As our world continues to become more and more polluted with each passing day, it becomes ever more pressing to find resources that are both renewable and sustainable. With threats of deforestation, soil erosion, water pollution, and a plethora of other problems, resources like bamboo are being increasingly utilized. Bamboo specifically is being praised not only for its versatility but also for its ability to combat global warming. Bamboo is becoming more popular every day throughout the world, from Japan to the United States to Africa to Mexico to Haiti.
Bamboo Plantations in Mexico
Mexico is reporting tremendous growth in bamboo plantations, reaching almost 3,000 acres (1,200 hectares) nationally. Bamboo produces 33% more oxygen than trees, and it also grows 20 times faster than do trees. This allows the carbon dioxide CO2 absorption to begin in a single year. But bamboo is benefitting Mexico in non-environmental ways as well. It is true that large cities such as Mexico City will benefit from pollution reduction, but there are also millions of people in Mexico that need jobs. Bamboo products are becoming ever more popular, and it is reported that those 3,000 acres of bamboo plantations in Mexico will produce approximately 4,000 direct jobs and over 26,000 indirect jobs.
How Bamboo Can Help Haiti
Haiti is struggling to rebuild after a 7.0 earthquake decimated the country in 2010. Plans are underway, thanks to John Naylor, to rebuild the country using bamboo homes, while also engendering bamboo growth across the nation. With more than one million homeless because of the earthquake, it would seem a daunting task for the poor classes of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to be able to rebuild in a short time span. But with plans to plant bamboo across the country, Haiti could have enough bamboo for its own construction demands and have plenty leftover to export in just three years! The rapid growth and increasing demand for this plant from the consumers is giving some of the poorest countries an opportunity to grow economically.
A Company Devoted to Helping Others Through Bamboo
Chicago based EcoPlanet Bamboo has recently reached its 10,000-acre mark in securing bamboo plantations. They recently acquired a 3,000-acre farm in Nicaragua, catapulting them past 10,000 acres of total bamboo farmland. Their mission is similar to the predicted effects of bamboo planting in Mexico and Haiti: to use this earth-friendly crop to bolster economies in poor countries, while helping to reverse the harmful effects of pollution and greenhouse gases throughout the world. The 3,000-acre farm in Nicaragua alone will provide for hundreds of full-time jobs, countless seasonal jobs, and even more indirectly related jobs.
The location of these countries in the Caribbean and Latin America is an invaluable benefit to international trade in bamboo. As American companies demand more and more bamboo products, China is shouldering the entire load. Most product deliveries take a full month to get from China to the western shore of the United States. Any country in Central/South America or the Caribbean makes service a lot more practical. Additional benefits come from the United States sanctions from NAFTA and the CBI (Caribbean Basin Initiative). These tariff breaks tip the scales heavily in favor of bamboo products being produced in the western hemisphere. And if it can be made for cheaper over here, we will all benefit as the price tag comes down somewhat. Not only can bamboo be traded internationally as a raw material, but each of these countries can achieve higher specialization by using this raw material to make goods that are in demand. A single factory could employ hundreds of people, and the exports produced could bring in much needed revenue to some of the poorest countries on our side of the globe.
Uses of Bamboo
Thanks to its versatility, bamboo can be used for organic bamboo sheets, bamboo blankets, dishware, panels, siding, flooring, construction materials, shirts, socks, and many more every day and luxury items. Bamboo fibers can be spun into rayon to create the softest of fabrics and textiles. Bamboo can also be harvested and used as lumber after being cut and dried. These two processes produce the majority of popular bamboo products on the market today. While it is true that bamboo fibers must undergo chemical processes to make textiles, ultimately bamboo is still better for the environment than its alternatives, such as cotton, because of its low maintenance qualities. Bamboo needs no irrigation to grow in its natural habitat and requires no insecticides or pesticides either. And although cotton grows just as fast, cotton requires an immense amount of water and pesticides and insecticides. And obviously trees (used for lumber) take decades to reach maturity, unlike bamboo which requires from one to three years, depending on the species.
Ultimately, it is hard to go wrong with a bamboo product given its eco-friendly growing qualities. Because the growth of bamboo is so oxygenating to the environment, choosing to buy a bamboo product over a cotton product or tree product will usually be a better choice. Keep in mind however that because bamboo has yet to be grown extensively in the western hemisphere, import costs can cause the cost of bamboo products to be driven up. Be wary of products that are made of a blend of bamboo and another fiber, such as cotton (this isn’t exactly a problem with lumber), as these products claim to be more eco-friendly than they actually are. Ultimately, as we try to embrace a greener world, bamboo products are a wonderful way of not only making more environmentally-friendly choices, but a great way to bolster economies and create jobs in some of the poorer countries in the world.