How Sustainable Are Bamboo Products?
Bamboo and products made from it have become very visible these days within the sustainability bracket. People are looking for bamboo products as an alternative to traditional products because it is supposed to be less harmful to the environment. There are bamboo toothbrushes, bamboo clothes, and even bamboo floors and lots of other products.
But how sustainable are bamboo products? Let’s find out in this article. We will look into the various ways bamboo benefits the environment and also discuss some of the bamboo products that are not so sustainable in reality.
How Bamboo Plantation Benefits the Environment?
Bamboo is a grass that is mostly grown in the Asian and African regions and some parts of South America. Bamboo has more than 200 variations. Which means it can grow almost anywhere. However, bamboo is grown at a mass scale in China and exported everywhere in the world.
Growing and harvesting bamboo is a lot easier compared to most other crops. It does not require a lot of care. There are several environmental benefits of growing bamboo as well. Such as:
- It absorbs 5x more CO2 than most other plants.
- It is antifungal and antibacterial. So, it does not get infected easily.
- We all know how harmful pesticides are for the soil. Bamboo is naturally pest-resistant. So, the use of pesticides is not required in bamboo cultivation. Thus, it protects the health of the soil.
- Bamboo can easily grow in the most malnourished soils. As a result, it helps to rejuvenate the soil and also saves the soil from eroding.
- Harvesting bamboo does not require heavy machinery that ejects polluting gases. It can be done easily by hand and without harming the environment.
How Sustainable Are Bamboo Products?
Bamboo is a very versatile grass. And that is why it is being used to make a wide range of products. These products are very high in demand as well because of its eco-friendliness. However, some products surely tick the sustainability box, but some products are not that sustainable. So, let’s find out when bamboo products are sustainable and when they are not.
When are Bamboo Products Sustainable?
Bamboo is a very strong material to use. It is much harder than hardwood. So, it can be a great alternative to it. Bamboo is products are the most sustainable when they are made from molded bamboo. Such as kitchenware, furniture, etc. These kinds of products have the least amount of chemicals involved in the processing. Here is a list of bamboo products that are sustainable alternatives to traditional products.
1. Bamboo Furniture
Bamboo furniture is more durable and stronger than hardwood furniture. They are more aesthetically pleasing as well. Since bamboo is cheaper, the bamboo made furniture are also cheaper but of better quality. So, these are more sustainable as well.
2. Bamboo Kitchenware
Bamboo kitchenware does not involve any chemical processing. That is why they leave less carbon footprint. On the other hand, plastic or metal kitchenware all harm the environment. Plastic is the sole enemy of the enemy of sustainable living. Besides, the metal needs to be extracted from the center of the earth. The process itself leaves a drastic impact on the earth’s surface. So, bamboo kitchenware is a better option in all aspects.
3. Bamboo Floor
The bamboo floor is quite popular these days. It is very strong. It can take on anything. Besides, since bamboo is antifungal, antibacterial, and naturally pest resistant, one does not need to worry about changing the flooring or repairing it due to pest attacks.
4. Bamboo Toothbrushes
Bamboo toothbrushes are also a very sustainable product. Usually, dentists recommend changing your toothbrushes every three months. That means, if you are using plastic brushes, you are tossing so much plastic that goes straight to the earth. But if you dispose of bamboo brushes it is easily compostable. Besides bamboo brushes do not use as many chemicals as plastic brushes do. So, overall it has a lower carbon footprint and is more sustainable as well.
5. Bamboo Toilet Paper
Hardwood pulp has been used to make toilet paper for a very long time. But it is more expensive to make toilet paper using hardwood. Considering the usage of toilet paper, it is not necessary to spend more money on making it when a cheaper and completely functional alternative is readily available. Many companies use the bamboo pulp to make toilet paper. It is cheaper because the bamboo itself is cheaper and that is why is more sustainable.
When are Bamboo Products Not So Sustainable?
So far we discussed the sustainable bamboo products. But there are also some products available that are marketed as green products just because they are made of bamboo. But in reality, they are not so sustainable after all. It is because of the processing that goes behind the scenes to make these products saleable. Let’s dig deeper into this and find out why are some bamboo products not sustainable.
1. Bamboo Fabric
Many people choose bamboo fabric for their green lifestyle. Even though the fabric is made of bamboo, it does not justify its claims of being a sustainable product. Bamboo has a very high density and contains a high quantity of cellulose. The pulp obtained from the bamboo plant is converted to thin fiber following an intense chemical process.
The pulp is mixed with powerful chemicals and then passed through a spinner to turn it into yarn. After that, the silky smooth fiber is treated with chemical dyes. The most popular bamboo fabric is bamboo rayon. This fabric lies between natural and synthetic due to the use of chemicals in it. On the other hand, cotton requires a lot less chemical to process it. As a result, cotton fabric is a much greener option for clothing.
2. Bamboo Single-Use products
Bamboo is known to have less carbon footprint than hardwood. But it has a higher carbon footprint compared to plastic. It is because bamboo requires more processing compared to plastic to make a certain product. Also, more resources are required to make the same product using bamboo than using plastic.
That is why using single-use bamboo products is not that sustainable option. Bamboo products need to be used 27 times before disposing of it off to have less carbon footprint than plastic. However, most restaurants and shops use the single-use bamboo product and advertise it as one of the most sustainable ways of serving. Which is not true at all!
3. Bamboo Plastic Fiber
Bamboo plastic fiber is mostly used in making cups. Such cups are reusable and businesses market it as plastic-looking but 100% made of bamboo. But is that so? This material is known by various names such as BPC, Molded Bamboo, or Molded bamboo plastic composite.
But to make this material bamboo fiber is used as a filler. It is mixed with a synthetic polymer which is classified as a plastic. Also, the chemical plastic coating is used to give the products the desired quality. All of this indicated that bamboo plastic is not that green option. Rather it is mostly plastic mixed with bamboo. So, it cannot be chosen as a sustainable option.
The sustainability of bamboo itself as a plant cannot be denied. It has many eco-friendly properties to it. But while buying products we need to consider how sustainable bamboo products are. Because it does not necessarily mean each product made with bamboo is manufactured following the sustainability standards. The sustainability of these bamboo products cannot be taken into consideration without checking the whole supply chain. That is why we need to look for manufacturers that are more transparent about their whole process of making bamboo products starting from cultivating bamboo to the industrial process followed to make the product from bamboo.
How long does a bamboo plant take to grow?
Ans: Bamboo plants grow very fast. That is why it is known as the fastest renewable resource. It takes 5 years to reach its mature stage. And after cutting the bamboo, the new shoot comes out within a few months. Within 12 months it grows to a height of about five meters.
What is strand woven bamboo?
Ans: A special technology is used to compress rough bamboo stripes to make a product as hard as tropical hardwood. That is called strand woven bamboo. Products made with these kinds of the bamboo look very elegant because of the random line pattern.
How should bamboo products be finished?
Ans: All the treatments used for treating wood can be used for bamboo as well. You can choose oil, was or lacquer based on the kind of finish that you want. The choice of the treatment will affect the color, hardness, or gloss of the end product.