How Ethical Are Bamboo Products?
Bamboo has been shaping our civilization for more than 5000 years. It has been mostly grown and consumed in Asian, African, and South American regions. However, the global and specifically European use of bamboo is a fairly new phenomenon. Nowadays, bamboo has become the most visible element used in industrial production.
The reason behind its fast-growing popularity is its sustainability and eco-friendly properties. Every day we see new products being manufactured using bamboo as the raw material. Toothbrush, spoons, combs, clothes, utensils, and whatnot. After buying one bamboo product we feel the urge something more to live a green life and do good for the environment.
But when there is such widespread craze for something, it is better to sit down for a while and think about how justified this kind of thinking is. How ethical are bamboo products? Does it offer such benefits to the environment as much is marketed by the businesses? Well in this article we try to find out the answers to all these thought-provoking questions.
Uses of Bamboo
It is estimated that more than one billion people live in bamboo homes. Which is almost one-seventh of the global population! Apart from this, there are manifold uses of bamboo. It is used as a raw material for furniture production, paper making, construction, fuel as charcoal oil, fiber for clothes, tableware, décor items, medicine, healthcare products, and food.
It has many health benefits along with environmental benefits. It is a great source of protein and vitamins. It is antifungal, antifungal, naturally, pest resistant which means you don’t need pesticides absorbs five times more carbon dioxide than most other plants, etc.
All these qualities make bamboo stand out among most other plants. But how ethical are these bamboo products? Or are the produced following the ethical standards for ensuring sustainability?
How Ethical are Bamboo Products?
Right now, the largest producer of bamboo is in China. The Chinese farmers are producing bamboo on a massive scale and that is being exported to different parts of the world.
But according to Chinese stats, the farmers are cutting down trees to grow more bamboo to satisfy the increasing demand. But at the same, this is creating a monoculture in the forests of China. And such monoculture has a lot of bad effects on the environment.
It can damage the biodiversity, soil quality, and natural habitat for animals. Also, the wild animals that are dependent on bamboo as their food are suffering due to the increasing demand for using bamboo for industrial purposes.
Food for Pandas
Bamboo is the primary food of the pandas. 98% of a panda’s consumption includes bamboo. As we all know, the panda is already an endangered species. In addition to that, the cutting down of bamboo trees is not helping them in any way. Rather it’s negatively affecting the panda population.
Single-Use Bamboo vs. Single-Use Plastic
We all know that bamboo has a lower carbon footprint than wood. However, studies show that bamboo has a higher carbon footprint than plastic. Yes! You heard it right.
And that is not because of the material itself but what goes into the production process. It requires more resources and more of the material to make bamboo products than plastic products.
There is more to the story behind the scene. Researchers found that 94% of the CO2 emissions associated with bamboo products production comes from transportation. Since most of the bamboo is grown in China, it is exported to different European countries for further processing.
There are different kinds of bamboo fabric being produced these days. It is for those who believe in sustainable living. But how ethical are these bamboo products?
Bamboo is a very strong substance. So, to transform it into a soft wearable fabric is not an easy job. A lot goes into the process of converting a bamboo pulp into the fabric. The bamboo pulp has a lot of cellulose in it. This cellulose filled pulp is mixed with chemicals.
Then it is passed through a spinneret and converted into yarn. That is not all! After the yarn is made, it is treated with chemical dyes and bleaches to give it different colors. And finally, the rayon fabric is produced.
Closed Loop System
Companies often claim that their products are produced in a 100% close loop system. Well, that is commendable on one hand but also suspicious on the other hand. Even if the manufacturing process is done in a closed-loop system, there are wastes produced. What about those toxic wastes?
If this chemically treated toxic material is not disposed of properly, these can pose severe damage to the environment. So, some bit of clarity is required in terms of their manufacturing claims.
But what about the Oekotex Standard approved bamboo fabric? Well, the Oekotex Standard promises that there are no harmful chemicals left in the clothing. So, when we wear them, there will be no harsh chemicals affecting our bodies.
But that does not mean that the product is less harmful to the environment itself. This does not give us any confirmation on whether the product has been produced without using any harmful chemicals in the process or whether the wastes have been disposed of perfectly or not.
When Are Bamboo Products Good for Use
Any non-manipulated form of bamboo is great for use. Bamboo grows faster than hardwoods and requires less nurturing. As such, bamboo is an amazing alternative for the hardwood. It can be used in making kitchenware such as spoons, utensils, fork, etc. Bamboo made products is aesthetically pleasing as well.
The high silica content in bamboo makes it naturally pest resistant. So, it can be used in making furniture as well without worrying about the attack of pests. The fiber of bamboo is denser. As a result, the bamboo made furniture last longer and can take more pressure.
How Can Bamboo Help the Environment If It Is Not Cut Down?
So, far from our discussion, it is evident that how ethical are bamboo products especially the ones that are heavily processed. Now, we will bring forward the ways bamboo can help the environment if it is not cut down for industrial purposes.
