Pros and Cons of Bamboo for Both You and the Environment

For some reason, bamboo is a common topic of discussion in my house lately.   I thought I would pass on a little information to my readers about the pros and cons of bamboo and whether or not it is as environmentally friendly as everyone thinks!  There are quite a few uses for this amazingly fast growing grass (did you know it is actually a grass?) and I will discuss each one below…(take into consideration, please, that I am NOT a bamboo expert, just passing along information I have found through my own research) If you want to add more bamboo into your life, you can start with small changes like bamboo utensils or something as complicated as bamboo landscaping.  Just make sure you are ready to keep it under control if you plant it!

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 Pros and Cons of Bamboo for Both You and the Environment

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Pros and Cons of Bamboo

 

One of the most common uses for bamboo today is for flooring. Bamboo flooring  is usually a wood type looking product that needs to be installed like a regular wood floor.  However, there are also bamboo rugs available as well for small areas.
 pros and cons of bamboo

Bamboo flooring advantages:

  • If harvested and processes correctly, it is extremely hard and durable, even to the occasional water spill.
  • It is extremely fast growing compared to hardwood trees and therefor more product can be grown in a smaller area. It also requires fewer pesticides and is drought tolerant.
  • Bamboo flooring is easier on the legs…even though extremely hard there is a fair amount of flexibility to it and makes it more comfortable to stand on for long periods of time (like when you are cooking in the kitchen!).
  • Flooring made from bamboo is extremely easy to clean.

Bamboo flooring disadvantages:

  • Bamboo is a hot product now, with everyone wanting to cash in on this great money maker. Research your sources carefully because quality varies greatly! Bamboo that is harvested too young and/or not processed properly will NOT have the same durability as a nice aged and properly treated product.
  • Another big disadvantage (also related to poor treatment processes) is the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can cause headaches and allergies in susceptible individuals.
  • Cost is high for bamboo floor due to high demand.
pros and cons of bamboo

Bamboo Clothing, Towels, etc.

Bamboo can be made into fabric and used for clothing, towels, etc.  The material has the following benefits compared to traditional materials used in fabric manufacturing:
  • Fabric made from bamboo is softer than cotton with a texture similar to silk.
  • It is a naturally antibacterial (although see note under disadvantages!) and hypoallergenic product grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides.
  •  It is also quick to absorb moisture, therefore keeping you dry and odour free.
  • Pure bamboo clothes can dry twice as fast as cotton clothes.
  • Bamboo clothes can be worn all year round as they keep you cool in summer and warm in winter.
  • Bamboo fabric is created from bamboo pulp. The fabric is bleached without the use of chlorine. Bamboo fabric is easy to dye and is done so without the use of harsh chemicals and using methods which use less water than conventional dyeing methods.

Latuza Women's V-neck Sleepwear Short Sleeve Pajama Set L Light GrayReneeC. Women's Natural Bamboo Super Soft Open Front Long Cardigan - Made in USA (X-Large, Coco)Elite Women’s Business Casual Bamboo Socks, Crew Size (5 Pairs, European Product, Charcoal Gray)

Disadvantages of bamboo fabric:

  • Although it is suggested that bamboo has natural antibacterial properties, because it is so absorbent the fibres absorb alot of sweat and can actually encourage microbial growth.
  • Bamboo fibers can also allow UV light to penetrate the cloth and it does not offer great protection from the sun.
  • Cost is a big concern…bamboo is a hot product now and will carry a higher price tag compared to cotton.
Pros and Cons of Bamboo for Both You and the Environment

Bamboo Kitchen Items:

Bamboo is commonly used for bowls, cutting boards, etc. You find bamboo everywhere now and bowls and cutting boards are popular options for a sustainable kitchen. I feel that any natural alternative is probably better than plastic but it isn’t always practical in the kitchen.  If you have a foodie in your life, bamboo kitchen items are a great sustainable gift idea for them.

Advantages:

  • Safer than plastic, does not contain harsh chemicals or dyes
  • Biodegradable
  • Won’t break, even if dropped..unlike ceramic or glass
  • Has natural antibiotic properties
  • Lightweight
  • Attractive

Biggest disadvantage 

The biggest disadvantage of bamboo cutting boards is that you must oil the cutting board regularly or it will stain and warp. Of course, I believe you have to do this for most wood cutting boards. Try my DIY wood butter to increase the life of your bamboo cutting board.
Pros and Cons of Bamboo for Both You and the Environment

Bamboo Landscaping

Bamboo has become popular as a landscaping plant in the last decade or so.  You no longer have to live in China to have bamboo growing in your yard!  You do, however, have to be dedicated to landscape maintenance to keep it under control!  There are many pros and cons of bamboo to consider before planting it in your yard.

Bamboo as an ornamental grass

Here in Georgia, bamboo is a common site growing along the road or in peoples yards. Why is it so popular:
  • Provides a great visual barrier between one house and another or makes a great screen if you live along a busy road.
  • Is perennial and will come back every year
  • Is drought tolerant and requires almost no care to thrive. Important here in the south!
  • Actually provides more oxygen to the environment per square inch than trees or other types of grasses.
  • Extensive root system provides for great erosion control

Disadvantages of Bamboo Landscaping:

 There are several disadvantages of bamboo landscaping that you should be aware of before you plant it.   The biggest disadvantage is probably leaf dropping (although ours is still relatively small so I haven’t noticed much of this). Keep in mind that running varieties can be extremely invasive but can be controlled with root barriers.
 Pros and Cons of Bamboo for Both You and the Environment

Bamboo as FOOD!

Did you know that bamboo is edible? And no, you don’t have to be a panda to enjoy it! Another great reason to plant it in your landscaping…ready made side dish!  Just go out and pick it for free! Here is some information from BambooYa on cooking and nutrition!
Low in fat, calories, and cholesterol, bamboo shoots are high in dietary fiber and a great source of potassium! They’re also a good source of Protein, Riboflavin, Niacin, Iron, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Thiamin, Phosphorus, Zinc, Copper, and Manganese. They also contain certain phytochemicals (plant-derived chemical compounds) such as lignans, which are purported to have anticancer, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, and also phenolic acids, which have mild anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
We cut and peeled ours and parboiled for about 10 minutes then through in a frying pan with a little bit of butter, salt and pepper for another 5 minutes or so. 

Pros and Cons of Bamboo for Both You and the Environment

BIGGEST ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN!

Because bamboo is so popular, some people are plowing down native hardwood forests in order to grow bamboo. This is destroying the native wildlife that grows in those areas since they cannot survive in a bamboo forest! When weighing the pros and cons of bamboo, make sure you are researching sustainably harvested bamboo products.
So, now that you are more familiar with the pros and cons of bamboo, what do you think? Will you be using bamboo in your home, wardrobe or kitchen any time soon?

Do you know any other pros and cons of bamboo you want to share?


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About Diane

Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can't quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke!

Comments

  1. Hey Diane, It is such a nice article, as I was searching for bamboo and its advantages...this is where I ended. I am also looking for other things like, any other trees which grows fast like bamboo and with good co2 absorb ratio?
    • I dont know of anything that is similar to bamboo. You can get clumping (non invasive, none spreading) bamboo if you are worried about it taking over the landscaping.
  2. Beryl Fraser says:
    I very recently bought some lovely Bamboo from rayon sheets. Then I did some research!! Have I made a big mistake. Are my sheets going to throw out outgases and be harmful to my health The sheets were expensive, so I hope I am OK.
  3. I stocked up on bamboo washcloths, towels, and other items for my baby before he was born. They are so super soft and gentle on his skin. After reading this I feel a bit guilty since the last thing I want to do is help to destroy bamboo forests! That said, they washcloths are fantastic and I love them! So gentle!

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