China is where the majority of the bamboo used in the flooring industry is grown. As with many industries in China, there are no regulations on how this crop is being cultivated, the chemical sprays used on this grass, and also the conditions of the Chinese workers. All these reasons make bamboo a very questionable floor covering.
The Endangered Giant Panda
One of the most prominent examples of bamboo’s threat to biodiversity is the giant panda. The panda bear is losing its habitat to bamboo plantations rapidly. Forests are being logged and cleared for bamboo. The panda bear is on the endangered species list because of the growing market for bamboo in North America.
Chinese Bamboo Plantations
Bamboo primarily comes from China. In China, many mature forests are being clear cut to make way for bamboo plantations because there is such a high demand for bamboo from the American market.
A Monoculture Crop
These plantations are not being implemented in a sustainable way. Bamboo is becoming a monoculture. Bamboo is the only crop that is growing in these regions. Any monoculture will have a negative impact on biodiversity.
The “No Fertilizers” Myth
Bamboo is sold as a fast-growing grass that doesn’t even require any fertilizers. This may be true on a very small scale. But, to keep up with American demand for bamboo products, fertilizers are being used widely to get a larger yield.
This claim about not using any fertilizers doesn’t hold any truth. If they didn’t use any fertilizers, they would not be producing bamboo floor coverings as fast as they are! The pesticides and fertilizers have a huge impact on the environment.
The Chinese most often don’t even comply with American or European standards when it comes to the production of bamboo. This means that the fertilizers and pesticides that are used in the production of bamboo are not monitored.
Here is the proof: The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) has only certified one bamboo flooring company as of recently. (The only company the FSC has certified is Smith & Fong.) This means that how bamboo is grown and processed is not regulated at all.
Erosion is another environmental concern. Some manufacturers sell bamboo as a green product so much so that they claim that because it has a broad root structure, it helps to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. In fact, erosion is an intrinsic natural process and is healthy for certain ecosystems. Even if this is the case with more mature plants, this is actually not a good thing! However, this is actually a false claim.
Most forest lands are on hilly and mountainous terrains with steep slopes. When they clear cut a forest to plant bamboo, they are actually increasing erosion until the bamboo becomes fairly mature. Even though they may say they are working harmoniously with nature, they are clearly disrupting ecosystems.
Bamboo’s Social Impact
Aside from the environmental impact, there are also significant social problems that the bamboo industry causes. The cost of bamboo is slightly cheaper than hardwood but still comparable.
Somebody’s getting rich off the high margins on bamboo if it is so incredibly easy to produce and it grows like a weed. It is a very trendy floor covering. Many bamboo floor companies are making false claims about its sustainability to capitalize and make large profits.
There is no fair trade certification on bamboo. This means that the working conditions and wages are not regulated. So not only does bamboo create a negative environmental impact, it also creates a negative social impact for its Chinese workers.
I hope these reasons are enough to think twice about getting a bamboo floor. If you care about where the products you consume come from or how they are produced, bamboo floors are certainly not for you.
You may have heard bamboo is harder than hardwood, it lasts forever, is elegant and so forth. I recommend reading my article “The Truth About Bamboo Flooring”.