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. Using bamboo for privacy in your yard can have advantages and disadvantages so do your research before you start.
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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.
Bamboo flooring advantages:
When it comes to the pros and cons of bamboo flooring, there is a bit of a controversy around this topic. While there are definite advantages of bamboo floors, you should weigh both sides of the argument before making your decision. Here are a few advantages to bamboo flooring:
- If harvested and processed correctly, it is extremely hard and durable, even with the occasional water spill.
- It is extremely fast-growing compared to hardwood trees and therefore 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:
You are probably comparing bamboo flooring vs hardwood for your home renovation project. While bamboo floors certainly have their benefits, there are a few bamboo disadvantages that should not be ignored.
While it is a popular product in home renovations, there are a few disadvantages of bamboo as a building material.
- 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. Research the bamboo construction methods used for your specific product before purchasing it.
- Cost is high for bamboo floors due to high demand.
Bamboo Clothing, Towels, etc.
Bamboo can be made into fabric and used for clothing, towels, etc. Clothing made from bamboo may be a great choice if you are concerned about the sustainability of your closet. Before you buy bamboo t-shirts, make sure to consider these key factors:
Advantages of bamboo fabric
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 odor-free. This is great for workout clothes!
- 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 that use less water than conventional dyeing methods.
Disadvantages of bamboo fabric:
Of course, for every advantage, there is a disadvantage, right? While there are many advantages of bamboo fabric, you need to give careful consideration to how you are wearing it and how you plan on caring for it.
- Although it is suggested that bamboo has natural antibacterial properties, because it is so absorbent the fibers absorb a lot 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.
Bamboo Kitchen Items:
Bamboo is commonly used for bowls, cutting boards, etc. You find bamboo for sale 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.
Advantages of bamboo in the kitchen:
If you have a foodie in your life, bamboo kitchen items are a great sustainable gift idea for them.
- Safer than plastic, does not contain harsh chemicals or dyes
- Won’t break, even if dropped..unlike ceramic or glass
- Has natural antibiotic properties
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.
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.
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!
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. 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.
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?
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire and has worked 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 and freelance writing to share this knowledge with others. Learn more about her HERE.