Bamboo - The most sustainable material on the planet?
Bamboo is everywhere these days; from toothbrushes to coffee cups. It is seen as the ultimate material in sustainability. But what gives it these lofty credentials?
Aside from its beautiful aesthetics bamboo has much to offer individuals and industries looking to drive eco-friendly initiatives and make lifelong switches to more sustainable products.
Why is bamboo a sustainable material?
Bamboo is a type of grass. This not only makes it great food for pandas but is also resilient and easy to grow.
It grows at a rapid rate and self-regenerates. It’s a farmer’s dream crop. On top of that it requires no pesticides or chemicals, making it toxin free too.
Bamboo can grow at a rate of up to 1 metre a day, which is 4 centimetres an hour! Its fast growth rate makes it a phenomenally renewable resource.
What are the benefits of using bamboo?
- Bamboo is an incredibly strong material. In Asia, it is regularly used in construction in place of hardwood and steel alternatives.
Given that it is a grass and not a tree, it has no weak point along its length. This means that it is tougher and more durable than some of its hardwood counterparts.
- As you can tell from our shop, bamboo can be used to make a huge variety of products. From homewares to construction, bamboo has a place across a spectrum of industries.
- If you think about an oak tree, it would be hard to bend one of those. Bamboo, however, can be bent into a variety of shapes. Once it has dried, it will hold that shape. Clever bamboo!
- One of the disadvantages of other materials known for their strength, such as steel and hardwood, is how much they weigh. They are heavy and this can cause design and logistical issues.
Bamboo is an extremely light material given that it is also durable and strong. This makes it much easier to transport and work with.
- Naturally pest resistant. As we said above, bamboo does not require any pesticides whilst growing. This is all thanks to its waxy coating.
This means that it needs minimal input from humans to keep in growing and is less susceptible to infestations that could wipe out whole waves of crops.
- Anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. This is makes it fantastic for making into items that we store or prepare food and drink in.
This natural property of bamboo gives it an advantage over other commonly used materials like plastic and metals.
- Absorbs more CO2. Not only does this fantastic plant tick all the boxes for being a sustainable material but, whilst growing, it is helping tackle climate change too.
Compared to similar plants, it consumes up to 5 times more carbon dioxide. Thanks bamboo!
- Creates more oxygen. On top of the absorbing all that carbon dioxide, bamboo also helps with oxygen production. It produces up to 35% more than similar plant species.
- Uses less water. When compared to plants like cotton, bamboo requires far less water to reach its adult size.
- Fire resistance. Bamboo is fantastically resistant to high temperatures. It can persist against temperatures up to 4000◦ That would be one hot coffee!
Sustainable uses of bamboo
When it comes to using bamboo though, there are some ways that are better than others for the environment.
Some of the best uses of bamboo are those when it still looks like bamboo. Here are our favourite examples:
Around the world, but particularly in areas where it grows in abundance, bamboo is used extensively in construction.
It can bare large weights including concrete, which makes it a fabulous building material. For this reason, it is used in housing, bridges, fencing and more.
We are seeing more and more bamboo in our homes as its benefits become increasingly mainstream.
From plates, bowls, cups and cutlery, to toothbrushes, hairbrushes, baskets and more. There are many uses for bamboo in your home and we say bring it on!
How good would a bamboo floor look? Its strength and durability make it a great choice for flooring and more and more bamboo flooring products are entering into the market.
If they can use bamboo to make buildings, then it will probably be strong enough to make a chair out of that can hold you. And a coffee table to hold your lovely bamboo coffee cup.
Bamboo furniture looks amazing too. The natural look of bamboo will look incredible both indoors and out.
When is using bamboo not a great option?
Bamboo may sound like the perfect material, but are there any uses when it is not so good?
One area of concern is bamboo fibre products, we'd like to see more research on products that are made from bamboo fibre and a plastic called melamine which is used as a binding agent. From the anecdotal evidence we've seen we wouldn't recommend drinking out of cups made with melamine and it's why we only use 100% bamboo in the manufacture of all our bamboo cups never bamboo fibre.
The other areas of concern is:
Despite all the amazing benefits to bamboo in the growing process, turning bamboo into textiles can be damaging to the environment.
In order to break down the fibres that make it strong, huge amounts of chemicals are sometimes used and they can be harmful to the environment and human health.
Many bamboo textile companies claim that they go to huge lengths to contain any chemical exposure, but no system can be entirely closed.
Therefore, bamboo textiles products are not as eco-friendly as we would love them to be. If in the future, someone somewhere could produce bamboo fabrics without the need for chemicals and toxins then we would be all over it. Until then, it is best to avoid. Please contact us if you you know of any breakthroughs in this area.
Bamboo is still awesome
Even though we can’t use it for everything. There is no reason why we cannot use it for all the great reasons that we have listed above.
The general rule with bamboo is that if it still looks like bamboo then it is sustainable. If not, then best to leave it be.
So, go ahead and fill your life with bamboo straws, bamboo coffee cups, bamboo garden furniture, bamboo flooring and anything else you fancy.
Bamboo is awesome!