One of the speediest growing plants on the planet, bamboo never fails to surprise. This powerful plant has huge versatility and has been used for everything from constructing the road beneath your feet to the beer you toast your friends with at the end of a long day. So much more than simply panda food, we take a closer look at all that bamboo can do and shine a light on why it‘s considered to be such a miracle material from the ancient asian cultural uses to the 21st century. In this article, you will find out what makes bamboo so special, 17 popular uses for bamboo, and we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about this sustainably driven plant.
What Makes Bamboo So Special?
Bright and green and a staple of many gardens and glorious forests, there’s a lot to love about bamboo. This plant is forever eye-catching with its thick stalks, soaring height, and tropical thirsty moods. Tough to kill, a super speedy grower, and one of the most eco-friendly plants on the planet, bamboo is sure to blow your mind. Something amazing to remember about bamboo is that while it can often take the place of wood in construction and use, it is actually grass and similar to different kinds of straws. It also has a pretty aesthetic which is why you also see it in decor around the world - in wall hangings, furniture, baskets, and so much more.
Bamboo is native to places with a more temperate climate and tends to grow in places around Southeast Asia and South America, although some species also grow in spots of Africa and even Australia and the warmer climes of the USA. There are many different types of bamboo - in fact, there are over a thousand different species that range from pretty ornamental grasses to the fat stalked kind you see in those picturesque bamboo forests across Japan and Thailand.
You cannot underestimate how quickly this plant grows - some species of bamboo can even grow 1.5 inches in a single hour. Because of its speed-breaking growth and as it is super hardy and can even grow in depleted soil and on slopes, bamboo as an alternative to wood can help to reduce the negative impacts of deforestation and is considered to be a sustainable plant.
Here are some of the incredible sustainable and eco-friendly aspects of the bamboo plant.
- It is a really fast-growing plant which means it can be easily replaced. Bamboo has been known to grow up to a meter in a day and cutting it actually makes it grow even faster. It puts all its effort into its root system and for sixty days it will focus on a growth spurt before returning its attention to its roots.
- It produces more oxygen than the equivalent amount of trees. In fact, it‘s believed that bamboo can produce as much as 35% more oxygen than the same amount of trees.
- Bamboo requires very little water to thrive making it great for the ecosystem as it doesn’t add to the drought problem or use up precious resources.
- It also needs no fertilizers or pesticides which reduces its environmental impact. Not using fertilizers or pesticides it doesn’t add to the environmental damage done by these chemicals to the land, water sources, and local flora and fauna too.
- It helps to filter water and reduces drought. With its fat stems and rhizomes, bamboo also collects and stores water and then can return this water to the streams and rivers during times of drought.
- It can be grown in depleted soil and even holds the soil together. With its roots and rhizomes, bamboo helps to bind topsoil and helps to reduce the risks associated with degraded land. It can help river banks, slopes, and other areas stay strong which can also reduce the risks of landslides and other natural land-based disasters.
- It has a low carbon footprint and can be used as a sustainable energy source. Bamboo biomass (like chips, charcoal, pellets, and briquettes) can be used in the place of firewood which also helps to prevent deforestation and other issues.
- It absorbs a huge amount of carbon dioxide. A newly planted bamboo plant can actually sink 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide in seven years. By planting bamboo forests, we can pour oxygen into the world and take out carbon dioxide which is hugely beneficial for the planet and all life within it.
- It is hugely versatile and can be made into all manner of things - including clothes, furniture, food, construction materials, and so much more.
What are the Uses of Bamboo Products?
There are tons of uses for bamboo products and with so much versatility under its belt, it‘s no wonder that this miracle material has survived since ancient times and continues to make its mark on the modern world. Bamboo has long been utilized for a whole host of things and was an everyday staple in Asia and other places where it grows naturally and in abundance. Europe and the US have also started to fully understand the benefits and positive impact of using bamboo instead of other materials such as cotton in clothing and hardwood in construction and furniture. From food to medicine and everything in-between, we have rounded up some of the varied uses of bamboo.
Famed for being a favored food of pandas, it comes as no surprise that one of the top uses of bamboo is as an edible source. In fact, bamboo is the only thing that pandas like to eat and they can consume up to 50lbs of the stuff per day simply to survive. As pandas are an endangered species, it’s really important that we keep growing bamboo to support their existence. But it’s not only these black and white bears that find bamboo to be a tasty snack - some kinds of bamboo shoots and sprouts are also popular in human cooking too. Bamboo shoots and sprouts come packed with health benefits and are brimming with fiber, vitamins, and anti-inflammatory properties. In Japan, bamboo is called the king of the forest vegetables and is often a staple in local cooking.
