A few years ago, bamboo made massive waves in the consumer goods sector. Bamboo clothing, kitchen tools, tables, household goods and more quickly made appearances on shelves everywhere, and for a few years bamboo seemed like it was going to be the new hottest trend. While the bamboo craze may have slowed ever so slightly over the past few years, bamboo products aren’t going anywhere and remain on shelves everywhere.
So what makes bamboo so special? Why did this humble plant become an overnight sensation? What do bamboo enthusiasts love so much? Should you be purchasing bamboo products? Keep reading to learn more about this incredible, natural, and biodegradable material.
What is Bamboo?
Most people think of bamboo as a wood, but in truth, bamboo is a type of grass. Some bamboo varieties are giant, others quite small, but all fall into a category of evergreen perennial plants native to South, Southeast, and East Asia. Though primarily found in Asia, bamboo can thrive in most moist, warm climates, and some native species of bamboo can be found outside of Asia in Northern Australia, sub-Saharan Africa, and in certain parts of the Americas (Chile, Ecuador, and Mexico to name a few.)
Harder than most grasses, and sturdy enough to grow incredibly large, bamboo has been used in a variety of applications for thousands of years. Bamboo stocks are typically hollow, and rarely have branching arms or tapering growth patterns. Most bamboo varieties will grow straight upwards, forming a long tube that will reach maturity in only around 30 days.
Though bamboo is not a tree, bamboo forests do exist. These densely packed glades of grass can grow to enormous sizes, with this fast growing-plant frequently replenishing itself even after being cut back or harvested. In fact, bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants, yet another reason for its popularity as a manufacturing material. Some species of bamboo have been known to grow over 3 feet in one day, for an impressive growth rate of 1.5 inches per hour!
History of Bamboo
In reality, bamboo was not an overnight sensation at all, but a material with thousands of years of popular use. The earliest evidence of bamboo use is estimated to have occurred between 12,000 and 2,000 BC in China. Used both for crafting home goods and for consumption, bamboo was an integral part of life for many during these Neolithic times. Bamboo was consumed primarily for medicinal purposes, believed to help alleviate fever, reduce phlegm, increase energy, and even cure asthma.
Bamboo progressively began to be used for larger scale projects, proving to be an incredibly durable material perfect for building. In 256 BC the Dujiangyan Irrigation System was built to control the flow of the Minjiang River as well as provide vital irrigation for the Chengdu region. This massive structure was originally built using bamboo, an impressive feat of engineering that would help establish bamboo as a viable building material. Though the dam has now been rebuilt using modern concrete, the bamboo structure served the Chengdu region for hundreds of years without major incident. By 1037-1011 AD, bamboo was being used in China and across East Asia in a huge number of consumer goods like clothing, fire wood, tiles, rafts, boats, paper, and more.
The Ming Dynasty brought about the discovery of bamboo charcoal, a healthier alternative to traditional coal and hardwood charcoal. Used as fuel, bamboo charcoal produced fewer pollutants, and was more effective in absorbing smells and impurities. Besides using it for fuel, Chinese Ming Dynasty physicians would use bamboo charcoal for the production of medicine, the drying of tea, the filtering of water, and the creation of age-defying beauty products.
Some of the earliest accounts of bamboo products appearing in the West were recorded in the early 19th century, as Europe began using raw materials brought over from Asia and the Americas for manufacturing. Bamboo bicycles became a particularly popular item in England, said to be some of the smoothest riding bikes available then and now.
Though bamboo had been used in the manufacturing of textiles, paper goods, building materials, etc. for thousands of years in China, Japan, Malaysia etc., it was not until Gucci developed a bamboo handle for one of their handbags in 1947 that the West truly began to take notice. Since that time, bamboo has become a staple in manufacturing all over the world, heralded for its durability and diverse applications. Bamboo is now considered a viable alternative to many fibrous plants and hardwoods, and can be found in consumer goods all over the world.
