What you can do with bamboo. And is it really sustainable?

I’ve know for a long time that bamboo is more sustainable compared to wood, but only since we came to Bali I have realised how versatile it is. Bamboo is used for just about everything. From little trinkets through baskets to whole houses. Pretty good for a grass! In the past few weeks I have been taking photos of all things bamboo, so here’s a little gallery of what you can do with bamboo. But before you fall in love with all things bamboo, do read until the end to find out if it really is sustainable.

What you can do with bamboo


My favourite bamboo product is a toothbrush. It’s a pretty painless way to reduce use of plastic in everyday life. They cost the same as a standard toothbrush and are easy to buy online.

Is bamboo really sustainable?

While reading about bamboo, and whether it actually is as sustainable as it sounds, I came across a debate about bamboo hardwood flooring. It’s not something which is used here in Bali, but it is becoming the green thing to do in the west. There are pros and cons to this of course. It mostly depends on how the bamboo is grown and harvested (including working conditions), and what products are used in the curing and manufacturing process. Some manufacturers use only eco-friendly sealants and glues – and have certificates to show for it – while some (usually cheaper) options are treated with harmful formaldehyde.

 

Bamboo pros

  •  Bamboo grows very quickly, which means it is ready for harvesting in 4 to 10 years, compared to many decades of waiting for wood.
  • Because it grows so quickly it absorbs four times more CO2 compared to trees. This helps to halt the greenhouse effect and depleting of ozone layer. It also means more oxygen is produced.
  • It’s a grass, which grows back from rhizomes. Only the stems are harvested and the main part of the plant remains in the ground. This means there is no risk of soil erosion. Erosion is a problem in timber industry, as when trees are cut down soil is left exposed to the elements.
  • It’s very durable and flexible, so it’s perfect as a construction, flooring and furniture material.
  • As long as the plantation, processing and transportation is well managed bamboo can be carbon neutral or even carbon negative.

 

Bamboo cons

  • China is the main producer of bamboo and their labour laws and practices are not of the highest standard. Though there are exceptions.
  • Formaldehyde is commonly used to cure the bamboo. It is a volatile organic compound (VOC), which is bad for indoor air quality. Once again, there are exceptions, as bamboo can be preserved in natural ways.
  • Increased demand means that small (and big) producers are more likely to use unnecessary pesticides and artificial fertilizers. These leak into the soil and can contaminate ground water.
  • Sometimes forests are cleared to make space for bamboo plantations. This creates a risk of soil erosion, until the plantation is established. It also means less biodiversity and destroying wildlife habitats.

 

Conclusion

Bamboo can be a green material, but only if it is certified. Here’s a few certificates to look for:

  • Floor score – certification for Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), which makes sure the building materials are not releasing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) –  that is harmful chemicals polluting air indoors
  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – well known sustainable forestry certification, now also certifies sustainability of bamboo products
  • European E1 norm (EN 717-1) – Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) certificate applicable to European products

 

Have you come across any unusual things you can do with bamboo? What bamboo products do you use? I would love to hear from you, so do leave me a comment or get in touch on Twitter (@mumbalance).

 

PS. This is a sponsored post. It also contains affiliate links. This means that if you click and buy something I will receive a small commission, while you won’t pay any more. This type of funding helps me keep on blogging about all things green.