Bamboo has seemingly endless applications – here are seven companies making innovative products from the sustainable bamboo plant.
In the face of increasing plastic waste and shrinking forests, companies and consumers are on the lookout for new and improved options. One option has moved to the front of the line: bamboo. A quick Google search will leave your head spinning from the myriad of companies offering products made of tree-like grass–and for good reason. With more than 1,500 species, capable of growing in “sub-tropical and mild temperate regions of Africa, Asia, America and Oceania” and naturally regenerative, bamboo is adaptable and plentiful. Plus, the speed at which bamboo grows is impressive, to say the least: growth rates can be up to 3 feet per day, allowing the crop to reach full growth in 1 to 5 years and become harvestable every 3 to 7 years. For comparison, a red maple tree grows about 12 to 18 inches a year and takes approximately 25 years to achieve maturity. One species of bamboo even holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest growing plant. Plus, growing bamboo is good for the environment; like trees, they sequester carbon dioxide–as much as 12 tonnes per hectare per year–while also producing 35 percent more oxygen.
Bamboo is “anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-pest.” The product is safe for humans because chemicals and pesticides do not have to be used in the growing process. Also, its natural antibacterial bio-agent, bamboo kun, makes the plant perfect for incorporation in materials that need to be kept hygienic. As such, a number of companies have begun using it for kitchen and bathroom appliances. Additionally, it is often referred to as ‘green steel’. Despite its light weight, it has a tensile strength of 28,000 per square inch, compared to steel’s 23,000, thus making it a frequently used material for construction companies. With so many benefits stemming from these products, bamboo seems like a natural choice.
Many companies are turning to bamboo to make innovative and durable products, the following are just a few blazing the trail.
After Jeff Delkin and Rachel Speth discovered the plant’s potential while traveling around Asia, they launched Bambu in Portland, Oregon. Bambucurrently offers a wide range of bamboo cutting and serving boards, utensils, and straws. Rachel explained to Forbes that “coming from a Western perspective, we were excited and impressed to see this material being applied in a way we’d never seen before.”
Meanwhile, the Humble Company, based in Sweden and with U.S. operations run out of California, offers a range of bamboo toothbrushes designed by dentists that help cut down plastic use. Moreover, the leaves and inside of the bamboo stalk can be used to make textiles and fabrics.
Humble Brush Adult, Black. Image provided by Humble Company.
Seattle based Cloud Paper produces paper towels and toilet paper completely made of bamboo and has been backed by celebrities like actors Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow, musician Ciara, NFL player Russell Wilson, and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. As co-founder Ryan Fritsch told Fast Company, “we want to push this narrative of going tree-free. To rally broad, cultural support around that, rather than just selling as much TP as we can.”
Another company, Marley’s Monsters in Eugene, OR, was born out of founder Sarah Dooley’s passion for sewing and creating products for her daughter Marley, and now offers a wide range of products including washcloths and face cloths made with bamboo fleece.
Headquartered in Sandy, UT, Cariloha makes sheets, blankets, duvets, pillowcases and towels made of viscose from bamboo plants. The bamboo serves as a great replacement for cotton, as the growth process for cotton involves fertilizers and pesticides, damages the soil, and uses a lot of water.
With a focus on its outdoor Bamboo X-treme® line that includes decking and fencing, MOSO North America CEO Brett Kelly notes of the product that “official carbon footprint studies have shown that Bamboo X-treme® is CO2 neutral over the full life cycle.” MOSO also makes doors, door frames, flooring, and outdoor and indoor furniture.
Based in Hawaii Bamboo Living designs and builds prefabricated homes, thanks to an epiphany that carpenter and founder Jeffree Trudeau had while walking through a bamboo forest in Maui. Trudeau had moved to Maui to build a solar-powered home for himself and since then, the company has built 400 homes for clients around the world.