When I was in college I had a friend who had like 50 purses. I never actually counted them, but every time she went home for the weekend she came back with a new bag. And these were high-end, spend your whole paycheck kind of bags. This was wild to me because I was still using my super old cross-body from high school. Apparently, I was in the minority with my one old bag.
Worldwide, handbags are a $56 billion industry and the average American woman owns 13 purses. It’s a wonder we have any money left to put in them! While I would never tell a person how many handbags they “should” own, I think I’ll take a stand and say that 13 is too many. Especially if you’re still buying handbags that damage the environment.
While I have upgraded my bag a few times since college I’m now careful to choose materials that support the environment like bamboo!
Impact of the Fashion Industry
The fashion industry continues to be one of the worst polluting industries in the world. From the raw materials to the waste created when the item is tossed, textiles impact our water, air, and land long after our items go out of style.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, fashion accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions. That’s more than international flights and shipping combined. This extra carbon is causing the earth to warm at a record pace leading to climate change. If we don’t reduce our carbon emissions soon we’ll cause irreversible damage to the environment, wildlife, and our food supply.
Creating fabric is extremely water-intensive. About a third of clothing is made from cotton and each cotton plant needs about 10 gallons of water to grow. The dyeing and rinse process adds chemicals to the water and microfibers continue to rinse off during the life of an item. Unfortunately, the majority of this chemical-filled water is dumped back into rivers and oceans. Considering about 2 billion people are affected by water shortages, this is wasteful and dangerous to our freshwater supply.
When was the last time you cleaned out your closet? What did you do with your unwanted items? Even if you donated them to a local thrift store, they’re unlikely to be resold or reused. Of the 16 million tons of textile waste Americans generate each year, 10 million tons of that ends up in landfills. Clothing and accessories can take over 200 years to decompose and will release toxic chemicals and even more greenhouse gases as they do.
Why Bamboo Makes a Perfect Bag
Now that I just made you feel terrible for wearing clothes and buying handbags, let me share why bamboo is a sustainable solution for your next bag!
Bamboo is one of the most sustainable plants on earth. While cotton is contributing to carbon emissions, bamboo is a carbon sink. This means it absorbs carbon (double the amount of trees) and holds it in its root system! Bamboo also needs very little water and no pesticides to grow. Even better, at the end of their lifecycle, bamboo products are biodegradable and even compostable!
Durable and Long-Lasting
If you want to reduce the number of bags you use, you’ll want one that can hold up over time. Bamboo is very strong and durable even when turned into softer goods. The bamboo fabric keeps many of the fibers from the plant, which means it also retains its strength. The long length and round shape of the fibers lead to less piling and splintering so you can enjoy your bamboo bag for years to come.
Bamboo bags aren’t a new trend. Gucci famously introduced a line of bamboo handle bags in 1947 when leather was hard to find. Fast forward to 1991 and you’ll see the famous Gucci bamboo bag carried by Princess Diana. Still not convinced? Pinterest reported searches for bamboo bags were up +2,215% in 2019. Natural materials tend to remain in style, unlike their synthetic counterparts. Bamboo bags have natural textures and earthy colors that stand the test of time.
Types of Bamboo Bags
If you’re ready to buy, you’ll need to decide which type of bamboo bag is right for you.
Woven bamboo bags are made by softening the bamboo fibers, forming them into strips, and weaving them together. The result is a beautiful and sturdy bamboo bag! The tight weave says modern sophistication, even if you’re still carrying your iPhone 3 inside.
Structured or Hard Side Bags
Some of the most fun bamboo bags are hard-sided and look like little cages for your belongings. Handmade in regions all over the world, these bags use bamboo in its purest form. Strips of bamboo are lightly softened and shaped into delicate shapes that harden into unique, durable, and sustainable handbags.
I love this black style from Novica accented with faux leather straps and would love this hard-bottom bamboo tote to protect my sunglasses. Bonus – if you find a little lost bird on your way home from work you’ll have the perfect place to keep him until you find his nest.
Whether you’re a full-on Gucci fashionista or just love the look of a bamboo handle on your beach bag, this detail helps reduce the environmental impact of your accessories. You can even find bamboo handle bags that double down on sustainability like these ones made from upcycled irrigation hoses.
If you love the look of a traditional leather bag, but want to do your part to save the planet, look for a bamboo leather alternative. These bags are made with bamboo that’s been softened and spun into yarn that’s used to make plant-based leather.
Von Holzhausen is known for vegan leather and their Conscious Code for ethical and sustainable practices. The styles are sophisticated, durable, and lightweight. Perfect for a work bag or a night out.
Beaded bamboo bags have the soft side benefits of a woven purse with the look of natural bamboo in the beadwork. These styles have been used since the 1800s when women started creating their own handbags after pockets were no longer sewn into dresses. While I’m 100% on board for bringing pickets back to dresses, I appreciate the timeless and unique look of these intricate designs.
How to Choose the Right Bamboo Bag for You
Invest in Quality
Investing in a smaller number of high-quality items will make your closet simpler and more sustainable. Research shows that the more a buyer spends on a handbag, the less likely they are to throw it away when they’re done with it. While you don’t need to spend more than you can afford, invest in a bamboo bag that can replace your other bags to save time, money, and the planet.
Look for Sustainable Brands
Speaking of the planet, if you’re going to invest in high-quality handbags, make sure they’re eco-friendly too. Shop brands with ethical production practices and work to reduce their environmental footprint. Green certifications can help you avoid companies that are greenwashing to look more sustainable.
The Most Sustainable Bag Is the One You Use
Bamboo is a more sustainable option by nature, but even the most environmentally friendly bamboo bag is only sustainable if you use it for a long time. Invest in a quality item you’ll use every day for the best sustainable style solution.
Looking for more ways to style yourself sustainably? Don’t miss our bamboo fashion recommendations!