For centuries bamboo has played an indispensable role in the daily life of millions of people around the world. Recently it has gained an increasing importance worldwide as a substitution for timber and for a wide range of other innovative products and potentials.
Bamboo is a vital resource for mankind. Its wide distribution throughout the world overlaps with billions of people, animals, and invertebrates who depend on it as a daily essential. With thousands of uses, as food, clothing, paper, fiber, shelter, and inspiration, bamboo has traditionally contributed to the multiple physical requirements and spiritual needs of mankind. No other plant has such myriad of uses; bamboo can be transformed into hundreds of products, such as shoots for food, poles for agriculture and structures, panels and composite materials for houses and buildings, versatile household products (furniture, kitchen utensils, etc), vehicles for transportation (such as boats, bicycles, skateboards, and even ultra-light airplanes), pulp and paper, fiber for textiles, medicinal and biochemical products (including bio-plastics and biofuels), charcoal for cooking and heating, and so much more.
Bamboo serves the needs in the daily life of more than 1 billion people, as no other plant on Earth. The global revenue from bamboo-related sales is currently estimated at $60 billion, and it is growing!
Bamboo represents a unique group within the grass family with jointed stems. Some of the giant bamboos are the fastest-growing and most versatile plants on Earth. Shoots develop into stems (called culms) from an underground root system, the rhizome. During the growing season, they emerge and expand within 2-3 months, reaching their final height in the very same growing season, some reaching 100 feet. There is no other plant on Earth with such a daily growth rate.
Bamboo is a self-regenerating raw material with a continuous production of new shoots. It does not die when it is cut down; it replenishes itself.
Ordinary trees have to be cultivated from seedlings and need to grow for several decades to produce timber. The trees are cut and then new trees have to be planted again as seedlings to create a new forest. Bamboo grows into a forest by reproducing itself and continuously provides timber. It is a surprising resource for the future; one that contributes to global economic growth as a green alternative to traditional timber
The recent trend in ‘branding’ bamboo as a green material is based on the belief that bamboo holds the promise of a sustainable, cost effective, and ecologically benign alternative to the widespread clear-cutting of old growth forests and dwindling timber resources. Because of the merits of bamboo growing fast and its subsequent regrowth after cutting, it is indeed a renewable resource. And much like a giant lung, living forests breathe. It has been estimated that bamboo’s leafy canopy possibly releases 25 percent more oxygen than a comparable cluster of hardwood trees, especially since the bamboo re-grows and reproduces a canopy many times in its lifespan. In the renewing process, the bamboo plant grabs carbon dioxide from the air and holds it within its culm (stem) and root system where, in nature, it is not released until the soil in which the plant decomposes is cultivated. It is becoming generally accepted that one major cause of climate change is the rising levels of gasses in the earth’s atmosphere, primarily serious is that of rising levels of carbon dioxide. Products made from bamboo take that carbon out of circulation. Bamboo products which are sustainably harvested and properly manufactured can last for many generations, keeping carbon locked up over the life of the products and helping to offset carbon usage that occurs in the product shipping distances to the end-market.
Industrial bamboo products derived using best-practice technology, (even when used in the United States) can be labeled “CO2 neutral or better”. The high annual yield of bamboo, in combination with its durable root structure which enables growth in difficult habitats such as marginal lands and eroded slopes, is one of the most promising solutions in the required shift towards renewable materials.
Due to its amazing mechanical properties (hardness, dimensional stability, etc. ) and appealing looks, industrial bamboo products compete with A-quality hardwoods. In terms of annual yield as well as eco-costs and carbon footprint, industrial bamboo products score well compared to FSC hardwood.
Bamboo is better because it is an eco-friendly, highly renewable resource.
Sustainably managed bamboo plantations can stimulate social and economic development, and serve important ecological and biological functions to improve Planet Earth.