Answering the Tough Questions - the Co-Op America Interview part 2

In May, Co-Op America, the non-profit consumer group that promotes environmental sustainability and social justice, interviewed us. You can read the full interview here.

We received a number of comments and good questions from that interview (thank you!). Among the most interesting, was a question from Barbara who asked,

I've heard (but not researched it myself) that the popularity of bamboo products is leading to the clearing of forests to grow enough bamboo to meet demand. Is this happening, and how is bambu dealing with this issue?

We thought we'd share our response with our readers.......

Thanks Barbara, it's a great question, and a tough one to answer. But we'll give it a shot.

In China (the worlds largest supply of bamboo) much of the bamboo is grown within wild ecosystems. Managing and harvesting bamboo is generally considered a cottage industry. The bamboo is made available to farmers to harvest and use for hundreds of applications, both personal as well as commercial.

However, there are various forms of management practices in bamboo forests, some more intensive than others and these more rigorous efforts often result in damage to the bamboo forest ecosystems. Consequently, this type of unsustainable management jeopardizes forest productivity and forest ecosystems. It also puts at risk, the rural people who depend the forest for their livelihood.

Sustainable forest management is a global issue, not just a China issue. For instance, almost half of the United States is forested. Globally, forests are generally being removed for fuel, building materials, and for farming. In addition to the demand of natural forest resources like bamboo, climate change and environmental pollution are also contributing factors to the changing forest landscape.

What’s being done about it?

Well in China, at the national level, the goal is to conserve biodiversity and promote sustainable productivity. There is a huge effort to focus on sustainable management of forests. One such program will be implemented in Hunan, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, which are all rich in bamboo resources.

According to The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, an intergovernmental organization dedicated to improving the social, economic, and environmental benefits of bamboo and rattan, this project will focus on technology, policy formulation and the promotion of biodiversity in bamboo forests. In their words,

“the goal is to reverse biodiversity loss in natural and monoculture bamboo forests, and introduce ecological management technologies and policies that promote conservation of bamboo forest biodiversity and sustainable productivity. Moreover, the project aims to build capacities of local communities and develop linkages between biodiversity policies at the provincial and national levels.”

We often see examples of China's strong recycling efforts and efficient utilization of natural resources. Some factories, such as charcoal and pulp factories, use waste materials from other bamboo factories, thus, there is a supply-chain in the bamboo industry, in which various factories consumes different parts of the bamboo. This increases the efficiency of bamboo utilization, reduces production costs, and creates more added-value solutionsl. Bambu is currently involved in developing bamboo waste utilization projects that are innovative and quite exciting.

bambu bamboo
The bamboo we use is sustainably grown and harvested, no pesticides or fertilizes are used. Grown as a 'wild' crop sustainably managed and harvested by local farmers. We’ve had several of our sources certified as organic which stipulates the source must be managed sustainably. Depending on the product, we will either buy direct from the farmer or from the factory that produces the bamboo laminates who buys from the farmer.

Barbara, your question is an important one. Admittedly, we are not experts in this area, but hope the above helps lend some perspective on this issue.

Jeff & Rachel

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