Bamboo is a sustainable material. It can be a great choice to replace more damaging materials in a range of applications. But why exactly is it such as great material to use? Let's take a quick look at why bamboo is a good choice for people and planet:
Low Use of Pesticides and Herbicides
One of the biggest benefits of bamboo as a component of sustainable products is that there is no need for pesticides, herbicides and other harmful chemicals for its growth. Bamboo contains a substance called bamboo-kun, an anti-microbial agent that provides a natural source of pest and fungi resistance. While some pathogen problems can still develop in bamboo plantations, these are far less problematic than those experienced in growing other crops.
Low Water Use
What is more, bamboo growth is also more sustainable than other raw materials in a number of ways. For example, while cotton often uses vast quantities of water to grow, bamboo plantations are rarely irrigated. There is evidence to suggest that the water-use efficiency of bamboo is twice that of trees.
Less Soil Erosion
Bamboo is also less damaging for the world's soil than other natural materials. Bamboo has an extensive root system which can help to stabilise and preserve the soil. The world's top soils are in threat, and mono-crop agricultural and forestry plantations worsen such problems. They can worsen the problem of soil erosion through the processes of yearly planting and land mismanagement.
Bamboo plantations, on the other hand, can create an effective watershed, ensuring that the natural water cycle is allowed to function as it should. The roots help to stick together fragile soils on slopes and along water courses, reducing the incidence of mud slides and greatly reducing rainwater run-off.
Since they do not need to be replanted each year, but simply continually send up new shoots, they also significantly reduce soil disruption and so growing bamboo as opposed to other crops can be beneficial as it can help to preserve and protect the fragile and essential soil ecosystem.
Increased Yield and Reduced Land Use
Bamboo grows at a very high density, and can grow incredibly quickly. Since more bamboo can be grown on a given area than wood or other crops, this can ease pressure on land use and increase the yield of fibre per given area. The average yields of around 60 tonnes of bamboo per hectare, compare extremely favourably with the yields for most trees (20 tonnes) and so bamboo can be viewed as far more sustainable from a land-use perspective.
Natural Carbon Capture
Bamboo cultivation not only reduces the emission of carbon (by reducing the need for farming machinery etc.) but also sequesters more carbon while in growth than an equivalent stand of trees.
Bamboo plantations can help local communities turn away from destruction of their native forests and create sustainable bamboo plantations. These can be harvested each year without the destruction of the groves. While trees often need to be chopped down and then replanted, bamboo will keep on growing and can be harvested year after year.
Clear felling is not required, as it often is for most large-scale timber harvesting. Bamboo stands will send up new shoots and bamboo has even been shown to regenerate more quickly after a harvest has been taken.