Did you know that Bamboo is a $60 Billion Industry? And it’s growing! This is a wonderful thing because bamboo is a “renewable resource”. It is the fastest growing and the strongest woody plant on earth. It is resistant to extreme weather, regenerates the soil and cleans the air.
Bamboo is used in the production of over 1500 products ranging from a food source to building materials and everything in between. The main benefits of bamboo products are the fact that they are strong, reusable and biodegradable. In this article we will explore the many ways that bamboo can be used and help the earth at the same time.
There are 1400 species of bamboo, which are evergreen perennial flowering plants. Actually a “grass” not a wood. Some species can actually grow up to 3 feet within a 24 hour period. Bamboo prefers a warm, moist, temperate climate but this marvelous plant can grow in a diverse range of climates and regions. The large column or stalks are called culms and can be harvested between 2 and 6 years after planting, depending on species and maturity. Unlike most crops or a forest of trees, when a bamboo crop is harvested, or culled, it continues to keep growing. This can go on for 50 to 80 years or more. Unfortunately when we chop down an oak tree, that has been growing for decades, that tree is gone. We have to wait decades upon decades for a replacement. Not so with bamboo. You just move on to the next big culm and cut it so that the smaller ones can grow. Amazing!
The thing I like the most about bamboo is the fact that it helps out Mother Nature just by being alive. With it’s tangled root system of rhizomes and feeder roots, bamboo helps fight erosion of soil. It also stores water from the rainy season to release back into the soil during the dry periods. It purifies the soil by removing toxins such as mercury and lead and returns moisture, carbon and silica. Most importantly, bamboo absorbs 4-5% more carbon dioxide than trees and returns up to 35% more oxygen into the atmosphere. Now if that’s not a great way to help the planet, I don’t know what is!
I started looking into bamboo because of my absolute disdain for plastic. In this case it was plastic cutlery. You know – the typical spoons and forks you get for a picnic or every time you order a salad at a fast food joint. In the US alone, it is estimated that 40 billion plastic utensils are used every year. Most of these end up in landfills or littering the beaches and countryside. I looked around my kitchen and saw my wooden mixing spoons and spatulas and looked at my bamboo cutting board and decided to do a search. Low and behold, I found reasonably priced packs of bamboo cutlery! So I kept looking. I also found bamboo toothbrushes, hair brushes with bamboo bristles and paint brushes. There were towels and sheets and pillow cases. Bamboo clothing, socks and underwear and diapers. Hats, sandals and even sunglasses! The list went on and on.
Bamboo is also used in food products such as the edible shoot or sprout. They contain high proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates and vital minerals and vitamins. Because of this you will also find shampoo and conditioner with bamboo. Soaps and skin care items as well as tooth powder and laundry products. Along with vitamins and minerals, bamboo has anti oxidant and antibacterial qualities. I especially liked this in the bamboo dog collar that I found. Earthhero.com is a great place to find a lot of bamboo products.
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We know that bamboo has been used in the building trade forever but to what degree? Apart from the glorious houses and furniture in countries like China and those of South East Asia, I hadn’t noticed that much in this side of the world. Except for bamboo flooring – that is becoming very popular. Included in my research I have discovered, in just the woodworking industry, bamboo is everywhere! There is Plybamboo, Particle board, MDF, OSB, Mat board, corrugated roofing panels, flooring, molding, beams, decking, lumber, veneer and poles. Everything you could possibly need to build a house.
Bamboo is used in the Paper Industry, making newsprint, bond paper and cardboard. The Textile Industry produces cloth and fabric for products mentioned earlier. It is used in Bio Energy for charcoal, firewood, pellets and bio fuel. Electronics uses bamboo for keyboards, phone cases and speakers. The Automotive Industry uses it to make steering wheels, dashboards and interior trim. In sports and recreation, uses include skateboards, snowboards and surf boards. Polo balls, ski poles and baseball bats. Ever seen a bamboo bicycle? In Farming bamboo is used to build greenhouses, fencing, fish traps, baskets, farm tools, animal fodder and pens, beehives, pipes and water wheels.
In conclusion I have to say that the research I did for this article has made me happy. Here we have a natural resource that is renewable AND helps the planet. It can be used in so many ways, for so many things and it is great for farmers. As the US is the number one importer of bamboo from China we finally wised up. Some clever farmers in Florida and Alabama have started to plant their own bamboo crops. Soon they will be producing renewable yields of this magical crop and we will be using our own bamboo to make all the wonderful products. Even if a bamboo spoon is thrown away after a picnic, it will simply biodegrade and replenish the earth.
There is an ancient Chinese saying that goes “A man is born in a bamboo cradle and goes away in a bamboo coffin” Everything in between is possible with bamboo.
If you have any thoughts or ideas on the benefits of bamboo and it’s many products, please leave a comment below. I would love to discuss them with you. – Dolly –
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