Bamboo has long been used in medicine across the world and most notably in China and Indonesia. In China, components of black bamboo are used to help those with kidney issues whereas the leaves and even some roots can be used in the fight against cancer and other serious illnesses. Indonesia too has been known to use bamboo to help with bone issues. In older Chinese medicine, bamboo shoots were also believed to help ease labour pains and effectively deal with contractions.
Bamboo could become a great construction alternative and has even been used for building roads. It’s no new idea that bamboo could be used as a building material as it has been used for centuries for this very purpose. With a low carbon footprint and an easy growth cycle that doesn’t lean too hard on the planet, bamboo roads are the future.
Just like it is beneficial to use bamboo when building roads, it also brings a ton of benefits to the table when used for building construction. Not only do you get to build with a sustainable material that can be grown and harvested without leaving major environmental damage, but you also get the relief of knowing you are using a material that reduces carbon emissions. Even beyond the positive environmental implications, bamboo construction is also considered to be a better choice in terms of urban disasters. When bamboo buildings collapse they are less likely to cause a high number of fatalities as bamboo is lighter and better equipped to face challenging weather conditions. From making a bamboo house to choosing bamboo floors and bamboo roofing, this material plays an important role in both traditional and modern-day construction.
Super soft, breathable, and naturally antimicrobial, bamboo is a beautiful yarn for comfortable and cool clothing. Bamboo viscose is a buttery soft yarn that is made by pulping the cellulose fibers of the bamboo plant before being spun, combed, and woven into threads that are then used to make clothes. Bamboo fabric is sometimes called bamboo viscose or bamboo rayon as the bamboo has to go through a certain process to prep it so it can be made into clothes. This process does involve some solvent use to break down the bamboo and also to bleach it ready for being turned into something wearable. Bamboo clothing is known for being extra soft against the skin, super breathable, and naturally moisture-wicking. It is also naturally antibacterial, hypoallergenic, and extremely durable. Bamboo clothing is also considerably cheaper than silk and is low maintenance making it hugely attractive for those seeking a more sustainable option for their wardrobe.
With soaring fuel costs, it may be helpful to know that bamboo can also be used for this purpose too and that it has a huge yield in comparison to other sources such as wood. Bamboo is such an easy-going and versatile plant that it can pop up in all kinds of places where trees would struggle to grow. Not only can bamboo be grown on slopes and other challenging spots but it also grows quickly and when it comes to biofuel it produces way more bang for your buck. Choosing bamboo as a fuel source, also helps local communities to thrive.
Bamboo pulp is used to make paper and this practice has been popular in China, India, Indonesia, and Myanmar for as far back as 1500 years. Bamboo paper is considered to be more sustainable as its a readily available renewable source that also thrives in depleted soil. The paper itself is also easy to recycle and reduces our reliance on trees which reduces the heavy hand of deforestation.
Nappies are considered to be a huge problem when it comes to polluting the planet and for those seeking a sustainable option - bamboo could be the answer. Bamboo nappies are made from a bamboo cloth that is highly durable, soft against your baby‘s skin, and even retains its potent antimicrobial properties even after a few dozen washes. Bamboo fibers are also breathable meaning that this nappy will keep your child comfortable and may prevent pesky nappy rash and other problems that can come with usual nappy wear. being biodegradable also means that there will be fewer used nappies ending up in landfills.
Bamboo is also used to make furniture as it lends a pleasing aesthetic, and a certain strength, and can be massively durable and last a lifetime once treated. Bamboo is often used to make chairs, tables, beds, and other furnishings - not just large furnishings but also baskets and other storage pieces. Bamboo is said to share similar strength properties to hardwood and is well equipped to withstand all the tough love of daily use. As mentioned in terms of using bamboo for construction, the sustainable style of bamboo adds to its appeal as a gorgeous green solution for those looking to reduce their carbon footprint.
