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The difference with bamboo

Saint Basics Saint Basics 03 Oct 2018 The difference with bamboo
In January 2024 Shop Like You Give a Damn acquired Saint Basics. This is why all the editorial content that founders Peter and Anita created with so much dedication, is now featured amongst our blogs.

We make our clothes from eucalyptus. But why not use bamboo? Isn't that incredibly eco-friendly? Every fabric has its pros and cons, and we've put a lot of thought into this. Read along to find out why!

Why did you opt for eucalyptus?

We increasingly use eucalyptus as an alternative to cotton, which (bio-cotton or not) just isn't a very eco-friendly plant. Eucalyptus is, and has tons of benefits that come with it. Most of them are pretty well-known - it's calming, good for your skin and is used in a wide variety of day-to-day products. It's also a very innovative fabric, that's light as a feather and silky smooth to the touch. And it's breathable, anti-bacterial, and moisture regulating. This means pesky odours are limited and your shirt will stay fresh for days. We even had a review from someone who camped out in one of our shirts for 12 days, and it still smelled clean afterwards! The impact on the environment is extremely low as well; about 95% less than the impact of using cotton. Did you know that the average boxer shorts contain about 700 litres of water? In eucalyptus boxers that goes down to about 30 litres.

Bamboo is much more popular. Why don't you use that instead?
We have looked into it, but unfortunately it turned out that bamboo often wasn't nearly as eco-friendly as we thought. Bamboo grows incredibly fast, which makes it easy to cultivate. But it's also a grass with a very tough cell wall, which makes it difficult to process into fabric. In order to soften it, harsh chemicals (like sulphuric acid) are used that end up in the environment through the waste flow. On top of that, bamboo is mixed with a minimum of 30% cotton to give it enough strength, so you end up using cotton after all. We think bamboo is a beautiful building material, but it's not that great a material for textiles. Eucalyptus grows very fast too, but it's a soft type of wood that is easier to process into a fibre. This happens in an environmentally-friendly, zero-waste process. During this, the fibres are softened with an organic solvent, that is used over and over, so nothing ends up wasted. The energy levels (and thus CO2 output) in our production process are also a lot lower than those for bamboo.

What are the downsides of using eucalyptus?
There isn't a single fabric or process that is a 100% eco-friendly. Each of them has its own pros and cons. When they hear the word eucalyptus, many people think of wild growth. The tree grows incredibly fast and can take over entire areas, eliminating other plants in the process. It also contains eucalyptus oil, which can give forest fires an extra boost. In Portugal, for example, this can make local life difficult. Of course, we don't want to be part of that! Which is why all of our eucalyptus is grown in FSC-managed forests in Africa, on otherwise unusable soil. Here the trees can't get in the way of other plants, and of course they have no impact on the forest fires in Portugal. The forests are closely monitored, so the risk of fire is kept to a minimum. According to Canopy, a Canadian NGO that promotes the conservation of rain forests, our wood supplier is the most sustainable supplier in the world.

According to both friend and foe, eucalyptus is the Queen Bee (call her the Beyoncé) of fabrics. It's definitely more costly to produce than cotton, but in return you get so much comfort and sustainability. We hope that more and more people will discover and embrace eucalyptus, so that it becomes more mainstream and we can lower our prices. The more you support us, the nicer we can make the world for everyone!