How ‘green’ are bamboo products?
This article summarises a report published by INBAR in 2015 that evaluated the carbon cost of bamboo products over their lifetimes.
A new ‘lifecycle assessment’ reveals that many bamboo products and their processes are carbon-neutral.
Because of its green growth, sustainable harvesting, and wood-like properties, bamboo is widely perceived as an attractive green alternative to other materials used in the building and interior decoration sectors.
But, some argue that the environmental costs of production – and the fact that bamboo resources are located far from western consumer markets – outweigh the plant’s green benefits.
A new report outlines a scientifically validated process to assess the green credentials of products made from bamboo. It shows how items made from this versatile plant can be carbon neutral – or even carbon negative – over their lifecycle. It provides a tool that producers can use to certify their green credentials for the increasing number of bamboo products on the market.
The report uses a Lifecycle and Carbon Footprint Analysis, to demonstrate how evidence can be produced to measure bamboo’s environmental impact for the manufacture of durable products. This analysis evaluated bamboo flooring, decking, cladding, panels and beams. It shows that these products have a carbon-neutral footprint – after production and processing in China, transport to consumers in the Netherlands, and eventually, incineration for energy production.
Speaking at the launch, INBAR Director General, Dr. Hans Friederich, says: “If bamboo business is to expand to reach its full potential, especially in developing countries, the industry needs to transparently demonstrate its environmental performance. A robust lifecycle assessment provides the evidence that consumers, markets and regulators are asking for.”
The report’s lead author, Dr. Pablo van der Lugt, stressed that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to assessing product lifestyle. Each product requires its own analysis. “Our findings show that the carbon footprint of the bamboo products we surveyed in this scenario can be carbon-neutral. This is due to the significant restoration and afforestation in China that increases the carbon stock in forests, and the substitution of fossil fuels with bamboo at the end of the product’s lifecycle, based on waste disposal standards and scenarios in the Netherlands.”
The results presented in the report provide a framework to inspire other bamboo producers to use the approach to assess their environmental performance, and reduce the environmental impacts of their products. Lifecycle analysis also informs policymakers about the sustainability of bamboo products and the agroforestry systems that supply them. It informs policy shaping processes to encourage bamboo and rattan to be specified in national and international policies and investment plans.
As major wood-consuming companies are pledging zero deforestation by 2020, many are looking to bamboo as wood replacement for furniture, fiber and other products.
Armed with scientific validation provided by a lifecycle study, they can now credibly validate for consumers the green benefits of their use of bamboo.
For more information:
The report, The Environmental Impact of Industrial Bamboo Products: Life-Cycle Assessment and Carbon Sequestration, can be downloaded here.