Bamboo: The World’s Most Versatile Natural Product


As we’re naturally one of the more vocal advocates of this versatile plant material in the USA. Not only is it fast-growing, sustainable, and eco-friendly, bamboo can be processed in different ways to be used for a huge variety of products around the world.

Our flooring is a hard-wearing, low cost, and easy to maintain solution for many USA households. Still, bamboo is also found in everything from roads and bridges to entire home constructions, even clothing, beverages, the automotive industry, and toys and gadget accessories, to name but a few.

Here are just some areas where bamboo is being used today:

Bamboo Roads and Bridges

If you want any evidence of how strong bamboo is, then its use in roads and bridges should prove enough. China is one place where they are experimenting with this kind of construction, and it could provide a viable alternative to the steel and concrete that have been used in the past in many other parts of the world.

According to the New Scientist:

“Pound-for-pound, bamboo is stronger than steel when stretched and more robust than concrete when compressed. Also, stalks several meters tall mature in just a few years, rather than a few decades as with trees, so more can be harvested from the same amount of land.”

One bridge built in the Hunan province of China was 10 meters long and able to take a 16-tonne truck weight.

Housing and Furniture from Bamboo

You might be surprised to find that over a billion homes worldwide are actually made almost entirely from bamboo. It makes sense because this hard-wearing material is easy to grow. Just a small farmland area can provide materials for thousands of homes, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

Bamboo is versatile enough to make not just flooring but strong wood beams and fiber and particle boards that can be used all over the home. In places like Hong Kong and China, Bamboo is often used as scaffolding because it is cheaper than steel and more readily available.

Of course, this quick-growing grass has long been used in furniture. With better manufacturing processes, there are many more options and applications nowadays. You could choose to have your whole house built from bamboo products and then furnish it in the same material, everything from the chairs and tables to the beds.

Paper and Card

As with natural wood, pulping up bamboo means that it can be used to make paper and cards, and many more manufacturers are now moving towards it as their source product. The reason is that bamboo can be grown quickly, and farms can be set up in areas where the soil has been depleted, making it more economical and green.

Hopefully, this manufacturing process will pressure off the wood forests that take so long to replace once they have been harvested. It’s not just used for printing paper either but for toilet tissue, coffee filters, and sacks for heavy products such as cement because of its strength and durability.

Bamboo Clothing

Increasingly bamboo is being used in the textile industry to produce clothes, towels, sheets, mattresses, and the odd bulletproof vest. In ancient times, strips of bamboo were used for clothing such as hats and shoes and later were often found in corsets’ boning. It wasn’t until manufacturing processes developed that it became a useful base product for clothing. It’s the leaves and soft inner pith of the bamboo shoot used to make viscose rayon.

Many clothing companies are now making a big thing of their green credentials with fashion outlets such as Rapanui selling garments exclusively made from bamboo.

Bamboo Toys and Gadget Accessories

Fancy a bamboo iPhone case or a bike frame made from the stuff? You can certainly find plenty of things with this material incorporated into the design, including steering wheels, car bodies, surfboards, snowboards, baseball bats, headphones, laptops, cutting boards, helmets, guns, and even bathtubs.

Many parents are starting to go for natural toys for toddlers, particularly those made from bamboo because they are greener and more durable.

Bamboo Food, Drinks, and Homeopathic Medicines

If you like your Chinese food, you know that bamboo shoots are a staple part of many stir fry dishes, but this versatile plant is also used in the beer-making process and, particularly, for medicinal purposes in China. One region close by that has embraced bamboo beer in Mexico, where a young entrepreneur, Mauricio Mora Tello, has gone into the brewing business and spent some time in China learning all aspects of the farming side.

According to Science Daily:

“The preparation requires 15 days, is carried out in stainless steel tanks and the process avoids filtering the beverage so it has more texture and retains its natural ingredients. The result is a brown Ale beer (highly fermented), refreshing, spicy, fruity, and herbal final flavor, with six degrees of alcohol and thick foam.”

Bamboo has been used by Chinese herbal doctors to cure things like colds, skin conditions, and other illnesses for thousands of years and has been taken up by homeopathic practitioners in the western world in recent years.

And if you fancy an alternative to coffee, then perhaps a bamboo leaf tea is just the thing to pick you up.

Possibly one of the most versatile materials globally, bamboo has some very desirable properties that fit nicely with our increasing desire to live greener lives. It is easy to grow in places where the soil cannot be used for anything else, simple to manufacture for different uses, and cheap material for making numerous products from flooring and roof beams to car dashboards and refreshing beer.

No part of the bamboo grass goes to waste, and it should be helping us all to live in more sustainable ways for many years to come.

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