Bamboo flooring is NOT green

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Time and again writers and makers try to have the consumer, that is you and me, believe that bamboo flooring is green, environmentally-friendly and sustainable. But this is NOT the case at all.

In the book Green From the Ground Up by David Johnston and Scott Gibson (Taunton Press, 2008) the authors state with regards to Bamboo Floors the following:

“Bamboo is a rapidly renewable resource, making it a sustainable flooring option and also a durable flooring material. Bamboo matures in 3 to 5 years, versus the 40 to 60 years that oak or cherry need to mature to flooring quality. Bamboo flooring comes in two grain patterns—flat sawn or vertical grain—and typically with either a blond or caramelized finish.

There are a few caveats. Of the thousand or so varieties of bamboo, only a few are appropriate for flooring. Of those few, some are better than others in dry climates. When inappropriate species are cut and milled into bamboo flooring, it can result in cupping, shrinking or delaminating. The old adage “you get what you pay for” really applies to bamboo these days. When you see newspaper ads for cheap bamboo flooring, run the other way. Go with a company like Plyboo or Timbergrass, a supplier that has been in the business for over a decade and offers high-quality bamboo and eco-friendly flooring.”

Nice advertising also, wouldn't you say… in a book.

The problem is that this is all bull dust, as out Australian cousins would say, and a repetition of what the bamboo industry is trying to make us all believe.

Bamboo grows round and is hollow and we must not forget that and the fact that it is, really, but a giant grass. Because of the hollow nature it is not possible to make “large” flat planks, as with wood, whether hardwood or pine.

A great amount of energy is required to turn bamboo into “planks” and most of bamboo flooring is, in actual fact, a laminate product which is not better than wood laminate and thus definitely not green and environmentally friendly.

Want some real green floor then go for sustainably harvested wood, whether pine or hardwood, such as beech or oak, or, and now I know you are going to laugh, dirt floor, painted, as the old homes often were.

Bamboo flooring, as I have indicated, requires lots of energy to produce and, while it is true that bamboo grows very fast and renews itself much, much quicker as does wood, wood is the better and more environmentally-friendly option. And I am not just saying that because I am a professional forester. I am saying that because it is the truth.

In addition to that it has been found on many occasions that wood floors are a lot tougher than bamboo floors and while bamboo, in its original state, is very hard and hard wearing it changes when it is being made into flooring, cutting- and chopping boards and such. My beech wood cutting boards take more abuse than the bamboo ones I had to test do and did.

Bamboo does have its place in the way it has, as I have said before, in the countries were it is being grown, for centuries and millennia, and is, in that way very green indeed. But in a heavily processed form as with flooring, chopping- and cutting boards, etc., it changes in that regards and no longer is the environmentally-friendly products it may be perceived and advertised as.

In addition to that consider the carbon footprint, aside from the manufacturing process of shaping, gluing and laminating, etc.,, of transportation to the USA, the UK, and other far flung places from the countries of origin.

Let's get stuff made at home... that's being green and sustainable. And to get our way in this we must demand “Made in Britain” or “Made in USA” or “Made in Germany”, etc. and let manufacturers know that we no longer want “Made in China”.

© 2011