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Bamboo -- The Most Underrated Resource

Bamboo is an extremely valuable resource that is used by an estimated 2.5 billion people every day, though most of that is for food and fiber within Asia. In recent years, though, while some people have started to realize exactly how much potential is wrapped up in this woody grass, it still remains one of our most underrated resources.

This material is so versatile that it has been used in hundreds of commercial applications, though mostly within Asia. As people begin to understand more about bamboo and it’s potential, we’re starting to see more of it in other parts of the world.

Consider a few of the following ways in which bamboo has been used.

Paper and textiles – A lot of people have heard about bamboo flooring replacing other hardwood options, but what about replacing trees as a source of paper? It turns out that since bamboo fibers are relatively long, they are great for making paper. In fact, about two thirds of the paper production in India is coming from bamboo pulp.

Of course, it’s those same long fibers that make things like bamboo sheets feel so soft and smooth.

Construction – There is a fairly common image of bamboo scaffolding surrounding buildings in various countries. There is a good reason for this. The strong poles and lightweight materials are easy to put together and move as necessary. Of course, there have been some people who have taken bamboo construction a step further.

Biomass fuel source – People are always looking for more efficient and effective biomass fuel sources, and research is showing that while there might be other bioenergy feedstocks that are as productive as bamboo, bamboo has a number of desirable fuel characteristics. It has a low ash content and alkali index, but since it has a lower heating value, it may be more useful as a co-producer of bioenergy.

Food – Bamboo is featured in quite a lot of Asian cuisine. A lot of canned bamboo makes its way to other shores every year.

What Makes Bamboo So Versatile

We’ve discussed bamboo’s characteristics and qualities before, but it’s worth looking at them again in this context.

Bamboo is an extremely renewable resource that can be harvested in one to five years, depending on the species. This is due to its amazing growth rate that is supported by its extensive root system. That also means that when it’s harvested, it will grow new shoots from the same plant, without additional planting or cultivation.

Bamboo doesn’t require fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides to grow, which means that textiles and foods are safer for consumers. On top of that, those long fibers that make paper, floors, and bedding possible also make it good for construction and many other applications.

So Why Is It So Underrated

Bamboo makes for good bedding, bath towels, beads, bicycles, and much, much more. So why is it that it is still relegated to an outlier material in many countries? Why is it the last thing we think about instead of the first?

Maybe it’s because bamboo is a grass, and therefore we automatically think of it as being weaker than other materials.

Or a lot of it could be that we simply get set in our ways. We’re used to doing and thinking about things in particular ways, and we just immediately picture things like: steel scaffolding, hardwood floors, and cotton bedding.

These are the things we know and the things we trust, so it’s often hard to start thinking about new ways of approaching them. We just tend to find it easier to stick with what we know rather than experiment with something new. Unfortunately, this means we often miss a lot of the potential that actually exists there.

Maybe we just need to start changing our perceptions – which a lot of the world is doing – and realizing that bamboo can do a surprising amount of things with a surprisingly small impact on the environment.