Future Predictions on Bamboo and Bamboozling Customers


February of this year marked a significant landmark in the natural products market, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) decided to crack down and companies, big and small, who claimed to sell bamboo products. What they found was discouraging. Almost every large retailer and many small ones as well who sold ‘bamboo’ products were actually selling rayon…similar to polyester. So why did bamboo get so big? How did these companies get away with selling something cheap and synthetic? And, Where is the bamboo, aka cash cow of the green market, going?

The Popularity of Bamboo

Bamboo is considered a miracle worker. With anti-microbial properties that are supposed to help keep things clean many people flocked to it as the next big thing since cotton. It is also remarkable soft, and most times cheap. People consider it a ‘renewable’ fabric because bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants that we harvest.

Bamboozled Rayon

So how did companies substitute the glorified bamboo for rayon? They don’t know! Or so they claim. The FTC sued and issued warnings to a large number of companies, the majority of which claim innocence. But as we examined earlier, is it really fair for companies to sell us something they know nothing about? How safe can the rest of their products and product claims really be? Turns out many of the companies, through diluted supply chains across the World lost the bamboo memo. Since rayon is an even cheaper alternative and the FTC rarely if ever acts in this way toward booming new market products, many either claim innocence or decided to play the waiting game. Since such a large number of companies were caught not selling bamboo, even companies whose name started with ‘Bamboo’ many hid behind the lawsuit as “one of many’ and none have apologized publicly for their false advertising (and selling) of the next eco-wonder product. (You can find a list and more information about the lawsuit in Patrick’s article)

Bamboo’s not so Renewable Future

Since the majority of bamboo comes from Southeast Asia, the regulatory bodies and systems are significantly different than in North America and Europe. Bamboo grown non-organically is harvested in areas that used to be forest (read: slash and burn is taking up speed in Southeast Asia) as a monoculture. Question: How sustainable can a system such as this be? Answer: It won’t last long, and not long without severe internal Country conflicts. In countries where illegal wildlife trading still runs rampant, governments tend to crumble, and many people have been left in bizarre and unnatural living conditions due to wars and conflicts how certain can we be about the stability of the market? How about the safety, ethics, and social implications of this unregulated supply chain?

My prediction is that bamboo is going to have to get a little safer, a little more organic, and a lot more ‘whole systems’ renewable before it is truly classified as a green product in the near future. When journalists start investigating, and the regulatory bodies in developed nations catch up to the extreme harvesting methods in developing nations, who will invest in (and trust) this product?

Organic cotton has been through the ringer. We have done extensive research on the most eco-friendly ways to grow, harvest, and transport cotton. Studies comparing organic cotton to conventional cotton are plentiful, and just how to go about growing cotton organically are available with the click of a google search. Bamboo on the other hand is still a mystery. There are pro-active companies out there that are addressing the organic issue, the fair sourcing and trade issue, and other mix-ups, so this isn’t a one size fits all…but as far as the big wigs in business goes, unfortunately you will find them on the FTC warning list.

So check out the list of companies written up by the FTC, see if they have been proactive in solving this supply chain issue, and then decide for yourself if the invest in bamboo is worth it. It may take some time for the information train to catch up on this one, but if you follow Southeast Asia’s development, regulatory bodies in the natural markets industries, or consumer trends…you just may have an idea of your own on how this one will play out.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

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  1. Wow I never knew that they were selling bamboo that was not real, they look so real. Unless someone steps in there won’t be that much organic bamboo left.

  2. I think in coming time bamboo would be great demand.
    Mostly people loving to make their home with it. Thanks for the wonderful article valuable post. Hoping few more good one from your end.

  3. I have noticed a lot of products claiming to be made from bamboo recently. It’s unfortunate that a lot of times those claims might not even be true. It’s not surprising though. We saw the same kind of thing with how lots of companies make false environmental claims about their products.

  4. This website is providing me with a lot of ‘green’ info !! thanks a lot

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