Bamboo: The Perfect Material?

Bamboo could help reverse climate change while replacing less environmentally-friendly materials.  

Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. Classified as a grass, bamboo can grow up to 3 feet in a day or 1.5 inches in an hour. It’s a renewable resource that can be harvested between one and five years, unlike some hardwoods that can take up to forty years to mature.

Bamboo creates a significantly smaller carbon footprint in both production and harvest as compared to hardwoods. It needs little to no fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides to grow. In fact, bamboo produces more oxygen and absorbs more carbon dioxide than trees so its crops are actually helping to combat climate change. 

According to the New York Times article In Africa’s Vanishing Forests - the Benefits of Bamboo, bamboo can grow on land that is not suitable for other farming and it’s root system stays in place after harvesting, alleviating the need for new planting. In addition to being a crop that can provide income from formerly un-farmable land it also reduces soil erosion with it’s widespread root systems and even can prevent mudslides. 

When the measured against plastic there is no contest in terms of bamboo's more eco-friendly qualities. Not only does plastic release toxins into the environment during production it also never biodegrades but instead breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces eventually making it's way into our food and water sources. 

In terms of practical applications, "It’s strong as steel in tension, and stronger than concrete in compression” reports the Permaculture Research Institute. "It’s cheap. It’s easy to work with because it’s so much more lightweight than wood, concrete, or steel; it has a huge strength to weight ratio advantage, mainly because of the hollowness of its cylinder shape."

Leaders in positive environmental change and in innovative design are discovering new applications for this ancient plant. Here are a few of our favorites: