25 November 2007

How eco friendly is bamboo?

Bamboo flooring is being touted and the sustainable savior of the timber floor. It is fast growing, it takes around 5 years to be ready to harvest, and uses less energy to harvest than traditional forms of timber.

"C'mon everyone, here is the guilt free timber floor of the future" cries the marketing for bamboo flooring. However, do your homework before you buy.

As fast growing as bamboo may be, there are a lot of question marks over the remainder of it's green credentials.
  • most bamboo comes from China so it has to be shipped into the country
  • currently no bamboo on the market comes with any third part certification of the sustainability of their forestry and harvesting practices
  • because bamboo is an engineered product, most of them use formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) adhesives to glue the bamboo together
  • bleaching is necessary to provide the uniform appearance that most bamboo has
  • the working conditions of the bamboo producers employees is generally unknown, as is their exposure to these dangerous substances.
In many instances it is more sustainable to use a locally recycled timber floor or virgin timber from a certified sustainably managed forest.

We are not saying "don't use bamboo", our advice is to do your homework. Ask the hard questions before you get pressured by the marketing hype. What adhesives are used to manufacture the product? is it bleached during manufacturing? what can you tell me about the forestry practices of the producer?

If you are informed, you will get the best product.


Kirsten said...

While I appreciate your questions about the marketing hype surrounding bamboo, as I have asked most of them myself, I urge everyone to consider the impact of supply and demand on industry in general. Without it, the industry cannot grow. As consumers choose to purchase bamboo, the industry will grow and socially and environmentally conscious consumers will demand transparency, thereby demanding the potential benefits of this resource be realized and forcing the industry to make its production and transfer greener. One of the best things about bamboo is its ability to thrive all over the world. I expect that once most consumers want bamboo for building materials, paper and textiles, American farmers will seize the opportunity to capitalize on its demand and grow it themselves. Until then, trend-setters may have to buy in to this seemingly shady industry before demanding reform.

Darryn Parkinson & Sharon Hamilton said...

We agree with your comments Kirsten. I guess our attitude is that those that are actually making a real effort are the ones who deserve to be supported.

Some manufacturers are using water based adhesives and minimal bleaching. These are the ones to give support to.

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