

Weak point: processing

The crucial point in cotton processing is often the dyeing process. Even if everything went well until then, the chemical club is often swung here. The bright colours of cotton fabric are usually not feasible in any other way. If you do without them, you have to be satisfied with rather "discreet" colours.

Typical products made of organic cotton

Parents of toddlers particularly often resort to organically grown cotton. Because if a garment is to meet the highest demands, the entire manufacturing process, including the treatment and dyeing of the fibres, must be included. That has its price. But for one's own children, one then reaches deeper into one's pocket. Allergy sufferers also appreciate organic cotton, among other things because the durable fibres are washable even at high temperatures. 

What is bamboo, and what can the great fiber do?

Bamboo has been processed into fibres in Asia for centuries and is used for clothing, hats or shoes, but also for blankets. What hardly anyone in Europe knows – bamboo is not a tree, but a grass, even if a very agile one. Some species grow a metre a day. The plant is considered robust and weatherproof and does the soil good in growth. Bamboo fibres and textiles made of bamboo fibres are often advertised as an alternative to water-swallowing cotton. 

Bambus

Advantages of bamboo fibres

Bamboo textiles are breathable and silky soft. The wearing comfort corresponds to that of silk, but at the same time the material is easy to clean and absorbent. Bamboo also has hypoallergenic, antibacterial and insect-repellent properties! It is crease-free and machine-washable, and does not require any fabric softener. Since bamboo fibres can be dyed excellently, you also get convincing, beautiful results with organic dyestuffs.

Like cotton, bamboo is a renewable agricultural product – it even grows back very quickly. Since the plant is resistant to bacteria and pests anyway, it does not need any chemicals to grow. The water consumption of the bamboo plant is low, it also thrives on poor soils and even enhances them. A miracle plant? Not quite!

Disadvantages: especially during processing

While the bamboo itself is an undemanding and extremely useful plant that shoots up quickly practically everywhere, here the problem lies in the processing. To make the fibres supple, a lot of water and chemicals are needed. And it immediately destroyed ecological cultivation again. What helps is a look at the certification – because an EcoTex label for bamboo textiles also indicates that the manufacturing and processing methods comply with sustainable standards.

Typical bamboo textile products

Textiles made of bamboo yarn are not yet too common. But what has already got around: Sheets and light blankets made of bamboo adapt to cool or warm weather and are also hypoallergenic.

Bamboo or cotton – what is better?

Can you choose one of the two fibres when it comes to sustainability? Here we can express a clear yes and no! On the one hand, despite the not always "clean" processing, bamboo is certainly a more sustainable material than cotton and offers a comparable, if not even higher wearing comfort. On the other hand, there is still a lack of appropriate certifications that guarantee transparency for consumers. The ultimate in alternative fibres has still not been found. A possible alternative: textiles made of algae, produced with environmentally compatible cellulose solvents. Such fabrics are not only healthy for the skin, but can also be worn by toddlers and convey a noble feeling of wear such as silk or cashmere wool.

Our conclusion: how good are bamboo or cotton really?

No matter which fibre you choose – you can't do it without taking a close look at the entire manufacturing process. Not only the cultivation, but also the processing has to be considered. In order to keep the damage to the environment as low as possible, the recycling of natural fibres is also an option.

We at NIKIN place great emphasis on sustainable products at fair prices. Therefore, we are always on the lookout for suitable sustainable alternatives to conventional materials. We have been using organic cotton and recycled polyester for some time now, instead of the conventional variants, which are often not very sustainable. We want sustainable materials to become the standard and not just a luxury of the upper class. We want to make sustainable and fair fashion accessible and affordable for everyone and have already tried various alternatives – such as recycled cotton fibres from old jeans (for our Treeanies), or bamboo for our TreeSocks. We are satisfied with both, whereby both materials have their advantages and disadvantages. Of course we are still far from perfect, but we are definitely heading in the right direction. That's why we are always on the lookout for even more sustainable materials for our products!

What our customers can do

With the selection of your own clothes you can set a sign against fast fashion. Clearly for quality, and against quantity. Better fewer pieces, but good. That has its price – but in the long run the purchase of such pieces is worthwhile. Quality is good for the environment. And in the long run also for your wallet. 

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