A More Sustainable Towel

Since embarking on my green journey, I look at my product choices differently. Before buying something I ask myself about its environmental impact and ecological footprint. What is it made of, where does it come from, and how much packaging does it come with? Can I find it used, or borrow it? Every time that I spend money, it is as if I am casting a vote for a product and saying, “This is what I support.”

Most of the fabric in my clothing, bedding and towels is cotton. Cotton, of course, comes from the cotton plant, and so it is biodegradable and renewable. However, its conventional farming practices leave something to be desired. Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land, but uses 16% of the world’s insecticides. This is more than any other major crop. Because of the problems with conventional cotton many people are making the switch to organic, and so the production of organic cotton is increasing by more than 50% per year.

Another fabric that is often promoted as a sustainable choice is bamboo. Bamboo has a lot going for it – it grows very quickly and requires very little or no chemical pesticides or fertilizers. It is renewable and biodegradable and easier on the earth than the cotton plant. Bamboo fiber is also naturally antimicrobial and highly absorbent.

Unfortunately, the bamboo story isn’t all so rosy. Making fabric from the plant is an involved process that often uses a lot of chemicals. There are efforts being made to produce it in a less chemically-intensive process, but for now it remains a bit of a blotch on an otherwise remarkable fabric.

Eden Home, an online boutique that sells organic and sustainable products, offered to send me one of their Nandina organic bath towels for free in exchange for my review here. I was curious to try the towel, since the bath towels that I received at my wedding shower 9 years ago are beginning to show their age. I would like to replace them, but I would prefer to go with a more sustainable choice than the conventionally-grown cotton towels I currently have.

Eden Home sent me the towel packaged in a cardboard box, with no extra plastic, so that was great. When I opened the box and felt the towel, I was amazed at how soft it was. The towel is 75% bamboo and 25% organic cotton, and very silky to the touch like a lot of bamboo fabric. It is one of the softest towels I have felt in my life.

I washed the towel before I used it, along with my regular laundry, and it weathered the washer and dryer just fine. However, it didn’t dry completely along with the rest of the clothes. The towel is very heavy, and every bit as absorbent as it claims, so it seems to hold on to moisture. After hanging it in the bathroom overnight it was dry for my morning shower, though.

I used the towel for a week without washing it, and it kept its soft feel. It didn’t develop any weird smells, either, so score one for bamboo’s antimicrobial powers. However, I will admit that the towel felt a little strange at first. It’s so soft and heavy that it can feel a little cold. And if my kids used it to dry their hands it would still be slightly damp a couple of hours later.

On the whole, the Nandina really is a lovely bath towel and Eden Home was great to work with. I find myself compulsively running my hands over the towel just to feel its softness. After a few days of using it I didn’t find the feel so strange, and it is continuing to hold up well. I think that, in the end, it all comes down to how you feel about bamboo, and whether it’s actually green or green-washed. (Bath towel, green wash, I’m sorry but I couldn’t resist the pun.)

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You can catch up with Amber’s sparkling clean adventures on her blog at Strocel.com.

3 Responses to A More Sustainable Towel
  1. sky
    March 10, 2010 | 1:25 am

    thanks for the information, always share it for us

  2. shiik-flsmingo.com
    March 11, 2010 | 11:34 am

    Organic Cotton Towel…

    The most popular choice of many households today are organic cotton towels. They are made from cotton, natural materials grown and free from chemicals and harmful pesticides. Even the white color of these towels have been obtained in a natural way. Thi…

  3. Lee Hemming
    March 11, 2010 | 1:29 pm

    Dear Amber,
    Thanks for your thoughtful review of the Nandina towels. Our online store carries them, too. After doing some research on Nandina, myself, I’d like to add that Nandina products are ├ľko-Tex certified, which tests the content of the raw materials, the processing AND the chemicals used to be sure they meet organic standards. Nandina also uses wind generators to power their looms and uses an ozone bleaching process instead of the toxic chlorine bleach. So, if your readers are wondering if Nandina is a truly a “green” company, I’d say YES! The bath towel typically costs $50 or more retail, but that’s the price of using green technology. Maybe we’ll see the cost come down as more people start to share eco-friendly values.