The Great Bamboo Con

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Green consumers are being conned all over the pace with the claim that bamboo is a very eco-friendly material, especially in the form of flooring, plywood and such for the building trade, or as a fabric.

Nothing could, in fact, be further from the truth.

However, “eco-stores” and green media keep harping on and on about the supposed eco-friendliness and the sustainability of this fast growing grass that can be used, in some ways, like hardwood.

While bamboo is fine when it is used as it always has been in the countries where it grows, for containers and whatever else, made by hand without any real “additives”, when it is being made flooring to – supposedly – be as good as real hardwood flooring and more environmentally sound then greenwash hits.

Bamboo does not come in planks. It is a hollow grass, though rather hard. Thus it has to be turned into sheets and this takes a great deal of energy and also chemicals.

In other words, bamboo flooring is nothing more than laminate flooring, using bamboo rather than sheets of hardwood. Where is the green factor here? There is none. It is as bad for the environment as is wood laminate, period.

Bamboo plywood is recently also being praised as being an environmentally friendly product for the building industry. Since when is any plywood, whether from FSC certified wood or bamboo, environmentally friendly? The glues and resins used certainly are not.

Now we come to bamboo clothing. To make a fiber from bamboo that can be spun and woven it must be created and that is done in the same way as viscose made from wood and used for Rayon. Anyone thinking green product might like to check out how viscose is produced. It should be a real eyeopener.

When it comes to items of tableware and kitchen stuff made from bamboo then those could be seen as green as long as they are made as they have been for centuries in the country where bamboo grows and has been used traditionally to make all manner of things.

Bamboo chopsticks certainly fall under sustainability, as do other traditional products but anything that is created using machinery, glues, resins, and other processes, the story changes.

All in all the greenwash of bamboo is a rather serious issue in the green field that we must conquer and the record must be set straight.

Unfortunately this does not tally with the ringing of the cash registers and producers and merchants vehemently reject any of the factors that we keep raising as to bamboo being not as green and sustainable a product as they claim.

It is all very much the same as with the “Eco-Button”; but you all know the story by now, I guess.

There is so much greenwash about that all I can suggest here, aside from exposing it, that the buyer beware.

© 2010