Green tip for week #24 — Week of October 12, 2008

Incorporate Bamboo products in your purchases

This week’s simple green tip is one that is functional, fun, and environmentally responsible — using bamboo products in place of other less sustainable alternatives.

Many of you are already familiar with the characteristics of bamboo that make it desirable and make bamboo a terrific “green” material. It grows quickly; it is a grass, rather than a tree (it is easy to grow, easy to harvest, and more); it is a strong and dense material (making it great for building material, flooring, cutting boards, etc.); it has a short growth cycle (often harvested in 3-5 year cycles instead of 10 to 20 that is typical of many trees). Some varieties of bamboo can grow up to a meter per day, and since bamboo is a form of grass, it can be harvested without having to remove and replace the whole plant (unlike what happens when trees are harvested).

Fortunately, bamboo is no longer an “exotic” material that is difficult to find in everyday goods. It can now be easily acquired for flooring, for cutting boards, for utensils, and even for textile goods like bamboo sheets or clothing (bamboo sheets happen to be far more comfortable and luxurious than you would suspect!). Bamboo makes a great material for clothing and textiles because of its easy growth and harvesting, sustainability, and the fact that it is light, soft (when made into clothing), and has moisture wicking characteristics that make it ideal for clothing, particularly when blended with other natural materials such as wool.

Bamboo has become increasingly popular for homes, as it adds a novelty factor, and has incredibly practical characteristics, beyond all the environmental benefits. Bamboo flooring can look terrific, and it offers a dense, non-porous, hard surface that can be ideal in a bathroom or kitchen. If you are not ready to replace your floor, simple bamboo products such as cutting boards, cooking utensils, bowls, plates and dishes can add something new to your home environment with less environmental cost to the world around us than other materials often used for the same goods.

Next time you are in the market for something made of wood, or even for clothing, consider whether there are good alternatives made from bamboo! Remember that green living and environmental responsibility is not an “all or nothing approach”. Even small steps make a big impact if everyone takes them. Do your part to help keep our environment in good condition for future generations!

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