‘Best’ is a subjective term. Although bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, among eco-friendly clothing options, there is also silk, cotton, wool and linen. It all depends then on individual taste and spending power. Prior knowledge (from a dozen history classes on the practice of slavery) has shown that cotton severely depletes the soil and uses more chemicals from first seed to harvest. Often, products such as peanuts and soybeans are planted every 5 or so years to revitalize the soil.
Clothing made from viscose fiber from organically grown bamboo where the textile and apparel manufacturing is performed in the US would be a good choice for a relatively small environmental footprint. Considering all factors, particularly that bamboo can be washed less often, it would have a lower impact than most products on the market.
The reality is that the search for lower impact clothing cannot be resolved by evaluating only the crop, or the fiber, or any other single attribute. The answer is much more complicated and most people aren’t going to do the work. ‘Organic cotton’ is a feel good purchase and an easy and simple way to not to the work. Unfortunately, if that organic cotton was grown in Turkey, sent to China to turned into yarn and then fabric, then set to Vietnam or Cambodia, or Bangledesh to be sewn into clothing and then shipped to the US for distribution, I think you can see where that purchase may not have been a great choice, even though it started with organic cotton.
If you really want to make a difference in your personal footprint when it comes to clothing it is very simple to do. Change yoiur laundering habits. Wash things less ofter, quit using your electric or gas clothes dryer, and don’t iron. Between 80-95% of the environmental impact of clothing occurs after the clothing is in the consumer’s hands. The laundering of our clothing has the single largest impact on the environment.
Check out the attached link, pages 35-88, roughly.
Awesome answer and great point about the transportation of a product. Organic cotton as you said feels good when you buy it but maybe its not the best choice. Also thanks for the input on the impact once it gets into our hands.
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