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Botanical Products

When you hear the word botanical, it usually brings things to mind like garden centers or beauty products, but what if botanical meant much more than that?

Technically, a product is botanical if it contains ingredients derived from plants. This can be herbs, roots, flowers, fruits, leaves, or seeds. Ranging from medicines to beauty care, botanical properties can be found in many items you are already using on a day to day basis. Why is it then, that being botanical does not hold the same amount of status and prestige as being organic?

Many of the sheets and bedding available today are made from cotton. Whether it is organic or not, pretty much all cotton fiber comes from plants that are raised on farms, which require a certain amount of pesticides to be used. According to the WWF, only 2.4% of the world’s crop land is planted with cotton and yet it accounts for 24% and 11% of the global sales of insecticide and pesticides respectively. In order to be considered organic, Farmers raising organic fiber follow standards that nurture the soil or animal from which it comes and do not use toxic insecticides, herbicides or fungicides.

Although there are certain standards relating to the manufacturing of organic bedding and clothing, not every country has laws put in to place.  As a result, a clothing item that is marked as organic might still contain a cocktail of non-organic chemicals and dyes. Some of these chemicals are added post-production in order to aid fabric and garment transportation from the main growing production areas in Asia.

Bamboo is another natural substance that is used for fiber and textile manufacturing and is often sold as an organic item. One thing that isn’t typically mentioned about bamboo is, that while it may be sustainable to grow, it is an entirely different story once the plant goes into processing for textiles. With minimal processing, the bamboo stalk can be turned into a rougher fabric similar to linen or hemp and it will remain in a more natural state. But, where do all of the silky smooth bamboo bed sheets and clothing come from then? According to Ecouterre.com, the most common way is called the viscose process where the bamboo is dissolved in a strong solvent to make a thick, viscous solution. This solution is then forced through a showerhead-like funnel called a spinneret into yet another chemical solution where the strands solidify into fiber.

One of the main issues with this method of processing bamboo and other plants is that there are toxic chemicals found in the solution used to dissolve the plant stalks. This chemical treatment can be damaging not only to factory workers’ health, but it is also released into the air and wastewater after only 50% of it can be recovered post-processing. So even though some bamboo plants may be grown and harvested organically, once it goes through the viscose process, there is nothing remotely organic left about bamboo’s end products.

One of today’s proprietary botanical fibers is Tencel+Plus™ Lyocell, fibers from the eucalyptus tree. Unlike cotton, eucalyptus trees grow in forests which are located mainly in South Africa and Brazil. These huge parcels of trees need nothing more than sunlight, air, and rain to survive in what is the most natural of environments.