Bamboo Sustainability

As adults, we are encouraged to purchase energy-efficient appliances and ride our bikes to work. We are taught these things because fossil fuels are a limited resource that may one day be depleted. Bamboo, on the other hand, is a sustainable, renewable resource that we can use without worrying about the long-term impact on future generations. Bamboo appears to be gaining popularity as a material used to make many of the personal and household products we use every day, from toilet paper to toothbrushes, plates and bowls, and even textiles such as towels, bed linen, socks, and other clothing. Manufacturers tout the material’s broader ‘eco-friendly’ credentials when compared to plastic, wood, and cotton, in addition to benefits such as durability, biodegradability, softness, and anti-bacterial qualities. But how eco-friendly is bamboo, and is it truly as good for the environment as the brands that use it in their products – and their predictable positive marketing and labeling – claim?

What is a renewable resource?

A renewable resource is a valuable substance that can be produced as quickly as or faster than it can be used. Solar energy, wind energy, wood, and oxygen are examples of renewable resources.

Bamboo-based product manufacturers emphasize that this fast-growing, tree-like grass is naturally renewable. Some bamboo species can grow up to 5cm in an hour, and bamboo crops can be harvested in three years, compared to 10-20 for trees. It requires little maintenance because it does not require pesticides or herbicides and grows with very little water. Importantly, it emits 35% more oxygen and absorbs 35% more carbon than trees of the same size, and it grows well in areas prone to soil erosion. The fashion industry has embraced bamboo as well, claiming that it is more sustainable than the water-intensive processes associated with cotton cultivation and, unlike silk, is cruelty-free and vegan.

How is bamboo a renewable resource?

1. Bamboo is a plant that grows quickly.

Bamboo can grow up to four inches per day. It matures and can be harvested every three years for the rest of its 500-year life span.

2. Bamboo requires one-third the water required to grow cotton plants. Contrary to cotton, which requires approximately 25% of all insecticides and 12% of all pesticides to grow, it does not require irrigation or fertilizers.

3. Bamboo harvesting has no negative effects on the environment.

When the bamboo plant is harvested, the root system is left intact, resulting in no soil erosion. Bamboo is healthy when cut, and it grows back from the same root system. Bamboo technically has a negative carbon footprint because it removes more than 70% of CO2 from the atmosphere and produces 35% more oxygen than a comparable grove of trees.

4. It is a valuable substance that is used in a variety of products.

When the plant is harvested, every part of it is used. Bamboo is used in a variety of applications, including construction, paper, musical instruments, bedding, clothing, food, medicine, and furniture. Bamboo could even be used to replace most wood products, and it warps less when exposed to weather.

Bamboo is a fantastic renewable resource that deserves to be more widely known and used. It even outperforms the benefits of other renewable resources like wood and cotton. Simply Organic Bamboo is proud to support products that are better for the future of our families. Know that when you buy a set of our sheets, you are making a difference in our world.

Is the processing of bamboo harmful to the environment?

The manner in which bamboo is processed after harvesting has an impact on its environmental credentials. Bamboo fabrics are frequently praised for their softness, but the amount of processing required to achieve this involves the use of numerous chemicals. Instead, bamboo is processed into a pulp that is used in place of wood pulp viscose fibers. The fiber processing (and associated heavy use of chemicals) is identical, so any environmental gains are only realized if bamboo cultivation is more sustainable than how wood is harvested for pulp in other products.”

Indeed, the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), the world’s leading textile processing standard, refuses to certify chemically processed bamboo-based viscose, claiming that it “cannot be considered as natural or even organic fiber.”

What is a more environmentally friendly alternative?

When it comes to other materials that could be used to make toilet paper, experts generally agree that using recycled paper pulp is far more environmentally friendly than using any virgin material. And, if responsibly sourced, ‘alternative’ fibers like bamboo are more sustainable than virgin wood pulp. Consumers are advised to look for the FSC certification stamp. Look for organic bamboo or bamboo linen in textiles, which means the fibers were extracted mechanically rather than chemically. Although labeling is not always clear, the next best option is ‘lyocell’ bamboo, which uses fewer chemicals.

Is bamboo recyclable?

Unfortunately, information is patchy, and experts are calling for more helpful guidance from the government and local governments that run household recycling programs.

The Government’s waste advisory body Wrap’s Recycle Now website, for example, makes no mention of bamboo. “Paper mills have been designed and set up to deal with fibre derived from wood pulp, not bamboo, and they are different,” a source claims. Because of the toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing process, it advises against recycling bamboo textiles in conventional textile recycling.

Single-use is never a viable option

Because bamboo (whether wild or planted commercially) is primarily grown in China, its true sustainability is dependent on a variety of factors in a long and complex global supply chain. Environmental charities such as WWF-UK point out that, in the face of concerns about biodiversity, deforestation, animal habitat destruction, and products being shipped long distances, transparency is critical to minimizing the environmental and social impacts.

Experts advise against using bamboo products for single-use only. “Many retailers have replaced disposable plastic cutlery with bamboo, but because it is perceived as single use by consumers, there is still a strong likelihood that it will be discarded,” she says. “So much for being environmentally conscious. The most important rule to remember is to “reduce, reuse, and recycle.”

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