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Be Green

Is it a shrub? Is it a tree? Is it the answer to sustainable building?

It's bamboo people! (And I have some freebies for you this week! Keep reading)
And as a matter of fact, bamboo is a member of the grass family. This means:
* It regenerates itself when cut: Picture your lawn. Same principle. Unless you rip it out by the root, you can keep chopping bamboo down and it will keep growing back up. Which, as we all know, is not possible with trees.
* It can reach a height of up to 100 feet in 5 years: Again, trees take MUCH longer and don't always give the same yield.
* No pesticides: Bamboo generally doesn't require much care. This is because the root system of bamboo is filled with a liquid sap called "kun" It's a powerful natural antibiotic and fungicide and it's what gives bamboo clothing its antibacterial properties (more on that later)
* Low water consumption: This actually tips the scales towards bamboo even against organic cotton. Water is a precious and overused resource and harvesting bamboo instead of cotton saves water.

Want free stuff? Keep reading!


But the best quality of bamboo is its versatility. It can be made into:
* Flooring Its hardness and stability make it an excellent choice in our climate (bamboo tends not to expand and contract like some hardwoods, leading to fewer cracks)
* Building materials (walls, panels, cabinetry, etc)
* Clothing: antibacterial, UV-resistant, moisture wicking (great for workout gear). It can also be spun into sheets that feel like silk but are machine washable! mmmmm!
* Food: Not just for pandas... bamboo shoots are used in Asian cuisine and the stems of some species can be ground into flour or fed to livestock
* Disposable plates and cutlery (instead of the evil styrofoam!)
* Kitchen cloths: Okay, you have to try Bamboo Warehouse's kitchen cloths. In fact, I'm going to give you one for free. First 10 people to write in get a Kipunji cloth as shown in the video). They're non-smelly, machine washable and as and when they start to tear, they are fully biodegradable!
* Lucky! Yeah, lucky bamboo. So hardy even I can keep it alive!

Of course, not all bamboo is created equal (as an end product)
So here are some tips on buying good quality bamboo when you're using it for flooring:
1. Darker is better: The more yellow the bamboo, the younger the shoot. Which also makes it less hard/durable
2. Glue: Ask your supplier about what glues have been used in the bamboo. Many suppliers use toxic glues some of which contain formeldahyde and can off gas and create a less-than-hospitable environment for you, kids and pets. If your guy doesn't know, consider shopping around.

Okay, for all its strong points, bamboo isn't perfect.
First of all, you have to ship it in from halfway across the world. Yes, bamboo CAN be grown locally, but it requires far more care in our climate than it does in Asia, so that does compromise its sustainability.
Secondly, because of high demand, virgin forests are being razed and replaced by bamboo plantations in China and India. This is a hard thing to verify, but check if your supplier has any information about responsible forestry practices. And of course, cardinal rule: IF YOU DON'T NEED IT, DON'T BUY IT!

So, about that free stuff...
Leave me a comment about your experiences with bamboo. Have you used it? Would you be willing to use it? And the first 10 folks to write in will get a free washable, anti-bacterial bamboo washcloth. See, aren't you glad you're being green?

Some places to buy bamboo:
1. Bamboo Warehouse: This is the place in the video. The address is:
7675 St Laurent (facing Parc Jarry)
Phone: 514-789-0055

2. Healthiest Home Building Store: They're based in Ottawa and have a wonderful range of healthy, safe and eco-friendly products for your home including bamboo, marmoleum (another sustainable alternative), reclaimed wood and more.

3. For excellent yoga wear that's made-in-Montreal, check out Respecterre. Sooo soft!

So write me, folks. Or call and tell me what you think: (514) 597-5626

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Comments (9)

A Changoor


Hi Geeta,

A great instalment of Be Green. I have a bamboo cutting board that is wonderful. I think that it is a great alternative to wood for flooring and would consider installing a bamboo floor (when I own a house!)

