Getting Green With Bamboo

by : Alan Olson

What is all this fuss about being green? If your social conscience is pricking and you want to feel virtuously green, have you thought of utilizing bamboo? You can build a shed with it, eat it, sleep in it, walk on it, wear it, or grow it as a tree or bush to make more oxygen for the planet! Now that is being green!

Bamboo is so fast growing it could be the most 'sustainable' and natural commodity on the planet! On the question of it being replaceable, well some bamboos can grow as much as one meter in one day which is 1.5-2.0 inches per hour (under special accelerated conditions).

Even under natural growth conditions, a large full-sized bamboo tree could grow in six years, as opposed to sixty years for an average North American tree. This is a very high yield; in fact bamboo has been labeled the fastest growing renewable resource on the planet.

With all this growth, bamboo can be exploited without guilt, but in the West we have not, so far, found many uses for bamboo. All this is changing with the onset of the green outlook; in Asia, bamboo has been used for almost everything.

For centuries, Asians have used bamboo to make houses, to form single span bridges and to build scaffolding for high rise buildings; they have been making hard wood-effect floors with it, making towels and sheets with it, eating from it and even eating it (bamboo shoots). How versatile is that?

Strangely, to date, we do not seem to revere it so much over in the West. It has traditionally been used in North America for outdoor furniture, outdoor fencing, musical instruments and baskets. Recently we have seen fabric made from bamboo and with the call for sustainable living getting louder, bamboo is proving to be a 'must-have' commodity in North America.

If you are having a new home built and want to subscribe to the sustainable living ideals, there are many bamboo products that you can order from your builder. For instance, bamboo flooring, furniture, drapes, mats and food containers are all available in USA.

Bamboo flooring appears just as if it is a hardwood floor. Like wood, it can be used in the bathroom as it is suitable for radiant heat floors. According to the National Hardwood Flooring Association bamboo flooring is 10% harder than red oak hardwood flooring. It usually has a tongued and grooved finish which produces a smooth sheen to the floor.

Another use of bamboo that is gaining more popularity is as its use for fabrics for drapes and clothes. It is a breathable fabric and is very soft. For clothes, bamboo can take up to four times more moisture absorption than cotton, although this is not useful for drapes. Sheers in bamboo can be bought, they are available in several shades and have a soft look and feel that is unique to bamboo.

Bamboo can be bought and raised successfully in North America, even in most climates of the west coast, including the damp ones, (hello Seattle!)

You can mail order or email order from photos illustrated on the web site of a bamboo nursery in Chilliwack B.C. This company offers delivery and they quote actual temperatures that their plants can withstand. Some of the temperatures that Japanese bamboo can live through are well down in the sub-zeros .If you want to buy some fast growing trees for your yard, bamboo would be a good choice.

Bamboos start from tiny house plants to bushes in one gallon tubs and on up to seven gallon tubs. Bamboos would be a great tree to choose for a new home, or for a newly landscaped garden, as they can grow to full size within 6 years, unlike most of the trees of the North West which take ten times longer.

Some trees can be bought which sport the massive bamboo stems that we associate with the look of bamboo, and some just bush out voluminously almost hiding all their branches. You can choose from brown, green or golden stems and leaves come in green or variegated colors including yellow, orange, green and white or thinly striped.