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Comparing Bamboo vs Wood Flooring’s Environmental Impact

Bamboo has gotten a lot of attention for being an incredibly green, eco-friendly building material. This is because bamboo grass stalks can grow very rapidly; some types attain full height in just 3 to 5 years. Further, when it is harvested, the roots do not need to be cut, so it can continue growing without the need for replanting. Bamboo is all-natural—it can be recycled, and is biodegradable.

However, there are also environmental drawbacks to bamboo. It is generally grown in Southeast Asia and therefore requires a significant energy expenditure to get it to certain locations. It is also harder to manufacture bamboo into flooring than it is to prepare wood logs for use, which means a greater CO2 expenditure and environmental impact. And in some regions, planting commercial bamboo plantations have come at the expense of forests destroyed to make room for them. Many bamboo products also make use of manmade chemical resins and glues that are not at all friendly to the environment.

Compared to bamboo, a hardwood tree can take upwards of 20 years or more to reach full maturity and be ready to harvest, and harvesting means the death of the tree. This means that the materials used take far longer to regenerate. But a single tree provides a substantial amount of workable lumber. Further, transportation costs are considerably less for many hardwoods, since they can be grown in a wide range of regional climates and can be readily sourced from local mills. Finally, solid hardwoods are a pure product, requiring no chemical resins or glues (engineered hardwood flooring, however, does include these chemical materials).

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