Bamboo the green floor covering. We have a large variety of floors. Soft wood, hardwood, exotic wood and bamboo represent a few of our many floor types. Carpet, linoleum, sheet vinyl, laminate, ceramic and stone are a few more of the floors we enjoy. What a variety of floors and what a variety of environmental concerns. The Spotted Owl, endangered plants, endangered bugs and rodents, oil spills at sea and on land, strip mining – scaring the majestic beauty of our lands. Some say we are destroying the ecosystems and yes, the giant panda. All of these are real concerns and one or more of them affect the manufacturing of every type of floor covering made today. Is bamboo really an eco friendly floor?
So why is bamboo such an eco friendly flooring, does it not take food away from the panda? A panda must feed 12 to 16 hours a day, consuming 22 – 40 pounds of bamboo. When eating fresh shoots, each panda will consume about 84 pounds of bamboo shoots in a day. It is estimated that their are only 700 – 1500 giant pandas that exist in the wild. The giant panda is probably the best-known endangered animal. They compete with the farmers and are killed by the poachers. Bamboo is already being used for every other conceivable commodity from food, to housing, furniture, musical instruments, toys, tools, and just about anything else you can imagine. Here we are taking more bamboo away from the Panda to make floor covering, or are we?
In Oregon we have environmentalist sitting at the top of trees in an attempt to keep them from being cut down. Some trees sitters are there for months and even a year or longer. Competitive priced wood is no longer available in the United States for housing, flooring, and furniture and just about everything else.
We need oil and lots of it for the day-to-day operation of our automobiles, houses, factories and the manufacturing of a multitude of products including floor covering. Most carpet, laminate and resilient is composed of oil-based products at least in part. Environmental concerns have made us dependant on foreign oil, from countries that have less stringent environmental regulations.
Even those of us in the floor covering industry want a clean environment. We may be too busy to sit in a tree or block the construction of a pipeline, but when at the supermarket spending our hard earned cash, we still have to think fast when asked, paper or plastic? Do I want to cut a tree today or build a pipeline?
In China you do not have people sitting atop the bamboo canes. I imagine some would if they thought they could. Kidding aside, all of us need to be concerned with out environment and I truly believe those of us in the floor covering industry do care. Most all of us want to see the responsible use of our natural resources. We want the beauty of our country and our world to be here for future generations to enjoy.
So if less than a thousand Panda Bears survive in the wild, and rely on bamboo for their source of food, are bamboo floors the answer?
Nearly all of the bamboo flooring sold in North America is produced in the southern Chinese province of Hunan. This area is known as “the bamboo sea” for its extensive bamboo forests. The government owns the forest and individuals or companies can obtain contracts to harvest from them. Contrary to the concerns of many, the harvesting in these forests is not a threat to Pandas, as they live at much higher elevations and eat a different species of bamboo.
The habitat today of the giant panda is six small areas located in inland China. This habitat is suitable for the 15 or so bamboo varieties on which the panda survives. The area is a cold, damp coniferous forest with elevations that range from 4,000 to 11,000 feet.
More than 1,000 species of bamboo are found worldwide. The Moso species (phyllostachys pubescens) is a popular species for flooring. The Moso grows to about fifty feet in height and two feet in circumference. Moso is primarily found in the low mountain areas of Zhejiang province (It is in the Temperate Zone about 30 degrees North latitude). The temperatures in this area range from below freezing in the winter to over 100 F in the summer.
Mao Zhu (hairy bamboo) is another popular bamboo used for flooring. It is one of the hundreds of bamboo species not consumed by panda.
With its rapid growth cycle and abundance, bamboo floors really do appear to be environmental friendly.