With bamboo, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Not only is it beautiful, strong and incredibly versatile, but it’s also one of the most eco-friendly materials on the planet. Which means you can enjoy the luxury of modern bamboo products, while doing your part for the environment.
What makes bamboo eco-friendly?
The main reason is because it grows super fast (up to 3 feet per day!), which makes it a very sustainable material. But there’s a whole host of other reasons, and we decided to put this article together to share these.
Here are 9 main reasons why bamboo products are eco-friendly:
- Rapid growth rate
- Requires less water to grow
- Can stabilize and restore land
- Doesn’t require chemicals to grow
- Absorbs carbon and releases more oxygen into the atmosphere
- Very little waste before, during and after manufacturing
- Drives sustainable economic development
- Naturally chemical absorbing and deoderizing
- Naturally biodegradable
Now let’s take a closer look at each of these.
1. Rapid growth rate
Bamboo grows much faster than wood. Trees like Oak, for example, can take 40 plus years to go from seed to harvest. Whereas bamboo can be harvested in as little as one to five years, and grow at an incredible rate of up to 36 inches per day, depending on the species.
It’s also more renewable than cotton, because it yields up to 10 times more usable product per acre. So it’s not just a good wood alternative, it’s a “greener” clothing option too.
2. Requires less water to grow
Bamboo doesn’t require as much water to grow as wood or cotton. This makes it easier and more sustainable to grow, even in lands that are prone to drought. To be fair, bamboo is actually a grass, so it’s not like we’re comparing apples to apples. But it is an alternative to many products made from wood and cotton, which makes it a valid comparison nonetheless.
3. Can stabilize and restore land
One of the unique things about bamboo is that it doesn’t need lots of nutrients to thrive, because it’s very hardy. This means that it can do extremely well in soil that may be otherwise inhospitable to other plants.
What’s more, bamboo can help stabilize and restore land because its roots hold the soil together and help prevent erosion. Bamboo roots also leach heavy metals from the soil and draw water to the surface, further helping to restore healthy soil and promote growth in surrounding trees.
4. Doesn’t require chemicals to grow
Agricultural chemicals, such as pesticides and fertilizers, aren’t good for our environment. Plain and simple. They damage soil and end up in our waterways which, over time, negatively impact our finely balanced eco-system in many ways.
Bamboo is naturally pest resistant thanks to a natural anti-microbial agent within bamboo, known as Bamboo Kun. And it doesn’t take much for it to grow. Which means harmful chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers are not needed to sustain high yielding harvests.
5. Absorbs carbon and releases oxygen into the atmosphere
Bamboo absorbs up to 400 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare, and is said to release up to 35% more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees. This is impressive considering how quickly and easily bamboo grows, and is yet another reason why it’s leading the way in sustainable products.
8. Chemical absorbing and deoderizing
Bamboo is a highly effective chemical absorber and deoderizer. Specifically, it’s the charcoal made from bamboo that has this effect.
Charcoal made from wood has long been used as an air and water purifier. But Moso bamboo can also be made into charcoal, and it’s far more effective.
When it comes to air purifying and deoderizing, bamboo charcoal covers ten times the surface area and is four times as effective than regular charcoal. It not only removes bad odors from the air we breathe, but harmful chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde and ammonia. As if that wasn’t enough, it can also absorb moisture in the air and help purify water.
6. Very little waste before, during and after manufacturing
Bamboo is about as close to a “zero waste” material as you can get. Virtually every part of the bamboo plant is used in one way or another. And this is true at all stages – before, during and after the manufacturing of bamboo products.
Before harvesting, bamboo leaves serve as both a food source and mulch.
During the manufacturing of bamboo products virtually nothing goes to waste given how many types of products are derived from it. Believe it or not, there’s over 10,000 documented uses for the bamboo itself, making it one of the most versatile plants on earth.
For example, some popular uses for bamboo include furniture, flooring, home décor, clothing, utensils, packaging, toothbrushes – and on and on it goes. Which means virtually nothing goes to waste.
After manufacturing, as in when the product has served its purpose and ends up in landfill, it is not “wasted” because it’s naturally biodegradable.
7. Naturally biodegradable
Bamboo is naturally 100% biodegradable, meaning it will break down in landfill with no harmful impact to the environment. However, this does depend on the individual products and how they are made, since some manufacturers use harsh chemicals during production (which we’ll look at in more detail shortly).
9. Drives sustainable economic development
When most people think about where bamboo comes from they think of countries like China. Which is currently the world’s largest supplier.
But bamboo is also native to other, lesser developed, countries in Asia and Africa. And considering how popular bamboo is becoming as a wood and cotton alternative, this presents enormous potential for developing economies to prosper in an ever expanding “green” industry.
Ultimately, more people choosing bamboo over less sustainable alternatives means strengthened economies in lesser developed countries, and a healthier eco-system.
When Bamboo Products Aren’t So Good for the Environment
Bamboo (in and of itself) is without question one of the most environmentally friendly products on earth. And given how versatile it is, has the potential to make significant positive change.
However, there are some potential drawbacks which largely come down to how it’s harvested and manufactured.
Firstly, some manufacturers use bamboo that isn’t “Panda friendly”. Meaning, they’re chopping down hectares of bamboo each year that provide a natural food source for Pandas. Not cool.
Second, some manufacturers use harmful chemicals in the manufacturing of products like bamboo flooring, such as formaldehyde. And some manufacturers of bamboo textiles use other harsh chemicals, like sodium hydroxide and sulfuric acid for example, to create the thread.
Thankfully, you can avoid both of these drawbacks by being selective in which bamboo products you purchase.
For example, you can choose bamboo products that are made with sustainable types of bamboo (like Moso bamboo) that Pandas don’t eat. And you can choose bamboo products that don’t involve the use of harsh chemicals like formaldehyde during the manufacturing process.
Bamboo is an amazing material that is used to create many great products. From home furnishings and décor, to kitchen utensils, linen and clothing. Not only is it beautiful and modern in appearance, but it rivals wood, steel and even concrete in terms of strength. And to top it off, it’s one of the most eco-friendly materials on the planet.