IS BAMBOO ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE?
We’ve all seen the cute cuddly panda’s holding onto a bamboo shoot eating its favorite snack but in recent years it has become synonymous with eco-friendly products. The renewable, sustainable life movement is rarely spoken of without mentioning something about bamboo. And for good reason; it’s more durable, renewable and many times stronger than its traditional wooden counterparts. So why would we title this the “truth about bamboo” if it’s such an amazing product?
Depending on what types of products are made of bamboo, you could actually be hurting the environment because of the chemical produces that it has to undergo. Chemicals such as sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide are extremely harmful to the environment and consequently people in general. The runoff from manufacturing the product wreaks havoc on the environment and the quality of the once natural material is negatively impacted. This is a big no-no when considering eco-friendly products.
WHY SOME BAMBOO IS NOT SUSTIANABLE
So what products am I talking about? Well when it comes to bamboo products that are in solid form, you can almost always guarantee to have a sustainable, eco-friendly product. For example bamboo utensils, kitchen wares, containers, cups, straws, and almost anything you can imagine for your home. However, when looking at the bamboo fabric, such as clothes, towels and blankets, you have to check with the manufacturer to see if they have avoided use of harsh chemicals.
Let’s be honest here, most people aren’t going to take the time to do their research! I’m aware of that so how do you tell quickly and easily what’s good and what’s bad?
First off, the FTC has been cracking down and requiring clothing manufacturers to include if it’s “rayon made from bamboo” so that gives you your first clue. Next, if a company is working hard to ensure their bamboo products are actually eco-friendly, you can bet they are going to label it as such. Using bamboo lyocell is another sure way to spruce up your home with bamboo fabric that is eco-friendly.
The other alternative when looking for sustainable materials, is to stick to cotton and hemp and just choose the organic varieties so you can rest easy knowing you are using eco-friendly material. There are other more eco-friendly versions of bamboo cloth as well such as Tencel but again, most people aren’t going to take the time to do the research.
Just remember, if it’s inexpensive, soft and cuddly material then chances are it’s been harshly treated with damaging chemicals even if it says it’s made from bamboo. Normally the mechanically combed bamboo fabric is not as soft and malleable and normally is more expensive.
WHY SOME BAMBOO IS ECO-FRIENDLY
Now there are some really amazing qualities to bamboo that make it stand out as a sustainable source compared to other materials:
- Naturally pest resistant, which means no pesticides needed to grow
- Helps rebuild eroded soil
- Requires far less water than similar plants like cotton
- Regrows to its adult plant size in 3 to 5 years (it can grow 2 feet in 1 day!)
- Extremely adaptable and resilient and grows virtually anywhere – it’s actual a weed!
- Absorbs 5 times more carbon dioxide than similar plants and is considered carbon neutral
- Produces 35% more oxygen than similar plants and trees
- It requires no irrigation
- It rarely needs replanting
- It is a critical element in the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
- It’s production into fibers has lower environmental impact than other forms of fiber, especially synthetic ones.
My question is why haven’t we been using this material over the last several decades here in the west? They’ve been using it for millennia in other countries. In fact, China has so much of it they supply most of the world’s demand for it. So next time you are thinking about planting something like a tree for the environment, think about where you could plant some bamboo! It would be super cool if countries were encouraged to grow some in their local communities.
Another great quality is that bamboo doesn’t have rays or knots like traditional wood, and although those knots add some character to certain designs, it does make the wood less durable. The dense fibers in bamboo give it extreme flexibility, allowing it to bend with out breaking. This is also why it is pest resistant and because the high silica content makes it difficult for termites to digest there’s lest chance of anything decaying the wood.
HOW IS BAMBOO USED AROUND THE WORLD?
- Houses, schools and other buildings
According to reports from UNESCO, 70 hectares of bamboo produces enough material to build 1000 houses. Imagine how much timer would be saved from an already diminishing supply of timber? Even today in our modern world there are reportedly over 1 billion people living in bamboo made homes.
- Roads and bridges
In India, it is used in bridges and road reinforcements capable of supporting trucks that weigh upwards of 16 tons!
China, known for ancient medicine, uses ingredients from the black bamboo short to help treat kidney diseases and roots along with leaves have also been used to treat cancer. There’s even reports of using the leaves to collect water and drinking that water to treat diseases of the bone.
We already touched on this a bit but it’s really the new hemp and can be made into strong and durable fabric made into all sorts of clothes. Some benefits to clothing is that it resists odor and is fast drying to keep you dryer and more comfortable than cotton or polyester fabrics. Again, just be cautions and stay away from any bamboo clothing that is made into rayon as it is dangerous and not sustainable.
All sorts of jewelry is made using bamboo like necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and many others.
Bamboo shoots are used in many Asian food preparations. In fact, Japan has been using the bamboo skin to prevent bacterial growth as well as a natural food preservative.
We’ve been using charcoal for decades in the U.S. but did you know that charcoal made from bamboo has been used for centuries as a cooking fuel in China and Japan? They even use the vinegar that is extracted when making the charcoal for treatments in almost all fields. This liquid tonic contains 400 chemical compounds that can be applied to cosmetics, insecticides, deodorants, food processing and agriculture.
Places like Hong Kong have been using bamboo as scaffolding since it’s cheaper and more available than the metal scaffolding you see in more often.
Of course we can overlook furniture. We’ve seen the many designs made from bamboo such as beds, charis and tables. They’ve been using bamboo furniture for thousands of years!
- Rugs and textiles
Oriental rugs have long been cherished and are an exotic luxury. Bamboo rugs is just another way to save trees.
China, Myanmar, Thailand and India, us the pulp for producing printing and writing papers.
Japanese scientists claim that bamboo cloth can retain its antibacterial quality even after 50 washings.
- Utensils and tableware
This is something we are seeing more of an we are excited at Do Life Healthier to provide many products like cups and saucers, spoons and ladles, straws and utensils and more.
And there are many more uses for bamboo…
Musical instruments, fishing rods, bicycles, helmets, toys…
Where do we stand?
While bamboo may not be sustainable in every form, we do stand by bamboo products as long as it looks like bamboo. We hope you enjoyed learning the truth about bamboo and maybe some facts you never heard before.
We here at Do Life Healthier, love bamboo as a raw material and because not all bamboo is created equal, we decided we would help others by doing the research ourselves and offering quality bamboo products that are truly eco-friendly so you don’t have to guess.
Remember to do your part for our generations to come and keep our planet safe. Reuse, recycle and reduce and leave a legacy for your children.