As a 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 households in the USA but 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 it’s use in roads and bridges should be proof 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 the weight of a 16 tonne truck.
Housing and Furniture from Bamboo
You might be surprised to find that over a billion homes across the world are actually made almost entirely from bamboo. It makes sense because this hard wearing material is easy to grow and just a small area of farmland can be used to provide materials for thousands of homes particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.
Bamboo is versatile enough to made not just into 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 much 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 card 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.
The use of this kind of manufacturing process is hopefully going to take the pressure off the wood forests that take so long to replace once they have been harvested. It’s not just being 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.
Increasingly bamboo is being used in the textile industry to produce clothes, towels, sheets, mattresses and the odd bullet proof vest. In ancient times strips of bamboo were used for clothing such as hats and shoes and later were often found in the boning of corsets. 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 that are used nowadays 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? There are certainly plenty of things you can find 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 then 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 in China, for medicinal purposes. One region close by that has embraced bamboo beer is 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 of things.
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 a 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 in the world, 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 is a cheap material for making numerous products from flooring and roof beams, to car dashboards and refreshing beer.
There is no part of the bamboo grass that goes to waste and it should be helping us all to live in more sustainable ways for many years to come.