Bamboo, the super plant for community empowerment, to combat the effects of climate change and greener production chains

Introduction to Bamboo                                                                                                                    

Bamboo is certainly a wonder plant, with up to 1 meter of growth for some of its species. Can you believe that? In addition to that, bamboo is able to reproduce itself. The reason for that is its strong root system and the ability of its root to spread out while new bamboo culms develop. There are multiple methods that you can use to propagate bamboo. This makes bamboo farming so simple and successful. You can produce almost everything out of bamboo such as fabric, furniture, buildings, construction, food,  charcoal and other products. It is bacteria resistant. Bamboo clothing for instance provides a cooling effect and prevents it from smelling.  Bamboo proves its strong potential, however there is a need to shift from current unsustainable productions to more sustainable productions such as by using bamboo!

The effects of our product consumption have long term effects in the future on us and our planet’s eco-system                                                                                                                 

When you look through your room, apartment and house, how much material is made out of plastic,  timber, cotton, cement and metal ? When I look through my room, I assume that at least 95 percent is made out of these materials. Why it matters? Lots of this material is produced unsustainable and ends up in landfill which could be avoided at first place. Plastic in specific has a very long life cycle. It and other products may end up at a landfill, but because of its worse degradation time, it can stay there for centuries. The effects are severe and range from the absorption of chemicals that are found in plastic into our human body, the destruction of our natural environment as well as the eco-system. Other effects of course relate to degradation of natural forests and the destruction of other natural capital that is commonly used in linear (unsustainable) production chains.

The effects vary between countries

                Plastic Consumption

Recycling workers collecting plastic bags on Smokey Mountain rubbish dump.
Recycling workers burning and separating plastc from metal in the depths of the heat of Smokey Mountain. RUBBISH DUMP RECYCLING. South East Asia, Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Smokey Mountain, Steung Mean Chey, is Phnom Penh’s municipal rubbish dump. Thousands work there, some 600 minors and 2000 adults, recycling the city’s rubbish, dumped there by garbage trucks every day. The dump is notorious as many very young children work there.

Have you ever burned plastic? In Asian countries, lots of food for daily consumption is distributed in small bags, including hot soup. The effects are that some of the chemicals of the plastic are released and become part of our food intake cycle. Due to lacking waste disposal (Cambodia), most of the then occurring landfills are burned, while the smoke is inhaled again. This of course also accounts for other plastic products that end up in rivers (worldwide), and destruct our environment and natural habitats. Remember the turtle with the plastic straw in the nose? It went viral on social media.

Timber Product consumption

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF=, increasing global demand for low-cost timber products supports a multi-billion dollar business of illegal and unsustainable logging in forests worldwide. According to some estimates, logging in violation of national laws accounts for 8-10% of global production and trade in forest products. It also represents 40-50% of all logging in some of the most valuable and threatened forests on earth. Consumption of tropical timber by the U.S. and other industrial countries plays a significant role in tropical deforestation.

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Bamboo as an alternative for linear production chains

This all can be avoided when we shift our focus to the most amazing grass in this world; bamboo. Can you think of a few products that can be made out of bamboo? You can make almost everything out of bamboo with today’s techniques that are ranging from simple bamboo straws and cups to furniture, fabric, bamboo shoots as food, housing , iphone cases, paper, tooth brushes, cat litter, pipelines…

Why bamboo and not timber?

Bamboo is able to renew itself within 1-3 years, depending on the species and it is bacteria resistant. What that means? It is much more renewable than timber, this in return can increase production while creating employment for millions of people. Can you imagine the smell and feeling of wearing a cotton short after a workout? Bamboo fabric in return provides you a cooling effect and because of its bacteria resistance the smell stays away. This makes it also so incredible for cat litter or other products such as bamboo charcoal. Btw. Bamboo charcoal is a must have for every household. Why? Read here!

Bamboo for employment creation worldwide

bamboo-process-image

As described earlier, there is a growing demand for timber products from the USA and other importing nations such as the EU. However, now we know, that we can replace timber to a specific extent with bamboo. Be aware that timber will always be timber and bamboo will always be bamboo. Lots of bamboo is growing in South America, India, African countries including islands in the Indian Pacific, India , Asia  and Papua New Guinea. Many of these regions face difficulties in the development of employment while they are also facing negative effects of climate change, deforestation and other environmental challenges.

Bamboo provides an important source of income that can help to reduce poverty. Have you heard of about the benefits of bamboo as building material? Bamboo is so strong and flexible that bamboo houses are more resilient to earthquakes than traditional houses that are built out of concrete. Though there are already projects on bamboo housing, the value is underestimated as well. Imagine how much more employment in this and other sectors can be created?

There is already an existing market for bamboo products of course, but there are challenges such as bamboo product certifications as it is a grass and not timber.

Bamboo Development

Diverse organizations are already active in the development of bamboo production chains to combat climate change and poverty. Some of these organizations are the German Development Organization GIZ, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR). Together, these organizations have created multiple jobs in the bamboo (and Rattan) sector, have changed policies to improve market accesses of bamboo and were able to combat negative changes of climate change through bamboo – forestry management.

 

green-growth
“Green and growth go very well together. Green growth means we go for growth, we recover GDP… but we preserve and we actually enhance the employment of natural resoruces that we were provided with and which today are sustaining the economic activity of our planet,” Angela Gurrira, OECD Secretary-General

 

What can you do?

Try to look for bamboo products instead of plastic and timber products. Network and share product ideas with me and others. Create employment in the bamboo sector and make people and our planet happy.

 

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