As more and more consumers become interested in sustainability, businesses are looking for ways to show that they care about the environment too. Promotional products made from bamboo (and other eco-friendly materials) have become increasingly popular as a way to do this.
But is bamboo really a sustainable material? ??♂️
And, when it comes to your promotional merchandise, is bamboo better than the alternatives?
The short answer: it depends. Sustainability is not a black and white subject – it’s several shades of grey (or green….? ). Let’s break it down a little bit further.
✅ Bamboo grows fast and is a naturally renewable material, like grass. Moso bamboo is the type most often used for promotional products and it can reach up to 60 feet in just three to five years. This makes it a much more sustainable choice than slow-growing trees, which can take decades to reach maturity.
✅ Bamboo absorbs (lots of) carbon dioxide & produces up to 35% more oxygen than many trees.
✅ Bamboo grows from its own root system so doesn’t need to be replanted (good news for soil health).
✅ Producing bamboo takes less energy and other resources compared to products such as wood and plastic (which is not a naturally renewable resource).
So far, so good. But, before we get too smug sitting here in our bamboo undies and sipping a cappuccino from our bamboo coffee cup, we also need to consider the flip side.
❌ Most of the commercial scale production of bamboo takes place in China. The distance your promotional product has to travel impacts its carbon footprint. So, is the bamboo toothbrush imported from China the more sustainable choice, when compared to a locally made plastic one?
❌ Moso bamboo is a very invasive species. It can spread quickly and easily choke out other plants, which can be detrimental to local ecosystems. In some areas, it is considered an invasive species and is actually banned.
❌ Due to its popularity, large areas of land are being cleared to plant bamboo. So, as above, this isn’t great news for existing ecosystems or for fungi, insects and other small animals that get displaced. To increase production, it is likely farmers use chemical fertilisers and added pesticides despite bamboo not actually needing them to grow.
❌ Whilst bamboo fabric sounds like a good idea (and man – is it soft!), turning tough bamboo shoots and grass into fabric is an energy intensive process. There again, most fabrics – including cotton – don’t score too highly in this area. This article we wrote on the subject explains more.
So, what is an environmentally conscious consumer to do when it comes to ordering their promotional merch?
How can you decide if bamboo is the better choice without getting completely……..Bamboozled? ?
This is where working with an experienced supplier can help. At Inck, when it comes to helping our clients to find or create the perfect promotional product, we take a more holistic approach. Because, finding the ‘sustainable’ choice is not always as simply flipping to the ‘eco-friendly’ section on a supplier’s website.
Or choosing the bamboo option over the plastic one. Yes, maybe the bamboo coffee cup is the more sustainable choice….but, if it doesn’t last as long as the plastic keepcup…then is it? ??♂️
The one thing we do feel confident about is that the more curious we become as businesses and consumers, the better equipped we will be to make smarter and kinder choices. And that surely deserves a big, fat tick of approval ✅
Do you have any questions about bamboo or other sustainable promo products? Give us a call or leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to answer them!
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