The mighty bamboo has the reputation of being one of the most sustainable plants on the earth. It holds the record for the fastest growing plant, has a tensile strength stronger than steel, and utilizing eco-friendly bamboo products can help reduce your carbon footprint.
These are some of the amazing benefits of bamboo:
- Bamboo needs few requirements to grow
- It is fully biodegradable and compostable
- Promotes good air quality
- Protects against soil erosion
- It is a renewable crop
What does this all mean when it comes to switching to bamboo products? By the end of this article you will be able to assess if switching to bamboo products is beneficial to your health and lifestyle.
Benefit 1: Bamboo Needs Few Requirements To Grow
The sustainability of bamboo is highly revered in its minimal growth requirements. Bamboo creates its own fertilizer by using its dead leaves, giving back to the soil rather than taking nutrients.
This eliminates the need to use fertilizers. It also does not require any pesticides or herbicides as it creates its own antimicrobial agent called “bamboo kun.” This agent deters pests and other harmful growth.
Bamboo crops need no irrigation and use ⅓ less water than other crops such as cotton. This plant is drought tolerant, but also can grow in water. Its roots are capable of holding 200 to 400 mm of water.
Benefit 2: It Is Fully Biodegradable And Compostable
Bamboo is 100% biodegradable and does not release any harmful by-products as it decomposes. A bamboo toothbrush, for example, can fully decompose in about 3 years, compared to 1,000 years with a plastic toothbrush. This makes bamboo a great alternative to plastic products.
Benefit 3: Promotes Good Air Quality
Bamboo releases 30% more oxygen into the air than other plants and can absorb as much as 12 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare per year. A single bamboo plant emits 322 Kgs of oxygen per year, while a human requires 280 Kgs. Thus, bamboo can provide more oxygen than is required for a human to survive.
Benefit 4: Protects Against Soil Erosion
Harvesting does not require uprooting; it requires only cutting above the roots. Bamboo roots only go down about 2 – 3 feet, with its rhizomes spreading to about 12 inches. Its fibrous rhizomes form a very dense net, keeping the soil intact.
Many organizations and countries like Tanzania are using bamboo as a means to reclaim ravine and degraded areas. Bamboo can grow on any type of soil, at any elevation, so its use can benefit all parts of the world.
Benefit 5: Bamboo Is A Renewable Crop
Bamboo matures in 3 – 7 years, at a rate of 3 – 5 feet per year. Trees, on the other hand, take at least 20 to 50 years to mature. Moreover, since bamboo is a grass, it can live up to fifty years before the field needs replanting.
After harvesting, new sprouts will form and grow again. Bamboo’s rapid growth makes it an excellent alternative in many industries including building and construction, furniture, household items, and textiles.
How To Incorporate Bamboo Products Into Your Life
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- Use bamboo paper products such as coffee filters or toilet paper. Since bamboo grows quickly, its products can be more sustainable than paper made from trees.
- A great way to utilize bamboo is in your next remodeling or building project. Choosing bamboo flooring or a bamboo fence or gate means less trees will be cut down. Because of its strength, bamboo has been used in many countries as scaffolding, foundation, roofing and all other aspects of buildings.
- Textiles made from bamboo can be pricey, but its benefits should be considered. Bamboo fabrics are moisture wicking, drawing moisture away from the body. It is also less wrinkle resistant, a great alternative to silk, and naturally hypoallergenic.
- Everyday household products can be made of bamboo, such as toothbrushes, cutting boards, dishes, computer cases, furniture, etc.
Be Wary Of Bamboo Fabrics
With all this discussion about bamboo’s eco-friendliness, the type of bamboo products to buy with caution are fabrics. Here’s why:
- A popular method to make bamboo rayon, the soft fabric used to make sheets, underwear, and other clothes, is highly intensive. This viscose process involves dissolving bamboo in a chemical solution which is then spun into fibers.
- The chemicals used, like sodium hydroxide or carbon disulfide, are highly toxic and are linked to a number of health problems including tiredness, breathing problems, headaches, and neural disorders for workers that process the materials.
- The manufacturing of bamboo fabric may create runoff with the dangerous chemicals used. In this method, only 50% of the wastewater is recaptured.
Due to the heavy use of harsh chemicals, bamboo rayon isn’t considered sustainable. There is good news though. Many manufacturers have been working on more eco-friendly processes by using chemicals like
N-methylmorpholine-N-oxide, acetic anhydride, and even nano technology. The lyocell process, for example, uses N-methylmorpholine-N-oxide to break down the structure of bamboo, which is supposedly non-toxic to humans. This process also captures 99.5% of the chemicals that are used to be recycled.
Sources: Eco And Beyond, Good On You, SFGate, Grow More Biotech, The Bamboo Toothbrush, Organic Clothing