Is bamboo actually good for the environment?

So, you’ve heard it being said for the last 15 years or so, bamboo is eco-friendly…But is it actually environmentally friendly? Keep reading to find out.

Bamboo products are popular. And for good reason. Bamboo has an extremely fast growth rate. During the spring shooting period it can grow as much as four feet in 24 hours! Plus, this humble plant is stronger than steel.

Some interesting uses of bamboo:

  1. Construction such as building houses; over 1 billion people live in bamboo houses, and roads
  2. Clothes; it can be made into strong fabric that is breathable and will also resist odour. (But be aware of Rayon…the chemical process of turning bamboo to Rayon is unsustainable).
  3. Utensils; fancy a bamboo plate or fork? Well, now you can have one.
  4. Schools; check out Green School in Bali which is made out of bamboo – https://www.greenschool.org/
  5. Diapers; bamboo cloth diapers can retain antibacterial quality even after 50 washes!
  6. Musical instruments; have you ever seen a digeridoo? Bamboo is versatile when it comes to making music.

 

Bamboo is sustainable. It can be grown with pesticides, it requires not irrigation and it can grow in a wide range of environments. Bamboo is a renewable resource and can be harvested anywhere from one to five years after planting. For comparison, trees traditionally used for wood such as oak can take decades to be ready for  harvest. And we know that deforestation is a huge contributor  to climate change. Bamboo cuts our need to deforest.

Despite all of these positives, unfortunately all it’s not all rainbows and sunshine…or should I say pandas and musical instruments?

Problems with bamboo cultivation include farmers clearcutting naturally forested land in order to make new  bamboo farms. Therefore destroying biodiversity.  And, as I mentioned, bamboo can be grown without pesticides and fertiliser, but that doesn’t mean it always is.

Remember how I warned you about Rayon above…this is really one major problem with bamboo. When bamboo is made into rayon no trace of the bamboo plant is left. Half of the waste from Rayon cannot be reused and goes directly into the environment, effluent from bleaching facilities that ends up in the waterways.  If a company is claiming their product is made of bamboo we need to see scientific evidence that it really is made of bamboo fibre.

Bamboo might not be as simple as people claim, bamboo does have some amazing properties and some awesome things have been created because of it. However, until bamboo fabric production is a closed-loop design, it’s production process makes it not quite as environmentally friendly as we would hope.

If you are going to purchase bamboo clothing, try to find mechanically processed bamboo or lyocell bamboo as the greener alternative compared to conventional viscose bamboo.

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