If you perform a quick internet research of the greenest flooring materials on the market, bamboo is likely to pop up at the top of the list. There are several reasons for this. First of all, bamboo is a grass that grows much faster than trees do. This makes it a renewable resource. Another plus is that unlike trees, bamboo does not need to be replanted because the harvesting procedure leaves the plant’s roots intact. A benefit to the plant’s root system is that it holds the soil in place, preventing erosion. If grown in its natural habitat, the need for watering, fertilizer and pesticides is minimal, if not nonexistent. In addition, bamboo absorbs carbon at a higher rate than most trees tend to.
As you likely realize, Bamboo is a plant that is not native to the United States. In fact, the vast majority of Bamboo that is used in flooring is grown in China. A disturbing trend has been deforestation to accommodate the growth of more bamboo. This means that animals that rely on the forest for food and habitat are displaced. While bamboo does not require fertilizer, some growers are turning to it as a way to increase their crop size. Another hush-hush topic surrounding the growth and manufacturing of bamboo is worker treatment. Because the bulk of bamboo is shipped in from overseas, there is no fair trade certification to guarantee that workers are paid equitably and that conditions are safe. In most cases, bamboo flooring is priced similarly to hardwoods even though bamboo grows much faster in rural China, which indicates that a profit is being made, though it’s unclear if the workers are getting a share of it.
Once the raw material arrives at the factory, the bamboo undergoes a manufacturing process to transform it into flooring. As part of the production process, the bamboo is laminated and sometimes the adhesive used in the process contains formaldehyde. This creates a problem for the environment because some of the formaldehyde is emitted into the air causing pollution. It’s vital that the final product is tested to ensure that it meets the Greenguard and LEED standard of no more than .05 parts per million of formaldehyde or your home’s indoor air quality is at risk. Some companies use volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in place of formaldehyde which can also have detrimental effects to your health, as VOCs have been proven to cause cancer in animals and the same is believed to be true in humans, though further research is required.
Once the product is finished, it is transported to the US (usually via boat) and then trucked to a supplier or big box store. Stop and think for a moment about the amount of fuel and carbon emissions it takes just to get this far in the process. The material itself is recognized by the Forest Stewardship Council as meeting the criteria for social responsibility and sustainability, but one must question themselves, is the transportation required truly classified as “sustainable”?
To conclude, if you’re choosing to go with bamboo floors in your home exclusively because of their green benefits, it’s vital that you research where and how it is being grown and manufactured both for the vitality of the environment and of your family.
Lindus Construction / Midwest LeafGuard is a full service contractor specializing in LeafGuard Gutters, GAF Asphalt Roofing, SeasonGuard Windows/Siding/Insulation, Metal Roofing, Decking, New Construction & Home Remodeling. Call us at 1-800-873-1451 or check us out on the web at http://lindusconstruction.com. Tune into WCCO 830 every Saturday at 9am for our Home Improvement Show with Denny Long & Andy Lindus.