Bamboo and the Environment
Bamboo is one of the most useful materials used in the production of consumer goods, and for good reason. Bamboo is more than a plentiful grass, it is a sustainable, affordable, and eco-friendly material perfect for use as a plastic and hardwood alternative. Here are some of the ways using bamboo can help reduce waste and save the environment:
- Most forests of trees require decades of growth before they reach full maturity. Oak forests, for example, will need at least 50 years of growth before they can be harvested. Bamboo forests can be harvested in as little as 1 to 5 years, making bamboo both more affordable and more environmentally friendly to grow. The best part is that bamboo shoots can regrow from their stumps, negating the need for replanting and making bamboo truly self-renewable
- Bamboo releases 35% more oxygen than hardwood forests of equivalent sizes
- Virtually every part of the bamboo plant can be used, and bamboo harvesting results in very low levels of waste
- Bamboo does not require the use of pesticides or artificial fertilizers to grow
- Hardwood forests, once harvested, are burned to clear space for new crops. By burning and cleansing the area for a new crop, the soil erodes and vital nutrients are washed away. Bamboo roots are not removed after the crop is harvested, leaving the soil unchanged and nutrient rich for the next crop
Because bamboo can be used as an alternative to hardwood in nearly every application, it is no wonder bamboo has become such a popular material. Bamboo can be used for the manufacturing of flooring, furniture, charcoal, and much more. In a world calling for more biodegradable materials and eco-friendly alternatives to traditional products, bamboo reigns supreme.
Bamboo is more resistant to water than traditional hardwoods, and rarely will swell, warp, stain, or splinter as a result of water exposure. Water resistance makes bamboo one of the best plastic alternatives, since plastic is often used in place of wood where water exposure is likely. While plastic will last through water exposure, plastics are ultimately harmful to the environment, both in the manufacturing process and in their disposal.
At Wowe Lifestyle we have built our brand around offering eco-friendly alternatives to our customers, and bamboo is a big part of that. All of the products created and sold by Wowe Lifestyle are made using eco-friendly alternatives to wasteful materials like plastics. Wherever possible, Wowe uses biodegradable materials and plastic alternatives so our customers can feel as good about our products the day they have to retire as the day they bought them.
Bamboo is one of our favorite materials, and a super important part of some of our best-selling products:
Bamboo Toothbrushes: A bamboo toothbrush may sound a little strange if you are used to those hard plastic ones from the drug store, but we promise, you are going to love them. Our bamboo toothbrushes are natural, eco-friendly, and biodegradable, the perfect plastic toothbrush alternative. With a water resistant handle and strong nylon bristles, the Wowe Eco-Friendly and Natural Bamboo Toothbrushes are just as durable as their plastic counterparts.
Bamboo Safety Razor: If you aren’t quite ready to make the upgrade to a biodegradable toothbrush, consider adding the Wowe Eco-Friendly Double Edge Safety Razor with Natural Bamboo Handle to your routine. This razor is made from recyclable metal and biodegradable bamboo, the perfect eco-friendly alternative to those pink razors you buy in the drugstore. Traditional plastic razors rarely last more than a couple of shaves, and can put a serious strain on both your wallet and the environment. The Eco-Friendly Bamboo Razor from Wowe can last you a lifetime, and even the disposable blades can be recycled once it is time to replace them.
Reusable Water Bottle: One of the most plentiful plastic products in our oceans and landfills are single-use plastic bottles. These plastic products are recyclable, but often times never even make it to the recycling plant. Wasteful, bad for the environment, expensive, and often containing harmful chemicals, now is the best time to discontinue your use of the single-use plastic water bottle. Instead, buy yourself a Stainless Steel Water Bottle with Bamboo Top from Wowe. This bottle is reusable, recyclable, and features a waterproof bamboo lid to keep your drink contained.
Do you want to learn about more eco-friendly materials and where they come from? Are you interested in making your lifestyle greener? Visit us at Wowe Lifestyle where you can find tips for going green, more information on eco-friendly materials, and tons of products to help you save money and the planet.