Bamboo? Who knew?

Well, consumers in Asia did, and probably plenty of fashion-conscious shoppers in America knew all about the benefits of bamboo fabric, but I sure didn't. Clothes made out of bamboo are supposedly environmentally friendly because its one of the fastest growing plants, and you don't need pesticides to grow it in the way that you do when you're farming, say, cotton. There's also an alleged benefit to bamboo-made clothing because bamboo is known for having anti-bacterial properties.

But there have been some drawbacks, such as the sun's ultraviolet rays being able to go right through the clothing. You can wear bamboo and apparently still get a sunburn.
Some critics also note that bamboo may not be that "green," since so much energy and production goes into turning bamboo into material that's soft enough to make for comfortable clothing.

But a couple days ago, at the 235th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, two scientists, Subhash Appidi and Ajoy Sarkar, reported that they've discovered a way of making bamboo fabric that is resistant to the sun's UV radiation and odor-causing microbes. That may increase the popularity of bamboo T-shirts, bamboo sweaters, bamboo underwear and the like.

And as it turns out, there are already places, like online stores, where you can buy bamboo clothing, like BambooClothes.com and Bamboosa.com, and there are even bamboo outfits for babies.

So if you were as clueless as I was, you've heard it here first. Bamboo -- it's not just for pandas.

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).

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