Isnt That What Giant Pandas Eat?

by : Carol Freyer

If you're renovating your home to be environmentally friendly, especially in today's environmentally conscious market, bamboo is one material you might want to consider. It is Earth's fastest-growing plant, which makes it an exceptionally sustainable material. It is extremely versatile, being used to make durable flooring, cabinetry, countertops, utensils, furniture and tablewear. Despite this, it is not a 'hardwood'. It is a grass that masquerades as a tree in Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas starting in the southeastern United States and spreading all the way down to Chile.

Opponents of bamboo note that the majority of it is made in the Chinese province of Hunan. China, notorious for human and animal abuse, is a place where Fair Trade certification is yet a happy dream. Bamboo itself may be a green and sustainable source, but the forests that are clear-cut to make room for plantations are not necessarily so. Fertilizers and pesticides are being used with more and more frequency. Most bamboo has formaldehyde (bad environmental juju!) binders. And, of course, if you're not a fan of outsourcing, bamboo is not the best choice, as a very small percentage of the United States is home to this plant.

Bamboo is not a miracle material. It is not that much different from other hardwood floors in terms of durability and all around goodness. You'll still have to ask your sister not to wear her six-inch spike heels in the house, as they will quickly create a number of pockmarks. Unless you've gone to somewhere not China, grown the stuff yourself, paid your workers decently and not doused it with toxic bonding substances, chances are it's not the environmentally friendly Holy Grail.

Despite all this, bamboo definitely deserves a closer look as a material that we can use to minimize our inroads on less sustainable resources. If United States farmers can make this plant sustainable on American soil, it could become a valuable crop that provides us with a lot of yield with a minimum of impact. Keep your eye on bamboo!