The best definition is “Sustainable products are those products providing environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health, welfare, and environment over their full commercial cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to final disposition.”
Tough to find a product that does that in this modern age. Benefit the environment, public health and economy. Some say bamboo is the only true sustainable product. Yet it isn’t. It is renewable, and eco-friendly, but it does not meet all the requirements of a sustainable product.
But why is it not sustainable? Since there are no American growers of wood substitute bamboo all the bamboo used in flooring, furniture and cutting boards are shipped from the Pacific Rim. The energy used for transport if not very eco friendly.
Most bamboo flooring uses an adhesive that contains urea-formaldehyde (UF). Use of UF resins, are harmful to indoor air quality. It must be said that bamboo flooring uses a relatively small amount may other materials such as particle board (hello Ikea). There are sellers that have Formaldehyde free bamboo flooring. You also may consider using salvaged wood.
Importers generally have little information or control over bamboo manufacturers. Manufacturers can use potentially toxic binders, finishes and other chemicals. They can create lots of solid waste, run equipment that may be dangerous, polluting and eroding hillsides. Bamboo can be an aggressive invader because of its quick growth if it is not managed well. It creates monoculture which is has less biodiversity. Biodiversity is good for the environment.
As the demand for bamboo rises so does the economical potential. With that there should be a rise in tracking bamboo. Where did it come from? How environmentally conscience is the company growing it? Producing the products? What was used in the production? Once these questions are asked and America start growing and producing (instead of hydrogenated corn oil please). Many of bamboo’s sustainable issues will disappear.
While Bamboo is not yet sustainable it is extremely promising and is eco-friendlier than many other materials in use and it is beautiful too!