Bamboo and the Environment

Bamboo forests are very beneficial to the environment, they sink carbon levels, produce oxygen, control soil erosion, provide organic material, conserve biodiversity, not to mention they create an aesthetic landscape.

Bamboo has for a long time been an integrated part of society. Because of it’s economic sustainability, bamboo has become an excellent resource. Bamboo has been used for more than 7000 years for various purposes such as arrows, paper, building materials and books.

Bamboo Origins

It is believed that bamboo originated in China but now grows everywhere in the world except for extremely cold climates. It was in China that the first recorded uses of bamboo were found. Because of it’s fast growing ability, bamboo has been used for many products.

Economic Sustainability

Bamboo, a type of grass is strong and has the ability to grow quickly, being the fastest growing plant on earth. It takes only 60 days to reach the height and width of trees that are used for making wood. Bamboo has become invaluable to renewable products and use as a building material. Because of it’s versatility and the increasing importance of sustainable products in our environment, bamboo is becoming the resource of the future.

Bamboo and Pandas

Pandas are enigmatic vegetarians. Their digestive systems are evolved to process meat, however they will only eat bamboo for breakfast, bamboo for lunch, bamboo for dinner, bamboo for elevenses, brunch and midnight snacks. Basically all day, every day.

Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca – literally ‘black and white catfoot’) are part of the bear(Ursidae) family, and they still retain a meat eater’s digestive system, with a simple stomach and a short small intestine. They don’t have a four-chambered stomach like a cow to digest plants efficiently, and a pure bamboo diet contains hardly any protein and a lot of indigestible fibre.

The giant panda has lived in bamboo forests for millions of years. The average giant panda eats as much as 9 to 14 kg (20 to 30 lb) of bamboo shoots a day to make up for a lack of energy in it’s diet. Ingestion of such a large quantity is made possible by the rapid passage of large amounts of indigestible plant material through the short, straight digestive tract. The giant panda expends as little amount of energy as possible by limiting its social interactions and avoids steeply sloping terrain.

Pandas eat any of 25 bamboo species in the wild. Only a few bamboo species are widespread at the high altitudes pandas now inhabit. Bamboo leaves contain the highest protein levels; stems have less.

The bamboo used for materials in today’s society is mosu bamboo (mao zhu). This species of bamboo is used for it’s versatile use in products but more importantly, it’s a type of bamboo that pandas won’t eat. This means we can create sustainable products without harming the pandas environment.

10 Facts About Bamboo

  • No pesticides or chemical fertilisers are used in the growing of bamboo.
  • No irrigation is needed
  • Rarely does it need replanting
  • It grows rapidly and can be harvested in 3-5 years.
  • 35% more oxygen is produced compared to an equivalent stand of trees.
  • It’s carbon neutral and absorbs carbon dioxide
  • It grows in a wide range of environments
  • When produced into fibre it has less environmental impact compared to synthetic fibre
  • Some species of Bamboo can take as long as 65 – 120 years to grow flowers
  • Bamboo can survive for more than 120 years in the wild.

10 Uses of Bamboo

  • Houses, schools and other buildings
    To build 1000 houses you would need 70 hectares of bamboo according to UNESCO. Today over 1 billion people live in bamboo buildings.
  • Roads and bridges
    Bamboo is so strong that it’s capable of supporting vehicles that weigh as much as 16 tonnes. It’s used for road reinforcements and bridges in China and India.
  • Medicines
    Ingredients from black bamboo shoots are used to help treat kidney diseases in China. Roots and leaves from certain species of bamboo were traditionally  used in the treatment of venereal diseases and cancer.
  • Clothes
    Bamboo can be made into a strong and durable fabric a bit like canvas and can be made into all sorts of clothes. Additionally, bamboo fabric is breathable, thermal regulating, it will resist odour and is absorbent and fast drying keeping you dryer and more comfortable than any cotton or polyester fabrics. However be careful: it is also made into Rayon in a chemical process that is unsustainable. Please check the label or with the manufacturer.
  • Accessories
    It is used to create necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and other types of jewellery.
  • Food
    Bamboo shoots are used mainly in Asian food preparations. In Japan, the antioxidant properties of the bamboo skin prevent bacterial growth, and are used as natural food preservatives.
  • Bathroom accessories
    Bamboo is used to produce natural toothbrushes, as well as toothbrush stands and travel cases. Bamboo toothbrush bristles are usually not biodegradable unless they’re made of animal hair. Depending on the brand, most bamboo toothbrushes are made with nylon4 mixed with nylon6 and are BPA free, so the bristles have to be removed from the toothbrush in order to recycle them.
  • Scaffolding
    In Hong Kong bamboo scaffolding is preferred over metal scaffolding because it’s more easily available and cheaper. It is strong and eco-friendly and therefore a great resource for scaffolding.
  • Furniture
    Beautiful and intricately crafted beds, chairs and tables are made from bamboo. Read more about sustainable furniture here»
  • Paper
    Bamboo is used as printed paper and paper used for writing. The pulps are mainly produced in China, Myanmar, Thailand and India.

Those are just 10 of the amazing uses of bamboo but there are many many more…

 

 

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