A report released at the COP21 Paris Climate Conference presented a scientifically validated process to assess how “green” products made from bamboo really are. It shows that items made from bamboo can be carbon-neutral (or even carbon-negative) over their life-cycle. The report used a Life-cycle and Carbon Footprint Analysis to reveal how evidence can be produced to measure the environmental impact in the production of bamboo durable goods. The study was done with collaboration from Netherlands-based MOSO International, a leading producer of industrial bamboo products, Delft University in the Netherlands and the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR). This analysis assessed bamboo beams, cladding, decking, flooring and panels. The study indicated that after production and processing in China, transport to consumers in The Netherlands and incineration for energy production at end-of-life, these products have a carbon-neutral footprint.
Bamboo is often seen as an attractive green alternative to materials used in the building and interior decoration sectors because of its fast growth, sustainable harvesting processes, and wood-like properties. However, there are still some who are concerned that the environmental costs of production combined with long-distance transport means the environmental costs outweigh the products’ green benefits. Hans Friederich, Director General of INBAR stated, “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 life-cycle assessment provides the evidence that consumers, markets and regulators are asking for.”
Dr. Pablo van der Lugt, the report’s lead author, emphasized that there is no one correct approach to assessing a product life-cycle. Each product requires its own analysis. Lugt added, “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 reforestation and afforestation of bamboo in China, which 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 structure for other bamboo producers to use as an approach to assess their environmental performance and reduce the environmental impacts of their products. Many companies are pledging zero deforestation by 2020 and are looking to bamboo as a wood replacement for fiber, furniture and other products. Armed with a life-cycle study, a company can provide customers with validation of the green benefits of using bamboo.