Sustainable Journey of Bamboo

From Forest to Furniture: The Sustainable Journey of Bamboo

17 Mar 2023

With our growing awareness of the harmful environmental effects of the excessive use of wood, and the alarming rates of deforestation and forest degradation worldwide, it has become obvious that there is a need for a more sustainable alternative to wood. Forests are the lungs of our planet, producing oxygen and reducing the effects of climate change and pollution by absorbing harmful greenhouse gases. They are home to 80% of our planet’s land-based species and massively contribute to biodiversity. Obviously, preserving forests is an important task, and this is where bamboo might come to the rescue. Although the utilization of bamboo has a long history dating back to ancient China, its popularity has grown over the last few decades in the western part of the world as well, and rightly so. Since it is such a versatile plant, it can be used for manufacturing all kinds of goods, from food, medicine, construction materials, to cutlery, toothbrushes, straws, toilet paper and furniture. So, let’s go on a little journey and find out some interesting facts about this great plant.

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History of bamboo

Sometimes referred to as the ’Bamboo Kingdom’, since it is the leading producer of bamboo, China has had a long history of its utilization, which, according to some archaeological evidence goes as far back as 7000 years ago. Researchers have found that Chinese people used it for the construction of tree houses 5000 years ago, and it later played an important role in the construction industry. During the Shang Dynasty (between the 16th and 11th century B.C.), bamboo was used for making bows and arrows, and during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to 221) it was used to make paper and books. There were numerous other items made from this plant, such as shoes, hats, clothing, bedding and other fabrics, scaffolding, tiles, rafts and musical instruments. It was also used in Chinese cuisine and medicine, and still is to the present day.

Bamboo Scaffolding

In modern times, bamboo has definitely gone global and it has weaved itself into our everyday lives. There are now thousands of different bamboo products and it seems that their number keeps growing due to new innovative ideas for its use and application.

Where does bamboo grow?

There are more than 1,200 species of bamboo and they are mostly found in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate climates. A cute panda munching on bamboo leaves somewhere in China is probably the first association that comes to mind when thinking about this plant. This country is indeed the largest producer of bamboo in the world, but it is also grown in other parts of Asia, as well as in some parts of Australia, Africa, South America and the United States, and can basically thrive almost anywhere on the planet. Europe and Antarctica are the only continents that don’t have any endemic species due to the fact that bamboo requires a lot of rain and sunshine and is not a big fan of cold weather. Knowing this, it might come as a bit of a surprise that there are now five countries in Europe which grow bamboo - Portugal, Italy, France, Belgium and Scotland.

Panda Eating Bamboo Leaves

What makes bamboo sustainable?

Bamboo holds a Guinness World Record as the fastest growing plant on Earth and some species can grow up to almost 1 meter a day. Knowing that most hardwood varieties take decades to grow to their maximum height before they can be cut down, this makes it a great alternative to wood. Although its properties are similar to timber, bamboo is actually a member of the grass family. This means it does not need to be replanted after being harvested, since it will sprout on its own year after year, and no deforestation will occur.

Another thing that makes bamboo a great sustainable resource is the fact that it can grow even in poor or degraded soils. It requires no pesticides or fertilisers to grow and it needs much less water than trees. Compared to trees, bamboo can actually absorb up to 10 times more CO2 and produce around 35% more oxygen than the same area of trees.

Bamboo can also prevent land erosion and flooding. Its dense network of roots slows the flow of water during monsoon seasons and protects the soil and crops in the surrounding area from being washed out. It also has the ability to absorb and filter excess nutrients that end up in soil from various sources, thus minimizing their harmful impact.

Bamboo is abnormally flame resistant and planting it in regions where wildfires commonly occur can help save the surrounding flora.

When talking about sustainability, apart from the environmental, it is worth mentioning the economic and social aspects as well. Due to its many applications in various industries, farming bamboo and manufacturing goods made from it can lead to income increase and gender equality in areas where they are often most needed. Since it is so lightweight, women can participate in making various bamboo products which can be a significant source of income, empowering them further to take part in political and economic life.

Bamboo furniture

As already mentioned, apart from small, everyday household items, bamboo has also found its use in house construction, flooring, decking and furniture. It can be used to make coffee tables, sofas, bed frames, shelves, nightstands, benches, chairs and other pieces of furniture. The process of turning bamboo into furniture is relatively simple- the stalks are cut into longitudinal sections which are then glued together to construct the desired shape. It might seem gentle and delicate, but in fact bamboo is a very strong and durable material. It has great density and stiffness, as well as compressive and bending strength and it can withstand high stress. It is stronger and more durable than most other popular woods used in the furniture industry.

Bamboo Furniture

In terms of tensile strength, it is actually stronger than steel. In addition, it is more scratch-resistant and less prone to swelling than most hardwoods. It is lightweight and resistant to moisture and insects, which makes it a great material for outdoor furniture. When it comes to aesthetics, bamboo furniture often provides that rustic, breezy, tropical island look, which makes you feel relaxed and more connected to nature.

Keeping it sustainable

On its own, bamboo is truly a super plant, versatile, renewable, highly self-sufficient and sustainable, and it should be our job both as companies and consumers to keep it that way. Manufacturing processes involve many steps from material harvesting to delivering the final product, and it is important not to overlook any of them. There are many questions that should be asked (and answered) before determining if a product is really sustainable. When it comes to bamboo, we first need to make sure that it is responsibly grown and legally harvested. The distance between the plantation and the manufacturing plant also needs to be considered, as transportation of raw materials leaves a carbon footprint and contributes to global warming.

The next question we should ask is how much processing the product needs and if it requires the use of harmful chemicals. Since most bamboo comes from China, shipping it to other parts of the world, and thus leaving a carbon footprint is unavoidable. However, a company can offset its carbon footprint by funding an equivalent carbon dioxide reduction elsewhere. Finally, let’s not forget the product packaging, which, if possible, should be made of plastic-free, sustainable materials which can later be recycled or composted.

Carbon Footprint Concept

Our own efforts

Agood company does not take sustainability lightly, as some vague, ’greenwashing’ term. We make serious efforts to keep our products as sustainable as possible. For example, the type of bamboo we use to make agood company toilet paper, Moso Bamboo, has been grown in Guizhou, China for thousands of years as part of the main flora and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which not only guarantees that the bamboo is sourced sustainably, but also supports the core values of the International Labour Organisation which sets labour standards and promotes decent work for all women and men. The production process of our bamboo toilet paper is clean and does not require the use of harsh chemicals that are harmful to the environment, and all our shipping is climate compensated.

Our bamboo toothbrushes also require very little processing, and when they have served its purpose, the handles can be safely composted, thus protecting not only your mouth, but nature as well. We believe in giving back both to our Mother Nature and to the community, and this is why we partner with and donate part of our profit to various charity organisations around the world, depending on the product you buy. For example, for each toothbrush bought, we donate one toothbrush to the charity Global First Responder which provides dental products to those in need. So far, we have donated 1,500 toothbrushes to the people of Senegal who don’t have access to essential dental products and oral healthcare.

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Marijana Nestorovic

Marijana Nestorovic

SEO Copywriter / Content writer

An English teacher and a blogger. When not teaching or writing, you can find her traveling, dancing, or spending time with people she loves.

"I care deeply about the future of our planet, and I believe that every small step counts when it comes to making a difference towards a healthier and happier world."

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