Beyond Bamboo

There are 3 comments on the Baltimore Sun story from Jul 6, 2008, titled Beyond Bamboo. In it, Baltimore Sun reports that:

Whether redecorating, renovating or designing your new home, opting for one of the many varieties of sustainable, eco-friendly flooring can lighten the load on Mother Nature.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Baltimore Sun.


Columbia, MD

#1 Jul 6, 2008
The local Home Depot in Columbia has some bamboo flooring available at $1.99 per square foot. It is very nice looking and I'm strongly considering it for several rooms I had planned to use laminate in.
Dan Meyer

San Jose, CA

#2 Jul 7, 2008
Brad, you succeeded in using all the environmental buzzwords, but unfortunately, you got most of the facts wrong...

First, the most “eco-friendly” flooring on the market—if we could agree on a definition for that vague and over-used term—is North American hardwood flooring. Hands down, it is far better than bamboo, which turns out to be an environmental nightmare in most cases (requires huge inputs of fertilizer to maintain growth rates; natural forests are being cleared for bamboo plantations; 99% of it is grown in China, which has almost no enforced environmental regulations; the products must be shipped from the other side of the globe; they have very low wear-resistance, so they must be replaced often; and they traditionally have been made with very high-urea-formaldehyde adhesives). Cradle-to-grave life cycle analysis testing is currently being completed on hardwood flooring and many other floor coverings, and initial results prove hardwood flooring beats every other alternative material.

Second, cork is not a bad product, but then again, it comes with the same embodied energy problems of bamboo (shipping half-way around the world). And cork also has durability issues (both cork and bamboo faired poorly in Consumer Reports testing).

Third, why does the length of time it takes to grow matter? Personally, I’d prefer a product that grows naturally for 100 years, providing diverse wildlife habitat, clean water, and aesthetic beauty (to name a few) before it is selectively harvested to spend the next several hundred years as a beautiful piece of flooring, furniture or cabinetry. None of these tangential benefits is provided by bamboo plantations. Since we’re currently harvesting less than half of the growth in U.S. hardwood forests (and have been since 1952)—without pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers—hardwood floors are, by every definition, sustainable.

Fourth, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) DOES NOT have quality control measures for hardwood flooring. FSC certification has nothing at all to do with quality. Nor, for that matter, does FSC even certify flooring. It certifies forests, and thus the raw materials that come from them. It is up to the manufacturer to carry that certification through to the final product. Ironically, while a) bamboo is a grass and b) FSC generally does not certify any plantations established more recently than 1994 if they were established in areas converted from natural forests, FSC has somehow seen fit to extend certifications to certain bamboo “forests” in China. The interpretation and application of FSC standards to bamboo plantations is currently left widely up to each certifier.

As it turns out, if you do just a little bit of research, you’ll find that the most “eco-friendly alternative” is the same alternative your grandparents relied on 50 years ago: North American hardwoods. Every other choice will have greater environmental impact than this most natural choice.

Holly Springs, NC

#3 Jul 8, 2008
Dan -- very helpful insight & balance to the article. THANK YOU!!

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