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Bamboo: A Hot Product Getting even Hotter

Over the last several years, an ancient species of grass that was relegated to cheap patio furniture and cheesy Polynesian-themed lounges has emerged as the favored material for clothing manufacturers, interior designers, landscape architects, makers of athletic shoes, high-end hotel chains, and many other companies.

There are a lot of reasons why bamboo has become the Next Big Thing but, as always, it is the desire for 'black' on a profit-and-loss statement that is driving the 'green' of bamboo in the marketplace. Manufacturers and retailers are responding to the demands of environmentally conscious consumers that are looking for sustainable products and voting with their credit cards.

Bamboo Clothing

When it comes to clothing, consumers want fabrics that are eco-friendly but also look good, wear well, and feel comfortable which may help to explain why hemp clothing never really took off in the marketplace. Bamboo fabric has a number of desirable properties including:

  • Exceptional absorption Bamboo fabric wicks away and evaporates moisture very quickly so that the material is very breathable and feels comfortable next to the skin.
  • Thermo-control Cool and breathable in warm weather, bamboo fabric is also remarkably warm in cooler temperatures. The same properties that absorb and release moisture quickly also trap air next to the body which makes the fabric ideal for every weather condition.
  • Hygienic Scientists have found that bamboo has a unique anti-bacteria and anti-fungal bio-agent called 'bamboo kun' which, even after many washings, acts as a natural deodorant.
  • Anti-static Due to the composition of the material, bamboo fabric is naturally anti-static so it sits very well next to the skin without clinging to it.

Consumers with sensitive or allergy-prone skin also prefer bamboo clothing as the fibers are smooth and round which alleviates rashes and skin irritation.

Bamboo in Interior Design

As more and more bamboo products become available, consumers looking for environmentally-friendly alternatives to hardwood floors, furniture, cabinets, wall coverings, ceilings, and more are finding that bamboo is not only a 'green' alternative but often superior to traditional hardwoods. Bamboo is light but very durable and more resistant to wear and dings than oak, maple, and most other hardwoods. What's more, bamboo is naturally resistant to moisture which makes it far less likely to stain, cup, or warp from spills or fluctuations in humidity.

Available in a wide variety of finishes, bamboo is rapidly becoming a favorite of interior designers and discriminating homeowners everywhere. It is very easy to clean and maintain and offers the natural beauty and versatility of hardwoods without the environmental impact.

Bamboo Trends in Landscaping

There are over 1,000 species of bamboo that thrive in a variety of climates which make it an attractive choice for homeowners that are looking for beauty and privacy in their landscaping. As a 'green' alternative to wood or plastic fencing, bamboo is a great choice as a 'living fence' as it grows quickly and closely together.

Basically, species of bamboo can be separated into 2 categories: running and clumping. Running bamboo species get a lot of bad press because the plant's rhizomes (roots) spread rapidly underground and require regular maintenance to contain. However, running bamboo species are hardier and will withstand cold temperatures far better than clumping species.

Clumping bamboos do not spread as aggressively as running species, require much less maintenance, and are ideal for dense stands that provide privacy and beauty for any home. But they do not tolerate frost well and this factor restricts their use to the southern states. And the uses for bamboo in landscaping extend well beyond fences. Some plant retailers offer several species that do not grow as tall or aggressively and allow homeowners a wide range of beautiful and distinctive landscaping choices for decorative backyard rock gardens, patio accents, and many other applications.

Bamboo and Eco-Travelers

Hotels all over the country are rolling out all manner of 'green' programs, responding primarily to business travelers that are demanding eco-friendly accommodations but also because they are finding that going 'green' saves them money. "Environmental issues are one of the hottest issues within the travel industry right now," said Bill Connors, the executive director of the National Business Travel Association.

Other hotel officials also say evidence of eco-friendliness is driving demand. At the Crowne Plaza Hotel Atlanta-Perimeter Northwest, Hugh Anderson, the general manager, said bookings had soared for a boardroom renovated two years ago with bamboo flooring. "It's highly requested and is booked constantly, which is unusual," Mr. Anderson said. "It's something that's important to the traveler. They certainly have positive thoughts about using a facility that's environmentally friendly."

Summary

These are but a few examples of how bamboo's versatility is meeting the demands of consumers that are becoming increasingly aware of the impact that their choices have on the environment. And some of the heavyweights in retailing are taking notice. Timberland, Nike, Eddie Bauer, and dozens of other outfits are responding to the demand by distancing themselves from industrially farmed cotton and synthetic fabrics from petroleum products and exploring the use of renewable and sustainable resources.

This represents a very promising shift on both the supply and demand ends of the marketplace and offers hope for other environmentally responsible innovations. Despite its use for millennia in all sorts of applications, bamboo is just beginning to emerge worldwide as a viable alternative to all sorts of non-renewable materials. The full scope of bamboo's commercial impact is not yet known but early indications would suggest that it won't be long before we see bamboo labels on a wide range of products that are designed to appeal to consumers that want high quality but not at the expense of non-renewable resources.


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