What was used for the filament in Thomas Edison’s first light bulb? It is the same material used to build homes for 1 billion people across the world and is also used for everything from fishing traps to fences, papermaking to food. Here’s a hint: It is the supple darling of eco-friendly decor. If you guessed bamboo—bingo! Read on for more about this engrossing grass and see some of our favorite bamboo gifts including towels, sheets, kitchenware and even a bicycle.
The Wonders of Bamboo
Bamboo is a member of the grass family and is so extensively used across the world that future historians might just designate this era as the Bamboo Age. It is used for beds, mats, flooring, fences, fishing traps, baskets, eating utensils, food containers and food itself (shoots are eaten fresh, dried, pickled and fermented). Bamboo is used for musical instruments, papermaking, furniture making, and as a construction material. What a grass!
Because of bamboo’s incredible, stronger-than-steel tensile strength, it is even used to make simple pontoon bridges and higher tech suspension bridges—bamboo is the material of choice for scaffolding construction throughout Asia, even for scaffolding employed in the construction of skyscrapers in Hong Kong and Tokyo.
A Really Green Grass
Bamboo is a high-yield renewable natural resource. It is the fastest growing woody plant on the planet—some species grow as much as one meter per day. They say you can watch it grow (if one were so inclined). Cutting bamboo does not result in the death of the plant; its extensive root system remains intact, simply sending up new shoots to replace the old ones. And consider this, a 60-foot timber tree takes 60 years to replenish, a 60-foot bamboo takes only 60 days.
Since bamboo doesn’t fall under the guidelines of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), there is no guarantee that planting or working conditions are adequate nor is there any regulation of biocide use. The good news is that there is growing interest in providing certification, and until then there are numerous vendors who make a concerted effort to source bamboo from plantations that practice healthy planting and harvest procedures—it is important to check with the supplier to see if their bamboo comes from well-managed plantations.
Bamboo towels are nothing short of a miracle against the skin—they are like thick, slinky velvet and a delight to wrap yourself in post-bath…or anytime, really. And (although we could have told you this) according to Consumer Reports tests, cotton-bamboo blend towels are about 25 percent softer after laundering, on average, than their all-cotton counterparts. Cellulose from bamboo is converted into rayon fibers, and it’s that resulting fiber that makes for these sexy towels. Shopping tips: Bamboo towels are more expensive than their cotton cousins; thicker bamboo towels are generally more absorbent than the thinner ones.
Read about bamboo sheets including links to where to buy them.
Wound bamboo is a very old craft in which thin, compressed bamboo strips are soaked in water and then coiled outward from the center to create a spiral resulting in a plate or bowl.
Lovely lacquerware bowls are hand-coiled, shaped and finished with 18 layers of natural lacquer: Durable and waterproof, food-safe finish. Suitable for both hot and cold foods.
You can’t do better than this set of four jungle green bamboo bowls from The Rain Forest Site store, which will preserve 2290 square feet of land for each set of four Jungle Bamboo Bowls purchased.
Wow. This company is trading in the high-tech carbon for bamboo with the frames of these award-winning bamboo bikes. The price tag makes them out of reach for the casual biker, but they are so greatly green and worth a little look-see!
By Melissa Breyer, Producer, Care2 Green Living