From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine
Dear EarthTalk: I’ve noticed that bamboo is very trendy right now, apparently—in part—for environmental reasons. Can you enlighten? — Eric M., via e-mail
Bamboo has a long history of economic and cultural significance, primarily in East Asia and South East Asia where it has been used for centuries for everything from building material to food to medicine. There are some 1,000 different species of bamboo growing in very diverse climates throughout the world, including the southeastern United States.
Bamboo’s environmental benefits arise largely out of its ability to grow quickly—in some cases three to four feet per day—without the need for fertilizers, pesticides or much water. Bamboo also spreads easily with little or no care. In addition, a bamboo grove releases some 35 percent more oxygen into the air than a similar-sized stand of trees, and it matures (and can be replanted) within seven years (compared to 30-50 years for a stand of trees), helping to improve soil conditions and prevent erosion along the way. Bamboo is so fast-growing that it can yield 20 times more timber than trees on the same area.
Today, heightened consumer environmental awareness has given sales of bamboo flooring, clothing, building materials and other items a huge boost.