Grows faster than a speeding bullet! Able to sequester carbon dioxide in a single leap! Stronger than any hardwood! Sound super enough for you? We're talking about everyone's current eco darling – bamboo.
Let us learn about this super grass (yes, it's a grass!) There are over 1000 species of bamboo all of which grow in tropical and temperate environments. Bamboo is incredibly hardy, not requiring pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, or tons of irrigation to do well. Bamboo grows at an impressive rate of up to 3.5 feet per day, and can be harvested every 3-5 years. An average oak tree grows only about twelve inches annually, meaning the bamboo plant grows over 1,000 times as fast as oak and most other hardwoods! It also absorbs five times more carbon dioxide and produces 35% more oxygen than those trees. Did we mention that bamboo reduces soil erosion, rarely requires replanting, and produces a fiber of remarkable strength and durability?
It should be part of the Marvel Universe. Also sounds too good to be true. Like everything in our modern world – bamboo also has some complications.
First of all, most of the bamboo that is grown commercially comes from China – home to those adorable, masked, bamboo-loving giants – pandas. Because of our complicated relationship with the Chinese government, and that governments soul deep paranoia, it's hard to know exactly how the bamboo is farmed. Just because it can be grown without chemicals doesn't necessarily mean that it is. Until some other nations up their bamboo game, China is where it comes from and that does have a carbon foot print on its own.
Secondly, when bamboo is used to make fabric a whole lot of chemicals are involved. Chemicals such as sodium hydroxide, sulfuric acid, and carbon di-sulfide. This is incredibly dangerous stuff. The use of these chemicals affects the health of factory workers, pollutes the air, and infects nearby water systems. Even worse, chemicals such as carbon di-sulfate and zinc sulfate may be released as byproducts during the process. If the chemicals are not disposed of as hazardous waste, they leach into water systems. Both these chemicals are highly toxic to water-based organisms.
But in its natural state, bamboo is an awesome alternative to the slower growing, higher maintenance hardwoods. This makes it ideal for products like bowls, soap dishes, and brushes as well as fences, furniture, hardwood floors, and much more. In addition to growing more sustainably, bamboo is durable and biodegradable. You'll replace it less often and it won't stay in a landfill until 2999.
We must remember that using more sustainable products is not an easy answer to our complicated environmental problems. Switching to bamboo won't solve climate change or the massive quantity of plastic pollution already drowning our planet. But by implementing the means for sustainability by doing no harm, reducing consumption, buying fresh local food, and becoming more aware of the ways we support the Earth with our consumer habits, we can work together toward a healthier, safer future. Progress, not perfection.
Article written by contributor: Patricia Rodriguez
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