The Great Bamboo Controversy

Bamboo has been lauded as one of the best green products around town. Is it really, though? There has been some controversy.

Consumers have been running around, looking for ways to make their homes greener and bamboo flooring and textile has been a way to attempt to accomplish these eco goals.

I made a pro and con list from some research I’ve done about bamboo, it’s processing and it’s effects on the environment.

The ‘con’ side of bamboo includes soil depletion, a lack of biodiversity where it is grown and it’s exportation costs. Many companies use urea to finish bamboo flooring, a chemical that is a type of formaldehyde that is a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC). Farmers that were profiting from increased bamboo production are now trying to keep up with larger producers and have resorted to using pesticides and fertilizers that seep into the water. Bamboo doesn’t really need these things unless you’re trying to mass produce the product for a larger profit.

The ‘pro’ side argues that bamboo depletes the soil less than trees and in fact, produces more oxygen. It has a high yield and is fast growing while controlling soil erosion. Bamboo¬† can be grown alongside other crops, minimizing negative effects on biodiversity. Shipping timber coast to coast in the US uses as much fuel as exporting bamboo from Asia.

So what is a consumer to do? What we’ve always recommended. Do your research! Some textile manufacturers like White Apricot use a ‘closed loop’ process that recycles the harmful chemicals involved in turning bamboo into cloth. They do not let the chemicals reach water. There are companies, like EcoTimber, that do not use urea in the finishing of their floor products. In fact, EcoTimber goes one step further in stating that unless a hardwood floor manufacturer is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), you cannot be sure that you are getting a product that was managed by best practices.

Did you know that bamboo products are easily recycled and are digested in sewage? They break down in waste treatment in 80 days. Cotton and wool are also exported. If you look into it, unless it’s organic cotton, it actually is more harmful than bamboo.

Sure, there are drawbacks to bamboo. But there are drawbacks to any product. You have to stay informed and really look at the product you are buying and the company that produces it. There are no easy answers to staying green and doing the very best that we can. We have to put some effort into it!

Happy cleaning and happy research!

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The Purple Fig is a small Austin-based cleaning business with a socially-conscious, "green" mission. We curate meaningful employee and client experiences based on the concept of linked social and financial responsibility.

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