bamboo

What’s So Amazing About Bamboo? Why bamboo has become the go to eco product, and whether it really is all it’s cracked up to be.

It didn’t take much foraging into the eco world to discover bamboo. A lot of bamboo. The humble, unassuming, panda fodder has been silently growing over the years, until suddenly it was in everything from socks to toothbrushes to loo roll. Bamboo has become synonymous with eco living; a fast growing plant with natural antibacterial properties and UV protection. What’s not to love?

It’s easy to be told that something or other is the wonder product of our time, and trade allegiance from, say, toilet roll made out of wood pulp, to one made out of bamboo. But I wondered what would happen if we all did that. What if bamboo became the main ingredient in toilet roll, or clothing, or kitchen appliances, around the world?

Bamboo is a fast growing grass which self-regenerates and doesn’t require any pesticides. It grows at an alarming rate. Check out this video to see just how fast it happens! On the face of it, it’s the perfect raw material for many consumer needs.

It is mostly grown in China however, and we know little about the regulations around the way it is grown and harvested. Could a massive increase in demand for bamboo replicate the crisis in Indonesia, Malaysia and parts of South America brought about by the over-cultivation of oil palms? The clearing of rainforests to enable vast quantities of lucrative palm oil to be extracted, has endangered whole ecosystems.

I suspect we won’t know if this is happening with bamboo until it’s far too late.

In addition, the transformation of bamboo from plant to something more serviceable, often involves chemicals and processes that can’t exactly claim to be helping the environment. Turning bamboo into a pair of silky soft socks, for example, uses exactly the same procedures as making rayon from wood pulp. Do you think it still contains antibacterial and UV properties after it’s been through its chemical transformation? No one can answer that for certain, but I have a hunch.

So I do think that there is a place for bamboo, but I don’t think it’s the eco saviour we’ve all been told it is.

I was hoping it would be, that I could switch to bamboo loo roll, and my eco conscience would earn a few points. But now I find myself researching 100% recycled toilet paper. I’ve heard many good reviews for Who Gives a Crap and have seen others along the way such as Ecoleaf that I am keen to try.

My trials will have to wait however. During our snow enforced confinement last week, my husband dug himself out in search of urgent supplies. I asked for loo roll and he came back with 24. So we have a bit to get through before we can save the planet on this front.

My discussions with friends along the theme of recycled toilet roll, led to a conversation about Cheeky Wipes, a re-usable wipe that does away with the need for toilet paper altogether. At least that’s the theory. Some proudly claimed to have used it, and not been grossed out by it. Others suggested that they might consider it for certain based toilet activity, and not others. Most agreed it was a wonderful idea – for other people.

Cheeky Wipes

I couldn’t get away from the practicalities. Where should you store the wipes until a spin in the washing machine is scheduled? In a house with multiple toilets, multiple (plastic?) receptacles would be needed. And then how do they transition from receptacle to washing machine having been sat there for perhaps a couple of days? There were too many questions I wasn’t prepared to engage with.

Again I find there is no ideal solution. And so my compromise. Once we have waded through our forest of fresh wood pulp loo roll, I will order 100% recycled paper from Who Gives  a Crap and see how it performs on a number of criteria, including cost. I’ve become a connoisseur of these things over the years, so I will give you full and frank feedback. I’m sure you can’t wait.

Some happy news this week. My Ecoegg arrived! The Ecoegg, for the as yet uninitiated, is an egg shaped ball filled with pellets that will transform your laundry from a heap of mud and baked beans (in my case) to squeaky clean, without the need for any detergent whatsoever. Another wonder product that sounded too good to be true.

Ecoegg

I researched it quite a bit. I discovered I was late to the party with quite a number of my friends having already been happily using one for a good while. The science was a bit bamboozling. There was talk of ionising and dirt suspension. What I gleaned was that there are two types of pellets, the mineral one containing something similar to bicarbonate of soda, a well-known cleaning agent, which ionises the oxygen, lifting the dirt away. The other is a tourmaline pellet which weakens the bond between the dirt and the fibres.

Phew –that’s the science over. And thank you to Ecoegg.kiwi.nz  for their assistance in this matter!

The science does stand up to independent testing, I guess that’s the main thing. It is, apparently, better than chucking a couple of stones in your washing machine, or just doing away with detergent altogether. That’s all I needed to know.

At £19.99, the Ecoegg is an investment. But it claims to last 720 washes, which even for a house with a four year old who refuses to use cutlery, is quite a lot of washes. The average family apparently does five washes a week, so it should last around three years. There is a hefty saving to be made on detergent, not to mention the benefit to not sending yet more chemicals into our waterways, and all the packaging we won’t be using.

Ecoegg before & after  Ecoegg vs baked beans before & after

And even better, it actually works! It’s had a few spins so far and my clothes are clean. My husband even remarked on how soft his pants were! I briefly wondered how ‘unsoft’ they had been before; but he holds the red briefcase round here, so if he’s happy, I consider myself free to carry on my eco campaign!

Next week I’m continuing to look at supermarket packaging, and reporting back on my first order from the Edinburgh Community Food initiative.

Finally, my top tip for the week: Did you know that some plastic food bags can be recycled? Recycle Now has a list of the symbols to look out for. I have so far only discovered bread bags with the relevant symbol, but I would previously have put them in the bin, so it’s a small start! It’s definitely worth checking everything you are about to throw away, just in case there is a possibility it can find a home other than landfill.

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Post Author: catherine