Posted November 7, 2008 06:55 PM

S Borenstein


Hey - great piece! I've been wondering about this bamboo craze - time to check it out I guess ;-)

Posted November 7, 2008 06:57 PM

kornaga, l


I have a bamboo carpet in my bathroom, which I find great

Posted November 8, 2008 03:19 PM



There are about 1200 species of bamboos in the world, they are mainly distributed between 40 degree south and north latitude. Among them, the best one for making floor and plywood is called "Moso", scientific name is Phyllostachys Pubescens, which mainly distributes in south China. It now has totally about 40 million ha. bamboo forest, which the average yield per ha. per year is 150 poles. In the production, average 2.5 poles can be made for one square meter (10.75square foot) bamboo floor, that is each year about 24 billion square meter bamboo floor could be output if all the resources is utilized! In fact, the output of bamboo floor and bamboo plywood in China was about 12 million in 2007,

To make bamboo forest growing well, each year you have to cut either shoots or poles, alternative year by year (in most areas of bamboo forest), to maintain certain bamboo in the area. Bamboo grows from bamboo shoot to its final diameter and height only takes about 2 months, after that it grows its body hard. The mature bamboo poles needs 5 to 6 years living, which has the best quality, few either bamboo former or manufacture does not know this in China.

Bamboo floor has two basic colors which are natural color and carbonized, it could have other colors by staining like wood. The density of natural one is about 0.62-0.70and carbonized one is about 0.70-0.78, the hardness of bamboo floor is about 1500PSI average, red oak, 1290PSI, hard maple, 1450PSI. Because it is laminated product, it is more stable than most of hardwood floor.

As we know bamboo floor is laminated product like here in North American MDF, OSB, plywood, etc., they all use glue, the glue is used in bamboo floor is Urea-formaldehyde adhesive (UF glue), which is the most popular cheapest world wide used glue for interior laminated wood products.

Now bamboo floor in the market almost all are finished by UV cured urethane resin added certain aluminum oxidie to increase wearability.

Posted November 9, 2008 08:47 PM



The Correction for my last post
"...It now has totally about 4 million ha. bamboo forest, which the average yield per ha. per year is 150 poles. In the production, average 2.5 poles can be made for one square meter (10.75square foot) bamboo floor, that is each year about 240 million square meter bamboo floor could be output if all the resources is utilized! In fact, the output of bamboo floor and bamboo plywood in China was about 12 million in 2007."

Thanks a lot!

Posted November 10, 2008 11:52 PM

Devon Flynn


Didn`t think bamboo was that great. It`s too bad it has to be shipped in from so far, or else I think there would be such a greater market. That, and if our climates made it easier to grow it. Aside from bamboo, whats another good alternative material? I`d be interested in checking them out

Posted November 13, 2008 12:55 PM



Hey Geeta,
I heard from Home Depot that they were getting a lot of returns on these floors because of the dryness during the Montreal winter which was making them crack? I know Bamboo does really well in Vancouver because of the humid climate. Have you heard anything about this?

Posted November 14, 2008 10:49 PM



Hi there,

Like hardwood floor, Bamboo floor is more suitable to install in dry weather area, instead of high humidity area. The floors got problems in dry winter time here, because of the high moisture content inside bamboo, the dry air makes water inside going out, then bamboo shrinks, which will cause crack or bend. So, check the moisture content in bamboo floor is important when you buy it, the good quality floor should be less than 10%.

Posted November 18, 2008 05:21 PM

Ali P in the QC


Is there nowhere in Canada that bamboo can be grown and processed to reduce shipping? It seems to be that this a a great resource that Candadians could use as a source of industry to prop up our reeling economy, especially since its a more sustainable one than some agricultural crops and forestry. Like hemp, could it not be a lucrative crop for farmers and a Canadian source of cloth fibers?
Love the blog, G.

Posted December 5, 2008 12:54 PM

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