Even though bamboo was first used in China around 118 B.C. and pandas have been eating it forever, it sort of became sexy with Colombian architect Simón Vélez at the turn of this century. Simón stated that bamboo was better than steel, and his style of building shook the world of architecture. This tremor was felt around the planet and finally people looked to the ancient grass for sustainable solutions.
Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’ was first written on bamboo writing slips.
You may have noticed that my LAHE botanicals uses bamboo lids. This wasn’t an accident but a clear sustainable choice.
Like wood, bamboo is a renewable source with a huge difference. Depending on the species, bamboo can be harvested every five years whereas hardwoods take up to forty years. With millions of acres of forest lost every year, bamboo is the sustainable choice.
The Institute of Ethics and Emerging Technologies state that an acre of bamboo may absorbs up to 33% more carbon dioxide and releases 35% more oxygen than hardwood trees. Now this doesn’t mean hardwood trees aren’t important as old trees stabilise soil and microbiology. It means we have an amazing potential to decrease our carbon foot prints.
Many of us have seen the horrible images of forests being cut and burnt. Usually erosion will occur and nutrients will be washed away, making it difficult for reforestation. When bamboo is harvested, roots remain in the soil, securing the soil during the rainy seasons. Hard wood forests should be left for future generations.
When Bamboo is harvested, virtually every bit of the plant is used.
- Chopsticks: 24 billion pairs of chopsticks are used each year. Greenpeace China has estimated that to keep up with this demand, 100 acres of trees needs to be felled every 24 hours. Bring your own chopsticks movement is encouraging to take your own chopsticks to restaurants and only use bamboo.
- Wood: Bamboo can replace the use of wood for nearly every application. Amazing architecture is popping up all over the world and using bamboo for “pull down” festivals is becoming the norm.
Cutlery: With over 6 million tons of nondurable plastics like spoons, knives and plates being thrown away every year, bamboo makes a sensible option. You can now purchase bamboo plates, knives and forks easily on the market. In the right conditions, they only take 6 months to compost, so you make soil as well! You can also find bamboo straws on the market that are way too beautiful to throw away.
- Clothing: Bamboo clothing is becoming more and more popular. Cotton clothing uses lots of pesticides and herbicides. On a super positive note, no fertilizer, pesticides, or herbicides are needed for bamboo to grow. More and more women are turning to bamboo underwear as well.
Bamboo shoots are delicious to eat and have been on the menu for centuries in Asia. There is a reason pandas are so strong. Bamboo shoots contain potassium, which is important for a healthy heart and to maintain normal blood pressure. Bamboo shoots have also been said to balance cholesterol, boost the immune system and provide anti-inflammatory properties.
You can buy fresh bamboo shoots from Asian supermarkets. There are several ways to eat bamboo. Fresh can be a little bitter, so I eat it either pickled or in a stir fry.
- Peel then boil fresh bamboo shoots for approximately 20 minutes.
- Chop the bamboo shoots and stir fry with garlic, ginger, chilli, lemongrass and kaffir leaves. Top it off with fresh coriander leaf. Serve it with rice.
If you are now convinced that you want to plant bamboo, do your research first. There are two patterning types of bamboo, clumping and running. Clumping tends to grow slowly and is controllable. Running, is as it says, runs and is really hard to catch up with.
Find the right bamboo for the right job. If you are wanting it for furniture, food, flooring, building materials or live in tropical or arid regions, there is the right bamboo for you.