Sustainable Materials: Bamboo

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

Each week we’re exploring Sustainable Materials and some of the products made. If you missed it last week, make sure to check out our post on Vegan Leather.

Today we explore the wonderfully sustainable: BAMBOO

While the average panda will eat between 12-38kg of the leaves, stems and shoots of various species of Bamboo each day, this amazingly sustainable material is also used for building homes or schools, as a textile, food, fuel and the manufacture of a huge range of eco-friendly products. From coffee cups to toothbrushes many of our eco-friendly items available in the Forever and Green store are made from this incredible grass.

There are over 1000 species of bamboo. This amazing plant grows in tropical and temperate environment. It is incredibly hardy, not needing pesticides or herbicides to grow well.

Surprisingly, Bamboo is not a type of Tree as you might think, but rather a type of grass which grows from it’s roots. Once cut, it can grow back rapidly, with most species maturing in just 3-5 years.

So why is Bamboo so sustainable?

  • It is grown without pesticides or chemical fertilisers

  • It requires no irrigation

  • It rarely needs replanting

  • It grows rapidly and can be harvested in 3-5 years

  • It produces 35% more oxygen that it’s equivalent in trees

  • It reduces pollution and sequesters carbon dioxide making it carbon neutral

  • It is a critical element in the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

  • It is an excellent soil erosion inhibitor

  • It grows in a wide range of environments

  • It’s production into fibres has a lower environmental impact than other forms of fibre, especially synthetic ones

  • It helps lower the light intensity and protects against ultraviolet rays

  • After use many bamboo products can simply be composted and will biodegrade naturally in just a couple of years

What's not to love?

Uses of bamboo

Since ancient times, bamboo has been widely used in the daily life of people in rural China. A fifth of the world's bamboo grows in China - 300 varieties in a total area of 20000 square kilometres. One can hardly travel anywhere in the country without seeing bamboo being used in some fashion.

It is only in the last couple of centuries that bamboo has been cultivated in the West, with some species arriving to Europe from India in the late 18th century.

Today, the benefits of Bamboo is seen the world over and has been used for EVERYTHING!

Houses, schools and other buildings - Today, over one billion people in the world live in bamboo houses.

  • Roads and bridges - It is being used in road reinforcements in India and as well as bridges built in China, capable of supporting 16 tonne trucks

  • Medicines - In China, ingredients from the black bamboo shoot help treat kidney diseases. Roots and leaves have also been used to treat venereal diseases as well as cancer and bone deficiencie

  • Apparel - Bamboo is the new Hemp! It is 40% more absorbent than even the finest organic cotton, breathable and durable. Watch out for greenwashing though as companies touting Bamboo Fibre clothing are also using an unsustainable chemical process to produce Rayon; a cellulose fibre that can emit toxic substances causing numerous health issues as well as polluting the environment

  • Food – Bamboo Shoots are used primarily used in Asian cuisine and considered to have antioxidant properties o Fuel - Charcoal made Bamboo has been used for centuries as cooking fuel in East Asia.

  • Scaffolding – You might remember that scene from Rush Hour 2, I’ll leave the link below, but Bamboo is often used for scaffolding as an eco-friendly and cost-effective resource.

  • The list is endless. Musical instruments, fishing rods, bicycles, helmets, toys, furniture, utensils. You’ll be hard pressed to find something that can’t be made from the stuff.


Pandering to the green consumer by Kate Carter, Wed 13 Aug 2008:

Buy Bamboo in the Forever and Green Store

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