Eco-Friendly Bamboo Travel Wear Is Taking Off
Whether you’re planning a long-haul flight overseas or taking a road trip, you want comfortable clothing to wear on the trip. With an increasing interest in sustainability, many travelers are opting for travel wear made from bamboo fiber.
In addition to this material being eco-friendly, it offers other advantages for travelers: It’s breathable, feels soft and luxurious, and is easy to pack.
To learn more about bamboo travel wear, Forbes.com spoke to Tyler Howells, CEO and founder of Cozy Earth, a company that pioneered the use of responsibly sourced, bamboo textiles in its bedding and clothing lines.
The brand was selected four times as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things.
What are your most popular pieces of bamboo travel apparel in your line?
Tyler Howells: These include our Brushed-Bamboo Jogger Collection (pants, shorts, crew tops, hoodies), our Ribbet-Knit collection, and our tees in Stretch Knit and Brushed Bamboo.
Why are travelers opting for this fabric?
TH: Travelers love our “premium viscose from bamboo” clothing because it is lightweight and folds (or rolls) easily without bulk, making it perfect for packing in a small carry-on or weekend bag.
It’s also noticeably softer and feels more breathable than other fabrics, even with fluctuations in temperature. It keeps you warmer in cool weather and cooler in warm weather.
Cost may be a drawback, however. The apparel is made to last longer, so it tends to be more of an investment than travel wear made from other run-of-the-mill fabrics.
Is the use of bamboo in fabrics relatively new?
TH: The use of viscose from bamboo yarn in fabrics has been around for at least 15 years, and basic rayon (its predecessor) has been around much longer, since 1911.
But travelers, like many others, have become increasingly interested in sustainability.
Are all bamboo fabrics the same quality?
TH: To avoid confusion with traditional, non-processed bamboo, the FTC guidelines require the usage of specific terminology. Hence, we use the term “viscose from bamboo.” Sometimes, you’ll hear the term “rayon from bamboo” used interchangeably.
Regardless of the name used, the quality, feel, and longevity of products vary dramatically from company to company. Higher quality yarn and knitting techniques lead to a longer-lasting product.
What led you to create such a bamboo-centric focus at Cozy Earth?
TH: My mother tells me that from a young age, I was always “picky” about the feeling of clothing and bedding—a sentiment that continues today.
In college, I spent two years in Australia studying and becoming fluent in Mandarin Chinese. This laid the groundwork for me to be able to work directly with makers around the world, researching and developing the most luxurious bedding, clothing, and lifestyle experiences for Cozy Earth.
We’ve been in business for more than 13 years and pride ourselves on hand-picking our suppliers one by one (as opposed to relying on middle-men) to ensure that we use the best fiber, materials, practice, and makers available.
Where is bamboo sourced? Why is it more eco-friendly than cotton, for example?
TH: The bamboo used to produce our fabrics comes from certified organic and sustainable farms in southwestern China. Here, bamboo grows literally as a weed, doesn’t release CO2 in the atmosphere when it’s cut down, and re-grows rapidly.
It doesn’t require heavy machinery to farm and doesn’t employ the use of harmful pesticides or freshwater irrigation like cotton, wood, and other plants.
Viscose from bamboo is made in a closed-loop process that recycles water and chemicals in its production rather than releasing them into the environment.
Aside from styling and appearance, how can a traveler judge the quality of a bamboo fiber product?
TH: The same challenge is present in everything from cotton to hamburgers: “Everybody makes it so which is the best?” When shopping online especially, it’s important to look at the brand’s values and specialization.
Also, look at a company’s customer service and the return policy. A liberal return policy allows a consumer to assess the quality and performance of their garment. When all else fails, look at the price. If it seems abnormally low, you’ll likely get what you pay for. Premium quality fabrics and textiles are expensive to produce.
I must add that our Cozy Earth clothing looks amazing, too. You can wear your “comfy clothes” to the airport and still feel classy and stylish!
Note: This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.