Bamboo is known as an incredibly durable and environmentally friendly product. But what makes bamboo so environmentally friendly?
- Bamboo grows incredibly fast. This makes it a product that can be harvested quickly and often in a relatively small area.
- Bamboo doesn’t need any pesticides, insecticides or fertilizer to be able to grow well.
- Bamboo stems are masters in taking in water and don’t need much extra water to be able to grow well.
- When bamboo is correctly harvested (just above the second segment), it’ll grow back within a year. Bamboo doesn’t have to be replanted after every harvest. It’ll grow back organically and basically recycle itself.
- Bamboo takes in more Co2 than any other plant or tree.
- Unprocessed bamboo is biodegradable and compostable
Bamboo versus wood
Bamboo grows fast and is highly productive. There are 1500 different species of which about 50 are suitable in construction as a build material. It’ll grow up to 30 meters in only six months because bamboo is a grass. The biggest know bamboo species is the Dendrocalamus. This will grow up to 40 meters high, with up to 30 centimeters per day. One bamboo root will give about 15 kilometers in useable stem. This shows how much of a renewable resource bamboo actually is.
Only the adult stems are harvested in bamboo plantations. The younger stems will be left to grow. When harvested the length of the stem is taken into consideration. If its long enough there will be plenty left to grow again. This stump will have the nutrients and root system of the mature stem. When a bamboo seed gets planted it will form a clump in the ground. This clump can take up to 2 tons of Co2 within 7 years. In comparison to hardwood which will take only 1 ton Co2 in 40 years.
Bamboo has a growth cycle of 7 years. Hardwood takes about 30 years to grow the same length. The actual record of bamboo growth is 1.22 meters per day. Bamboo has all the hardwood qualities but doesn’t take as long to grow. When every year over 13 million hectares of wood get cut. That’s about 1140 soccer fields per hour. Of course, a lot of those forests get replanted but there is still a yearly netto loss of about 7 million hectares. This is twice the size of Belgium. If we could stop the deforestation, there would be about a quarter less Co2 in the air.
By using bamboo we could drastically reduce greenhouse effect and climate change. Bamboo will absorb the greenhouse gasses. The carbon dioxide (Co2) of bamboo gives abour 35% more oxygen in the atmosphere than any comparable hardwood. This occurs because of the rapid growth and photosynthesis. Climate change has been an issue for years and certifying bamboo as a hardwood could help a lot. Besides bamboo gives off one of the highest amounts of biomass.
Bamboo in nature
Bamboo is very essential in regulating quality and quantity of the waterflow. This is because the water gets stored in the bamboo stems and it almost works like some sort of water pump. When it rains it’ll take in the water and it will get released into the soil when there is a drought. One hectare of bamboo can take up to 30.000 liters of water. This allows bamboo to grow in many difficult scenarios where other plants fail. All of this adds to the quality of the soil because the roots will keep it together. This means there is less chance of landslides or erosion at rivers.
Bamboo is a very important part of many biodiverse ecosystems. There are many animals that use bamboo for food and shelter worldwide. A famous example would be the giant panda (from China), but also the red panda (China), Mountain gorilla (Uganda), bamboo lemur (Madagaskar), bale monkey (Ethiopia) and the agile gracile opossum (South America). There are also many birds who benefit from bamboo. Planting bamboo can quickly provide the right conditions for these animals to thrive.
Bamboo in construction
In European context we use bamboo in the garden and as a finishing touch. But why do Europeans not use it more often as a buildingmaterial? Bamboo happens to be one of the strongest building materials in the world. It has a pullingstrength of 28.000 inch per square millimeter, when steel only can do 23.000 inch per square millimeter. People learn from nature and the structure of bamboo. That’s because nature is a much more efficient builder than us. We build stiff but using bamboo techniques we can build much more efficiently.
We also import the bamboo species Guadua. These are much stronger but lighter than steel. This makes them very suitable for construction. More about that can be seen in this video where they do an experiment with guadua bamboo. Read more about bamboo in construction here.
Bamboo doesn’t give any problems for the environment when harvested. It is a renewable source which always recycles itself. The most important part is that when you laminate bamboo; you can make anything that’s traditionally out of wood. The bamboo is immune for insects when the bamboofibers are separated from their natural sugars and treated with salts. This lengthens the durability of bamboo stems up to 50 years or more. The only condition for this is that they are not in direct contact with sun, rain or the ground. There is maintenance needed to make bamboo poles more durable outside.
Bamboo can be used in many differect products. It can be used in its natural form as well as a processed product. Bamboofibers are soft and durable when they are woven. Bamboo clothing is very durable and many claim that it has antibacterial properties that prevent the smell of sweat. More and more often people chose for bamboo as a resource because of its environmentally friendly character and versatility. Think about clothing, furniture, flooring, fencing, plates, toothbrushes packaging, construction and more. Other products in the more luxury segment are things like a bamboo steering wheel, the interior of cars or luxury electronics such as a bamboo phone case, bamboo keyboard or bamboo headphones.
Finally, bamboo is so popular because of its environmentally friendly character and many special properties. Because of its versatility it can be used in endless amounts of ways.
Protect the forest: Build with bamboo