The Many Uses of Sustainable Bamboo
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The Many Uses of Sustainable Bamboo

Harder than hardwood, softer than cotton, and edible! Bamboo is used in construction. It's used to make furniture, sheets, and stir fry. Growing and harvesting bamboo is good for the environment, too.

How versatile is bamboo? It's harder than oak, the hardest of hardwoods. Bamboo fabric is wonderfully soft and kind to even the most sensitive skin. Its shoots are even good to eat. Here are just a few of the products made from bamboo: all of the construction scaffolding used in Hong Kong, furniture for indoors and out, entire buildings, fences, fishing rods, musical instruments, paper, tee shirts, sheets, and all manner of stir fry dishes. And that's just the start.

Bamboo can be used as a construction material simply by cutting the cane to whatever length is necessary. Most often, though, it is split in half or in smaller pieces. The smallest arcs can be glued together to make a laminate, which is used for all the same applications as any hardwood laminate. And so some products are obviously made of bamboo and others look just like hardwood.

Fabric from bamboo is very strong, as befitting a plant that's stronger than hard wood. And yet it is very soft, being rounded at the molecular level. The FTC classifies it as a kind of rayon, so American companies are not allowed to advertise "100% bamboo fabric." Nonetheless, it has significant environmental advantages besides being naturally antistatic and luxuriously soft and smooth.

In addition, specific bamboo products have their own advantages. People with sensitive skin should love bamboo fabric. Not only is it too smooth and soft to cause irritation, it doesn't cause static cling and it wicks sweat away very quickly. Bamboo used in place of wood is antimicrobial and resists water and mildew. Bamboo cutting boards are much more sanitary than wooden ones for cutting raw meat. Wooden outdoor furniture requires extensive maintenance to keep it from rotting; bamboo is much easier to take care of. And since bamboo does not hold a lot of heat, bamboo chairs will be comfortable after other materials become too hot. For the same reason, bamboo blinds help control indoor temperature well, too.

The more we make things from bamboo as compared even to other renewable resources like wood or cotton, the better off the environment will be as a result. Bamboo grows like a weed, meaning very rapidly and without needing human intervention. It grows from an underground rhizome, which puts up a number of groups of cane called culms. Cutting down a tree kills it, and cotton must be planted every year. Harvesting a culm of bamboo simply means that the rhizome will put up another in the same place the next growing season. It will grow as much as 100' in one season and become ready for harvest in three years, compared to 40 years to grow a tree.

Versatile, sustainable bamboo provides many benefits as a crop in addition to all the products it can make. The rhizome can restore and enrich bad soil. It is an excellent plant to use in reconstructing wetlands. Stands of bamboo along property borders provide greater privacy than any fence. Bamboo puts out more oxygen than any stand of trees of comparable size. It also produces ten times as much fiber per acre as cotton. And where cotton requires extensive use of pesticides, oil-based fertilizers, and irrigation, bamboo grows well with little or none of any of them. Where it grows as a weed instead of a crop, it is very difficult to kill.

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Comments (4)

I once joined jungle survival in the 80s along with the Dumagats of Mt. Sierra Madre and I learned how to cook rice using 'Buho' a very this specie of bamboo, in the southern province here like Laguna, they can cook their 'sweet rice' delicacy out of the same bamboo specie, GREAT article David.

I mean 'thin specie'

In our country Bangladesh, Bamboo is used in many ways and people living in urban areas know how to use it effectively.

It is such a wonderful material. It always looks so pretty when they use it in those home decorating shows.