In this ever-evolving green movement, that current on which us Green Monsters seem to be riding, there is always the search for sustainable, renewable resources. We want fast-growing, regenerative materials for building. We want low carbon output, low to no waste, and a minimizing of chemicals. We want things that make a positive impact on the planet, but we also want things that make our lives better. Every now and again, we stumble upon something that seems right, that fills the bill. Bamboo is one of these things.
Bamboo grows all over the place, in high and dry spots or low wetlands. It can thrive in many climates, from frosts and freezing to swelteringly muggy. It’s actually a type of fast-growing grass (It has been clocked at up to four feet a day in optimal conditions) that simply sprouts anew when it has been cut. There are species that can get large and strong enough to use for building homes, scaffolding and boats, or small enough to be cultivated in garden hedges. It’s even edible. But, these things hardly begin to encompass what bamboo can do, what it has done for centuries now.
In short, bamboo is coming to be viewed by many as a possible planet-saving miracle plant. There are books devoted to touting the 1000-plus products bamboo can provide, products that have historically spelled the end for old growth forests. Instead, giant bamboo can reach maturity in just four years, be harvested, and simply continue to produce from the same root system. That’s sustainable. That’s green. That is why it is worth getting bamboo-zled.
1. Paper Products:
A detriment to trees, paper products ranging from toilet paper to coffee filters can be made from bamboo. It can be strong enough to make biodegradable cement sacks or delicate enough for tissue. Unlike tree forests, bamboo forests will regrow quickly, such that we can have all these things we are accustomed to without derogating the natural resources we value.
2. Construction Materials:
Many building materials we’ve come to recognize as intrinsically wooden can actually be made with bamboo. It can provide lumber, plywood and fiberboards. It can also be provide finished products like flooring, molding or even veneer. Again, this means less tree cutting, equating to the something closer to the sustainable production of these things.
3. Food Stuff:
Odd that something so good at behaving like wood can actually be quite delicious as well. Bamboo shoots are no stranger in East Asian cuisine. Several varieties are not just edible but delicious, though — like other foods containing cyanide, such as apricot, almonds, and cassava — it does take some careful, simple cooking measures before eating. It has also been used for beer, vinegar, wine, and tea.
4. Clothing and Textiles:
Bamboo can be harvested for its fibers, which can create soft textile, the likes of shower towels, as well as sturdier items like socks. While traditional clothing crops like cotton often require lots of chemicals and fertilizers, bamboo grows readily and infamously prolifically on its own, which will mean a positive impact by virtue of eliminating some of the harmful process we use to grow our textile materials.
5. Green Packaging:
Packaging is one of those things that has come to drive a good many of us crazy. We use too much plastic. We waste too much paper and cardboard with excessive sizes. We simply pack too much stuff, things that don’t require boxes or safely sealed polypropylene encasement. Bamboo can’t reduce the amount of packaging we use, but it can make that packaging biodegradable and greener.
6. Renewable Energy:
Bamboo burns. In fact, it burns hot, which makes it an ideal option for our fireplaces (as kindling especially), for rudimentary cooking devices and for charcoal grills. Bamboo catches fire well, and it maintains a high temperature for starting fires. All those trees that go to providing firewood could be rerouted to more useful ends or, better yet, left alone.
7. Forestry Efforts:
Obviously, as has been restated a few times already, using bamboo will reduce our dependence on wood, which takes much longer to reproduce. But, bamboo the plant can be used positively for lots forestry efforts, such as preventing soil erosion, trapping carbon and creating sound screens. It happily takes root in poor soils and in less than favorable conditions and can get wildly productive very quickly.
8. Farming Fodder:
Bamboo is a great resource for farmers as it can be found useful in so many ways. Edible varieties can be animal fodder. Bigger versions can be used for structures like greenhouses or fencing; they make ideal tomato or beanpoles. They can even be used to make baskets and containers, natural water pipes, windbreaks or tools. Plus, cultivating bamboo doesn’t require a lot of extra effort.
9. Sports Equipment:
With the ability to either act as a wood or a cloth, bamboo can be used to recreate common sports equipment. Bicycle frames, boards (skate, surf, and snow), golf tees, fishing rods (sorry fish), poles, bats, and wherever else our imaginations can take us. Bamboo is light and strong and ideal for this sort of stuff.
10. Creative Solutions:
Like trying to contain a well-established clump of bamboo, trying to subdue its use is a bit of a futile effort. Bamboo can be used all over the place. It can be chopsticks. It can be a sleek and stylish computer case. It can be a helmet, a toy, a bridge, a chair, a match or even a bathtub. With our minds and its versatility, bamboo presents a powerfully productive, friendlier future with nature.
Of course, there are people poised to find the downsides to bamboo, and there are some: It can be invasive for natural plants, some products do require chemical processing and it may not be the best option for textile or paper (hemp may be). But, without a doubt, with some forethought, with ethically responsible intentions, bamboo can help us in our quest for a greener, more sustainable future.
Lead image source: Flickr