From bed and bath linens to rugs, pillows and more, there are a lot of textiles in our lives. We come in contact with these things every day, from the sheets we sleep on to the clothes we wear, and even the air we breathe. Synthetic materials, or even natural fibers treated with a lot of chemicals, can do something called off gassing—which is basically leaching chemical gasses into the surrounding air. Not a nice thought when it comes down to it. While it’s virtually impossible to completely avoid all chemical exposure (even the greenest laundry detergent is technically a chemical), it is possible to reduce negative or harmful chemical exposure by choosing natural fibers that are treated in a safe manner. The other alternative, of course, are recycled materials that have been specifically created to create no harmful off gassing.
So let’s talk natural fibers. In home décor, you’ll see materials like sisal, seagrass, hemp, jute, and coir. You’ll also see linen, cotton, and bamboo. Occasionally, silk makes an appearance, but it’s rare. Each of these fibers has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, as well as things its very good at. Some, like linen and bamboo, are naturally sustainable materials. Others, like cotton in particular, can be ecological nightmares or, when grown, harvested and treated properly, green darlings.
What about the fibers you’ll see at bambeco? Here’s a quick look at a few of our favorites.
Sisal – a member of the agave family, sisal is traditionally woven into twine, rope, rugs, and is the traditional component of dartboards. Modern sisal production requires no fertilizers and the weeding is done by hand under fair trade guidelines. Sisal is 100% biodegradable and compostable.
Seagrass – an abundant resource, seagrass is naturally sustainable and has the added benefit of being virtually hypoallergenic (as compared to other natural fibers like jute and hemp). Seagrass does not take dye well and is naturally water and mildew resistant, making it ideal for indoor/outdoor use. Like other natural fibers, the finished product is biodegradable and compostable.
Hemp – hemp production is somewhat better than cotton, and when grown under organic, fair-trade guidelines, results in a finished product that is environmentally friendly and sustainable. The plants do require fewer chemicals and water to grow than cotton and the final product is a more durable, longer lasting fiber. The advantages of hemp are its absorbent nature and resistance to mold and mildew. It is easily dyed with vegetable-based pigments.
Jute – Growing jute enriches the soil, improving soil quality and fertility for future crops. When rotated with other crops, growing jute reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides on the next crop. Production of jute requires no harmful chemical additives, so there are minimal emissions and waste in the production process. The finished products are biodegradable and compostable. Like bamboo, jute absorbs high levels of carbon and produces equally high levels of oxygen.
Coir – Fibrous material from coconut husks. When growing coconut palms, no parts are wasted. Our coir products come from sustainably managed plantations working under fair trade guidelines. Coconut is an incredibly sustainable and renewable resource that feeds the local economy around the plantations. Coir is naturally water resistant, and is harvested in a chemical-free process; the final product is biodegradable and compostable.
Linen – linen comes from the flax plant and is one of the oldest fabrics known to man. The flax plant is naturally hardy, requiring no additional fertilizer or pesticides. Our producers weave linen without use of harsh chemical stabilizers and starches, reducing their carbon footprint and their waste production.
Organic Cotton – organic cotton is grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, insecticides or pesticides, instead using natural manure, cover crops, compost and mulch to add nutrients and control weeds. Beneficial bugs are used for pest control. Finishing organic cotton uses fewer chemical dyes, relying on natural vegetable-based dyes and producing less waste.
Bamboo – a fast growing member of the grass family that’s as durable as hardwood, bamboo is naturally resistant to bugs and disease and requires no pesticides or fertilizers to thrive. Harvesting bamboo leaves behind no harmful chemicals, does no damage to the environment or future crops, and bamboo consumes more carbon than a similar stand of trees.