When you think of bamboo, you probably picture a bucolic panda munching away until he has turned a six-foot bo staff into mulch. Or you imagine nimble Asian girls sprinting and bounding across a gently waving forest (as depicted in epic fairy tales like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). You may even be aware of the fact that bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet, and as such, it has become an eco-friendly rival to hardwoods (it can grow to full height in as little as three years, drastically reducing deforestation in many areas). It is also extremely hearty, can survive with little water, will grow in substandard soil, and doesn’t require pesticides or fertilizer to thrive, making it an even greener choice for those with a strong environmental consciousness. But what you probably are not aware of is just how many uses bamboo offers for modern living. Here are a few ways in which bamboo can become your best green resource.
- Flooring (and other household woods). Bamboo has recently become extremely popular as an alternative to hardwood floors. It is not only vastly more renewable and sustainable, it also costs less and comes in a variety of color choices, so you’re sure to find an option that works for any house. It is also great for cabinetry and furniture throughout your home.
- Accessories. Virtually any item in your home that is made of wood (or even some products that aren’t) can be swapped out for bamboo. You can replace baskets and birdcages (or other animal crates), plates and utensils, umbrellas, toothpicks, tools, and even your children’s toys with bamboo versions. Think about that the next time you curse over a broken plate or glass.
- Clothing. Bamboo fibers can be used to make anything that requires cloth (from clothing to diapers to bed linens) and it is a lot softer than you think (probably on par with high-thread-count cotton). Luckily, with the call for eco-chic on the rise, you can find some pretty fashionable duds made from bamboo. And if you shop around, you’ll find that just like everything else fashion-related, the price range varies.
- Paper. This will almost certainly cost you more than paper made from wood pulp, but think about this: if you’ve ever seen a paper mill, you know how much pollution is spewed into the air from their giant smokestacks (and let’s not even get into deforestation). Manufacturers of bamboo paper have an eye on the environment. Smock Paper, one company that produces bamboo stationery, uses wind power and low-VOC inks, recycles everything from ink cartridges to scrap paper, packages their products in 100% PCW wrapping, and plants trees to “zero out” their carbon footprint. That’s the quality you’re paying for, so maybe it’s worth a few extra pennies (plus, their merchandise is gorgeous).
- Food. That’s right; this wonder-plant can also be used to feed the masses. You’ll often find bamboo shoots listed as an ingredient in Asian cooking, but they’re also great to throw in a salad. Bamboo is an excellent source of dietary fiber, protein, and zinc (as well as some other vitamins), but if you buy it canned, be sure to look for low-sodium.