Healing the Planet
We all know the threats that planet Earth is facing due to environmental pollution and the increasing global population. Every living being on this planet is paying the price for it. Bamboo is a plant that can help heal the planet to some extent if not completely. Here are the ways bamboo helps in healing the planet:
- Regenerating Soil: As already mentioned, bamboo is a very low-maintenance plant. It can easily grow anywhere. There are many places where the soil has been damaged due to pollution or increased use of pesticides. Bamboo can grow and thrive in these kinds of areas as well. Not only that, but it can also remove the toxins left behind by pollution. So, the soil goes through a regeneration process due to the plantation of bamboo.
- Absorbing CO2: Bamboo can absorb 7 times more carbon dioxide than most other plants. So, imagine what a bamboo forest can do. Increasing carbon dioxide in the air is the leading cause of ozone layer depletion. Bamboo plants can play a vital role in filling that hole in the atmosphere’s ozone layer.
Rapidly Renewable Resource
The bamboo plant grows to maturity within five years. Whereas, other hardwood plants can take decades to grow. On the other hand, the plastic is manufactured using our depleting oil sources, and metal is taken from the earth’s center.
All these other resources will either tire out someday or leave drastic impacts on the planet. But bamboo is a naturally grown grass that is readily renewable. That is why we should use bamboo for making our household utensils.
Harvesting bamboo is very easy. It can be harvested using hands only. No heavy machinery is required. Heavy machines emit polluting gases. Which has a drastic effect on the environment. But bamboo does not let that happen.
Stabilizing the earth
Bamboo plants are not uprooted while harvesting. Because that is simply not required. So, deforestation is reduced. Since the roots of the bamboo remain in the soil, it protects it from erosion.
If soil erosion occurs, it washes down the river or any other water bodies. When this happens, the water quality is decreased, and soil erosion also leads to infertility of the soil and mudslides. Bamboo plantation prevents all of these.
Bamboo plant has natural pest-resistant properties. So, it does not require pesticides to be used in the soil for pest control. Pesticides damage the fertility of the soil. While most plants get infested by pests, forcing the farmers to use pesticides, bamboo protects the soil from such harmful chemical usage.
Some Popular Ethical Bamboo Products
Bamboo floors are one of the strongest floors around. In the Janka Hardness scale, strand woven bamboo measures three thousand, which is massive. It has beaten all hardwood floors in terms of strength. On the other hand, solid bamboo planks are much harder than oak planks, almost three times harder. So, choosing a bamboo floor is a smarter option.
Besides, the bamboo floor does not leave a carbon footprint like most other bamboo products. If you ask me how ethical are bamboo products such as bamboo floors? I’ll say it is one of the most ethical products that is manufactured using bamboo. Here’s why:
- It does not affect panda’s diet: Panda’s main diet consists of bamboo as we know. But don’t worry about affecting poor panda’s diet by using bamboo floors. Because bamboo floors are made using Moso Bamboo. It is the only kind of bamboo suitable for making floors and luckily this bamboo is not a part of panda’s diet.
- It is durable: As already mentioned, the bamboo floor is much harder than the hardwood floor. It is durable and lasts way longer than the hardwood floor would. That is why you don’t need to worry about changing the floor or repairing it due to pest attacks.
- It requires less transportation: Most hardwood plants grow in America. These hardwoods are harvested in the USA and then sent to China to make the furniture using the wood. And then the furniture is transported back to the USA. But in the case of bamboo, the largest producer is China itself. So, the bamboo floor requires only one-way transportation. That is why it has less carbon footprint as well.
Most of the skateboards are made using wood from the Canadian Maple trees. However, bamboo skateboards can be a better alternative to this. Since bamboo is more durable, you get an eco-friendly product without compromising the quality.
Bamboo Pet Collars
Most pet collars are made using leather or plastic. Both are very harmful to the environment and the animals of the planet. Leather is made from animal skin which is very cruel. Many animals are injured in the process. And plastic is the biggest enemy of the environment.
It never decomposes and rather emits microplastic when left on the earth for a long time. But bamboo collars are better in every aspect. Since they are made from bamboo, the collars will be odorless, biodegradable, and anti-bacterial. That is why it is a great green alternative to reduce your carbon pawprint.
Bamboo cutlery is very useful has on the go utensils. Because most of the time we forget to carry a spoon or fork in our bags for the lunchtime outside. So, we have to use disposable plastic forks or spoons which is not eco friendly at all. That is when the bamboo cutlery comes in handy. It can be kept in the bag and reused repeatedly by simply cleaning it with water.
Bamboo Solar Battery
It is reported that 90% of Americans have an anxiety of low battery. Invest in a bamboo solar-powered battery charger and solve your problem without harming the environment. It is 2x eco-friendliness in one product.
From this discussion, it is evident that how ethical are bamboo products. Despite having multiple benefits, all bamboo products are not equally beneficial for the environment. It is because of the carbon footprint that these products leave behind due to the chemical-heavy process that goes on behind the scenes. So, next time do not just fall for the “eco-friendly” or “made from bamboo” label on the products. We should look for companies that offer much more clarity about their supply chain and their manufacturing procedures to make sure whether the products are made in an eco-friendly manner.