What do fly-fishing rods, garden trellises, and kitchen flooring have in common? All can be made from bamboo. This strong, woody plant grows rapidly, releases large amounts of oxygen, and can help preserve timber resources, making it a wildly popular material. But is bamboo as ecofriendly as it seems?

PROS

  • Bamboo can be harvested in three to five years versus ten to 50 years for most soft and hard woods. Due to rapid growth, the yearly bamboo yield is 25 times higher than that of traditional timber.
  • Village communities can easily grow bamboo. An approximately 21/2-acre plantation produces enough to build several houses, thus creating jobs.
  • Bamboo removes 12 tons of carbon dioxide from the air per hectare (about 2 1/2 acres) and produces 35 percent more oxygen than an equal-size stand of trees.
  • Planting bamboo reduces rain runoff, prevents soil erosion, and retains twice as much water in the watershed. Bamboo's high nitrogen consumption helps alleviate water pollution.

CONS

  • Few North American companies grow bamboo for building use. Shipping from across the globe requires fossil fuels.
  • Bamboo habitats in Asia, South America, and the Caribbean contain vast biological diversity; increased bamboo harvesting may harm these ecosystems.
  • Some bamboo flooring and plywood manufacturers use potentially toxic chemicals to preserve and process the material. If you do go with bamboo, choose a manufacturer that meets the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards for quality and environmental control.


What do fly-fishing rods, garden trellises, and kitchen flooring have in common? All can be made from bamboo. This strong, woody plant grows rapidly, releases large amounts of oxygen, and can help preserve timber resources, making it a wildly popular material. But is bamboo as ecofriendly as it seems?

PROS

  • Bamboo can be harvested in three to five years versus ten to 50 years for most soft and hard woods. Due to rapid growth, the yearly bamboo yield is 25 times higher than that of traditional timber.
  • Village communities can easily grow bamboo. An approximately 21/2-acre plantation produces enough to build several houses, thus creating jobs.
  • Bamboo removes 12 tons of carbon dioxide from the air per hectare (about 2 1/2 acres) and produces 35 percent more oxygen than an equal-size stand of trees.
  • Planting bamboo reduces rain runoff, prevents soil erosion, and retains twice as much water in the watershed. Bamboo's high nitrogen consumption helps alleviate water pollution.

CONS

  • Few North American companies grow bamboo for building use. Shipping from across the globe requires fossil fuels.
  • Bamboo habitats in Asia, South America, and the Caribbean contain vast biological diversity; increased bamboo harvesting may harm these ecosystems.
  • Some bamboo flooring and plywood manufacturers use potentially toxic chemicals to preserve and process the material. If you do go with bamboo, choose a manufacturer that meets the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards for quality and environmental control.