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As the shocking reality of climate change kicks in and the challenge of finding sustainable resources for zero waste products intensifies, there’s been a lot of hype around the bamboo plant. So, why the hype? Well, bamboo may not be the answer to all our environmental issues, but it certainly is a great sustainable resource with diverse benefits.
Is Bamboo Sustainable?
Bamboo is botanically classified as grass and it grows at an incredible speed, with some species growing up to 90cm in height each day, earning it a Guinness World Record as the fastest growing plant on the planet. As humans, our increasingly high consumption and production rate rest on the use of the natural environment and resources, in a way that continues to have destructive impacts on the planet. Thus the need to use natural resources in a more sustainable manner cannot be overstated. For instance, construction-grade bamboo is ready to harvest in just 3 to 5 years, compared with 10 to 20 years for timber; and its yield is up to 25 times more. As such, bamboo is not just more efficient to produce, it also promotes a sustainable lifestyle.
Even better, bamboo contains naturally occurring antimicrobial agents and therefore requires no artificial fertilisation or pesticides. When harvested, it will continue to grow new shoots on its own as it continuously regenerates when the stalks are cut. Bamboo will grow in most types of soil, saving time, space, money and manual labour. This results in a much cleaner, environmentally friendly product that can keep up with our rate of consumption without damaging the planet. You can even quite easily grow bamboo yourself.
So if you’re considering incorporating more bamboo products in your life, it is also useful to know that bamboo has naturally antibacterial properties. According to Bamboo Botanicals, the plant contains a natural bio-agent known as Bamboo Kun which prevents over 70% of bacteria. In a test comparing bamboo to cotton, bamboo killed nearly all the bacteria within a 24 hour period, whereas the cotton did not kill any. The plant is a naturally clean, safe and environmentally friendly resource.
Bamboo is very strong. Its tensile strength is greater than steel – making it possible to hold up at such great heights with such a narrow base. Bamboo’s ability to bend is what allows it to withstand the wind and keep from breaking. The plant is often used as an alternative to timber and, historically, has been used for building all sorts, including furniture, utensils and even bicycle frames! Bamboo structures can last 25 years and there are even some bamboo buildings in South America and Europe that are over 100 years old. Bamboo was even used to create the light bulb.
According to Amusing Planet, Thomas Edison’s invention relied on using bamboo samples sent from a Japanese grove in Kyoto in 1880 as lamp filaments as the carbonised plant meant that it had a high resistance to the current flow in order for the light to work. These light bulbs were not particularly bright but lasted far longer than any other existing filament at the time.
Good for the Environment
As if it couldn’t be more impressive, bamboo releases 30% more oxygen into the atmosphere than other plants and absorbs more carbon dioxide, doing its bit to stabilise the growing carbon dioxide levels. Before we even harvest it to use as a material, the plant is fighting climate change.
Furthermore, there is no waste left over when bamboo reaches the end of its lifespan. Any bamboo made products will biodegrade within 4 years, whereas other hardwoods can take about 50 years, and plastic can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Even when plastic does finally decompose, its chemical composition remains intact in the environment for far longer. We cannot dispose of plastic as fast as we consume it, whereas bamboo can be recycled back into the planet at a much faster rate, making it far more sustainable
Good for You
Interestingly, bamboo can also be a healthy food source, and not just for pandas! Pandas only eat bamboo and can grow to over 200 pounds. We can also eat bamboo and many Asian cultures have been doing so for years. Bamboo shoots are low in fat and calories, whilst high in fibre and potassium. Bamboo shoots are good in soups and salads, and even in a stir fry!
The bamboo plant has many qualities including the fact that it is a highly sustainable and eco-friendly material - there is little that seems to be wrong with the plant. It grows in abundance, it is durable, clean and easily biodegradable. Replacing plastic with bamboo products promotes a zero-waste or significantly reduced waste lifestyle. According to National Geographic, in the USA alone, a billion toothbrushes are thrown away each year - think about the difference that could be made if we were to use bamboo instead. You can start in a small way by swapping your plastic toothbrush for Manhogany bamboo toothbrush.