Bamboo utensils will bring plenty of benefits to your kitchen. Bamboo utensils are scratch-resistant meaning that you won’t mess up your best pans and cooking equipment when using this material. Bamboo is also naturally antibacterial and antifungal which keeps the whole situation more hygenic. Bamboo utensils are also extremely durable and can be a more budget-friendly option in comparison to hardwood or metal. Again, as bamboo is more eco-friendly and doesn’t put as much pressure on the planet, you can also feel happy in the knowledge that your cooking choices aren’t putting the planet at risk as bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on earth.
In a similar way to how bamboo clothing brings a breath of fresh air to your skin, it can also do the same when used in textiles. Bamboo textiles (especially sheets and bedding) can turn your bed into a cool and cozy oasis. As it‘s hypoallergenic, antibacterial, and known for being moisture-wicking - bamboo bedding has all those benefits of being super warm in the winter and easy breezy in the summer months. Bamboo bedding is a great all-around choice, particularly for those with sensitive skin and those who suffer from temperature fluctuations and night sweats.
As a super strong, durable, and biodegradable material - it‘s a glorious idea to make toys out of bamboo. Making bamboo toys is a traditional practice in many places and the first bamboo toy (called the bamboo copter and similar to a spindle) even dates back to around 320 AD. Bamboo is such great material for toys as it is less likely to break or splinter in comparison to plastic. It is also long-lasting meaning that toys can be passed from generation to generation. The fact that it is naturally antibacterial also lends another safety angle too.
From guitars to xylophones, pan flutes, pipes, kazoos, drumsticks, rainmakers, and marimbas - making musical instruments out of bamboo is a long-held practice. Bamboo is a solid choice for making musical instruments as it has its own special timbre and can hold a wide choice of vibrations that range from low to high. This makes it quite a versatile choice for musicians. The hollow shape, the hardiness, the long-lasting design, and the exceptional sound properties put bamboo on the map as being one of the best materials for your musical instruments.
Yes, bamboo is such a versatile material it has even been made into beer. Bamboo beer is said to be a mellow drink with a refreshing taste and a ton of health properties despite being a beer. Bamboo beer is touted as having antioxidant properties and being antiviral, and Bambusa Cerveza is also known for having compounds that can lower cholesterol. Its unique taste comes from using bamboo leaves and this style of drink is picking up speed and popularity in the craft beer world.
Bamboo as an Everyday Material
Bamboo is one of those materials that deserves all the hype. Among the endless list of the traits of this miracle plant are the following facts. Bamboo absorbs huge amounts of C02, grows at a rate of knots, serves up an endless supply of timber, produces high oxygen levels, prevents soil erosion, feeds pandas, and provides biomass for helping renewable energy efforts. Another point to also consider about bamboo is the understanding that by choosing bamboo to replace wood and other materials when relevant, you are also helping to support farmers and communities in places where bamboo grows. By supporting these communities, we can help to reduce inequality, and global unemployment, and create self-sustaining opportunities for all. We can do all of this while also staying mindful of our choices and opting to have as low an environmental impact as we possibly can.
Bamboo Uses FAQ
What is the most useful feature of bamboo?
Bamboo has many incredible features but one of its most useful has to be the blend of strength and sustainability. Bamboo is super fast growing which makes it an easily renewable resource. It is also highly resilient meaning that it can be relied on to thrive and to bring durability whenever it is used.
What is another word for bamboo?
While bamboo is a commonly used name for the hardy and fast-growing plant, you may also hear it referred to as cane, rattan, and wicker - especially when talking about the material of bamboo when used in furniture and other light construction.
What is bamboo used for in the construction industry?
Bamboo is a popular material in the construction industry. It can be used for a wide range of projects including scaffolding, homes and other buildings, roads, and bridges. It is celebrated for its solid strength to weight track record.
What kind of housing is bamboo useful for?
Bamboo is a great construction material for making all kinds of houses. It is sustainable, environmentally friendly, and has a really good strength-to-weight ratio. It is also useful in urban environments where natural disasters tend to occur as bamboo is lightweight and less likely to cause fatalities if a building collapses due to earthquakes and other environmental issues.
What can't bamboo be used for?
There are many things bamboo can be used for and it is often a more sustainable choice than wood thanks to its fast-growing, easily regenerative, and eco-friendly properties. However, some species of bamboo culm are hollow so making larger timber out of these species can prove challenging and time-consuming. However, there are some bamboo culms that are solid.
What are your favorite uses for bamboo? Share your thoughts on the uses of bamboo and let us know if any of these surprised you.