The Bamboo Boom: Building towards Sustainability
COMMENTARY–ProspectingJournal.com–It is somewhat of a misfortune that bamboo has long since existed but it is only now that we are beginning to harness its true potential. Recent breakthroughs in industrial processing technologies have promised to alter our perception of a plant traditionally recognized as the panda bear’s diet. In bamboo we have a well-known but seldom studied plant with the remarkable potential to reduce our carbon footprint in a number of industries. It has provided us with a wonderful opportunity to allow both capitalism and conservation to flourish in tandem. According to the BBC, “bamboo is being hailed as a new super material, with uses ranging from textiles to construction”. Globally, we are beginning to see bamboo floors, bamboo scaffolding and bamboo socks, and many experts believe it serves thousands of different applications. But it is only in the context of a global society battling against rising carbon dioxide levels that we begin to realize the real and raw benefits of pushing for its industry. In fact, Bamboo has been deemed such an environmental surplus that many now believe the material will prove pivotal in our quest for long-term sustainability.
Consider the properties of bamboo itself. The plant has an unrivalled capacity to grow extremely fast, growing at a rate of several feet per day and reaching its full height within a year. The plant is adaptable and harbors the ability to grow on mountainous terrain that is inhospitable to other plants. It is not reliant on fertilizer or pesticides nor does it require much water for growth. And the best part of it is that bamboo is actually a type of grass. That means harvesting does not entail uprooting the plant from the soil but instead, cutting it above the roots in a manner that allows for faster regeneration. In other words, all of the above makes for a renewable resource that boasts a high yield, is efficient, and has no effect on its surrounding environment. Yet there is even more. Bamboo boasts the ability to deter the effects of global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide. That’s right, bamboo absorbs carbon dioxide. And that alone is enough to argue that bamboo is a better substitute for timber, cotton and the wealth of other materials it can replace.
Michael Abadie, president of the World Bamboo Organization, exclaimed, “from the field and the forest to the factory and the merchant, from the design studio to the laboratory, from universities to those in political power, people are more and more aware of this potentially renewable resource”. So much so, that bamboo’s recent claim to fame has spurred the introduction of the world’s first Bamboo Bond. According to the BBC, British based EcoPlanet Bamboo has developed a project at their Rio Kama plantation in Nicaragua. For those wishing to invest in their bond in the highest bracket, $50,000, the company promises a whopping return of 500 percent over 15 years. And the return is only slightly lower for those wishing to invest in lower pricing brackets. Such growing emphasis is a reflection of the plant’s clear-cut potential.
Kamesh Salam, former president of the South Asia Bamboo Foundation, claimed, “on a global scale, bamboo is a major commodity and source of livelihood, especially for poor people in rural areas. Over one billion people live in houses made of bamboo. In India alone two million tons of bamboo is used for paper….[bamboo] is a source of biomass of the booming renewable energy markets, with Europe alone looking to import substantial quantities as part of its renewable energy program”. And as renewable energy programs across the world expand it will only continue to steal the spotlight. From a purely sustainable standpoint, there are few reasons why it shouldn’t thrive. And on that basis, long may it survive.