A World Built In A Grove: A Series On Bamboo Interventions — III

A World Built In A Grove: A Series On Bamboo Interventions — III

In the first two articles on this series, we established bamboo as a material that is extremely useful and versatile. In addition, it can be a catalyst towards significant livelihood creation in India’s rural areas. With bamboo one can make a wide range of products. This makes bamboo a consumer’s dream. But here comes the last and final piece of the puzzle: sustainability. Bamboo’s environmentally-friendly aspects are widespread and unparalleled. A World Built In A Grove: A Series On Bamboo Interventions — III we aim to drive home the benefits of incorporating bamboo into your lives, and how it can positively affect our country and our planet at large.

Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.
– Stewart Udall

Part 3: Is Bamboo A Sustainable Alternative?

From toothbrushes to utensils to bags, plastic has overtaken our lives. India’s plastic problem is a silent monster. A Central Pollution Control Board estimate, states that approximately 707 million metric tons of plastic products are manufactured in a year. It is also estimated that our country generates close to 26,000 tones of plastic a day. Worse, a little over 10,000 tones a day of plastic waste remains uncollected. The uncollected plastic waste eventually ends up in the natural environment: in our seas, oceans, or lands. A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, states that by 2050, the amount of plastic in oceans will weigh more than the fishes.

The incredible thing is that more sustainable materials like bamboo can easily replace most plastic commodities in our households. Bamboo is an incredibly durable yet lightweight material, especially when compared to wood and steel. Since bamboo is technically grass, not a tree, there are no weak points along its length. This makes it stronger and more robust than the toughest hardwoods. Bamboo is a versatile plant that can be cultivated all over the world and thrives in harsh environments, from low wetlands to higher elevations in the mountains. With more than 1000 varieties, bamboo can be found in almost every area of the world.

Growing Bamboo For Sustainability

According to the World Wildlife Fund, 18.7 million acres of forest are lost annually to deforestation. As a replacement for hardwoods, bamboo provides a flexible alternative to reduce this number and to significantly protect our forests. When harvested, the roots can regenerate into new shoots that save time, costs and labor.

Labelled the fastest growing plant on earth, some species of bamboo might grow as much as three feet (1 meter) per day. Bamboo rarely requires replanting or even regular watering. Bamboo requires no agricultural chemicals to grow. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers deplete nutrients in the soil and put harmful chemicals into your plants, be with food, textile, or any crop.

Large-scale plantations can become effective ‘carbon sinks,’ i.e. areas designed to reduce carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. According to the World Bank, India’s carbon dioxide emissions per person amounted to 1,730 kg per year in 2014. Bharathi Namby, a scientist, says it’s only going to take five bamboo plants a year to make Indian carbon-neutral because each of them absorbs about 400 kg of CO2 a year. The plant is an “excellent scavenger,” he says; its roots are not below two feet, so it can absorb rich nutrients in raw sewage that flow untreated into the Yamuna and increase its biological oxygen demand. During the monsoon, the clumps will slow down the flow and reduce the risk of flooding downstream.

Eco-ethical Design And Cooperative Living

Set in a village near Ubud, Bali’s Green School recently celebrated its first decade of educating toddlers through teenagers about eco-ethical design and cooperative living. This tropical jungle campus of rugged bamboo pavilions has become a globally prominent display of one of this century’s main architectural trends, serving as the major renaissance in growing, cutting, handling, drying and laminating bamboo so that it can be used confidently for significant and near-permanent structures.

Only when utilized in raw form, is bamboo useful. In recent years, as the sustainability issue has become part of the mainstream market discourse, corporations have made it into a “trend” where they promote bamboo and other natural materials as part of their supply chains.

Supporting Locals For A Better Tomorrow

The best way to support sustainability and natural materials like bamboo is to buy from local communities and organizations. This in turn supports rural artisans. To promote eco-friendly rakhis, the tribal artisans of Lawada, Melghat have been making rakhis from bamboo. This innovative idea is helping the local tribal artisans to earn their daily livelihood. Making bamboo rakhi allows the artisans to earn around Rs 150 to Rs 500 a day.

Crafts like bamboo have been a part of indigenous cultures for centuries. And it is only right that we buy their products instead of from big corporations. More accountability associated with social entrepreneurship initiatives and more transparency about their work and business practices.

The UN sustainable development goals should be a significant part of all entrepreneurship, just like they are a part of Bhavyata’s initiatives.

The UN SDGs that we espouse are:
No Poverty
Decent Work and Economic Growth,
Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure,
Sustainable Cities and Communities
Responsible Consumption and Production, and
Climate Action.

With this, we come to the end of this three-part series in bamboo. From its wide variety of products, the livelihoods it offers people, to the sustainable nature of the material itself, bamboo contains incredible power. Bamboo is a part of a community’s heritage. The question of being “truly sustainable” also takes into consideration how we are trying to preserve our own culture. Are we running in a constant rat race to buy the newest, shiniest, fastest products, or are we slowing down to observe how the art in our country needs to flourish?

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