Climate Action & Sustainable Agricultural Development for the Social Equity of Indigenous Women in Rural Communities of Costa Rica

We have 75 acres of land that we are using to create a botanical garden of plant medicines and a permaculture farm to grow foods, medicines and textiles. We are exploring the potential to manufacture bamboo, cotton, and hemp textiles in Costa Rica as part of a proposed project to support women entrepreneurs in our region. Those who visit will always remember Seekers Falls.

 

Bamboo can be a very sustainable crop; a fast growing, naturally organic grass that regenerates from its own roots, so it doesn’t need to be replanted. When compared to cotton cultivation, which requires large amounts of water, pesticides and labour, the advantages are compelling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Bamboo does not need to be replanted after harvest because it regenerates from its rhizome root structure. Bamboo also improves soil quality and helps to rebuild eroded soil. This is thanks to its extensive root system, which holds soil together, preventing soil erosion, and retains water in the watershed [1] – which is very important for hilly farmland like ours, in a region that rises from the beautiful central Pacific coast of Costa Rica. 

 

Bamboo Facts;

  • Bamboo is highly absorbent and wicks water away from the body 3 to 4 times faster than cotton. In warm and humid weather, bamboo clothing helps keep you dry, cool, and doesn’t stick to your skin.

  • Due to the structure of bamboo fibers, bamboo fabrics are more breathable and thermal regulating than cotton, hemp, wool or synthetic fabrics.

  • More wrinkle resistant than cotton.

  • Bamboo fibers and fabrics absorb dyes faster and with better color clarity than cotton, modal and viscose. Bamboo fabrics do not need to be mercerized to improve their luster and dye-ability, while cotton does.

  • Bamboo grows rapidly and naturally without need for pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. 

  • Mechanically manufactured bamboo clothing is 100% biodegradable

  • Improves soil quality and prevents erosion

  • Absorbs 5 times more carbon and produces 35 percent more oxygen than a similar stand of trees. [1]

 

Turning Bamboo Into Textile

There are two ways of commercially processing bamboo create fabric. The first is a mechanical process, creating what is known as bamboo linen, and the second, more popular approach, is the chemical process used for producing rayon or viscose fabric. 

Mechanically Processed Bamboo

Mechanically produced bamboo fabric requires no chemicals, pesticides or fungicides. 

Using a process similar to the manufacturing of flax or hemp cloths, bamboo fibers are raked and combed into long strands, thereby preserving their anti-bacterial and anti fungal characteristics (this remains so even after a multiple washes!). It is important to note that bamboo is stripped of these factors when processed chemically. [2] The process involves the following steps:

  1. Bamboo plant is cut into bamboo strips

  2. Bamboo strips are steamed

  3. Bamboo plant is crushed into pulp using a roller crusher

  4. Its natural enzymes are used to form a mushy substance from which fibers can be combed out

  5. Fibers are combed out

  6. Fibers are spun into yarn that is silky smooth to touch [3]

 

 

 

 

 


This process requires minimum pretreatment and has high affinity for dyes.

Very little suppliers use bamboo linen on the market as it is more labor intensive and costly.

 

In conclusion, mechanical manufacturing is more costly, but it produces a superior fabric that would be well-suited to high-end fashion designers, especially those who believe in investing in people, and in the planet. There may be potential to improve this process to make it more efficient, which would make it more affordable in the future.

 

 

References: 

[1] Clean by Design, Natural Resources Defense Council, August 2011 https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/CBD_FiberFacts_Bamboo.pdf

 

[2] About 100% Mechanically Processed Bamboo, Get Glovd, 2011 http://www.getglovd.com/about-mechanically-processesed-bamboo.php

 

[3] Moh Javed, Hathisingwala (under the guidance of Dr. J.N Shah), Studies on Bio-procesing of green bamboo textiles, Department of Textile Chemistry Faculty of Technology & Engineering – The University of Baroda, August 2014 https://www.slideshare.net/javed151/bioprocessing-of-green-bamboo-textile

 

[4] Copeland, Todd, Patagonia, 2013 https://inhabitat.com/ecouterre/how-eco-friendly-is-bamboo-fabric-really/ 

 

[5] Phong et al., Study on How to Effectively Extract Bamboo Fibers from Raw Bamboo and Waste Water Treatment, 2012: 

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01171228

 

[6] Mass, Ed, Eco-Fiber or Fraud?, 2009 http://www.life.ca/naturallife/0908/ecofiber_or_fraud.htm

 

[7] Borbely, Eva, Lyocell The New Generation of Regenerated Cellulose, Packaging and Paper Technology, 2008 https://www.uni-obuda.hu/journal/Borbelyne_15.pdf 

Bamboo

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

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