Are Bamboo floors really green? The scoop – from treehugger.com

I am very very skeptical of environmental “solutions” that start to get trumpeted – when there is yet a lot of research to do. Case in point: Ethanol. And guys, don’t get me started on electric cars. “Total carbon footprint’ — and ‘embodied energy‘ — are key.

Another case in point: Bamboo floors. I read in the Wall Street Journal about 8 months ago that so many chemicals are used in processing these, that any environmental benefit from the sustainable growth factor is totally obviated. I recently went looking for more information online. How about this article from Treehugger.com, for further muddying the issue.

I agree with their conclusion: Find locally produced woods. Or go with linoleum (made from cork and linseed oil) or cork itself (very very cool stuff!). I doubt they would approve of VCT, but one thing you can say for that stuff — it lasts forever, which has got to be good on the embodied energy meter.

Oh yeah, not to mention that bamboo floors have a very questionable durability record. (See Tikimama’s comment on our recent post about trends that come and go in a blink.) Just say no.

Are Bamboo Floors Really Green? Treehugger.com’s coverage:

Tipster Brad installed a bamboo floor and says “The environmental benefits are great, but the flooring itself is awful”. We have had mixed experiences with it ourselves and decided to look more closely. READ TREEHUGGER’S COMPLETE STORY HERE.

  1. Recycled wood!!! I am a huge fan of recycling wood. In fact, there was a little mini-trend some years ago for using as flooring old wood removed from old houses and barns and such. Now the flooring makers are picking up on that trend by offering flooring with a “hand hewn” appearance.

    But I agree with you, Pam, about bamboo flooring. I had considered installing in a previous residence, but even my local Lowes was surprisingly insistent that I not use it. Here in PS, Lowes will not guarantee bamboo flooring, even if they install it. In our low humidity (just 5% right now, at noon), bamboo tends to curl. And the layers in laminated bamboo tend to separate. I have a neighbor in my complex, an artsy-fartsy type from Hollywood, who used bamboo, and he has had to re-do it twice in the past couple of years.

    Besides, bamboo flooring is so non-retro!! Why would any Retro Renovator want to use such a modern trendy product? The thought is as scarey as granite counters atop steel cabinets!

  2. 50sPam says:

    HI Stephan. Yes, retro renovators who are working to reflect the 50s and 60s shouldn’t be looking at bamboo for style reasons. But I’ve noticed that some have wanted to consider bamboo – because they also tend to have an ethic of environmental consciousness. Easy to happen when your first choice is original stock! Recognizing that they might want to consider bamboo for this reason – is why I did this post.

  3. Sumac Sue says:

    Definitely a pertinent topic. My husband, who works for an engineering/architecture firm, has shared with me a number of incidents in which the “green-ness” of a material is debated, and there are so many factors to consider. For example, he sees presentations of new, synthetic materials designed to replace wood, stone, glass, or metal. These new materials sometimes are dubbed green simply because they supposedly can be recycled. But, how does anyone know if it will make sense to recycle these products 10, 20, or 50 years from now? How can the cost of recycling such a product years from now be calculated, when no one knows what energy costs will be like at that time? These materials often already cost more than the “old” types of materials. So there are many issues still unresolved.

  4. Josephine says:

    So glad we didn’t get bamboo floors. We were able to re-finish the hardwood floors of the house we recently bought. It was built in 1948. We got lucky. Thanks for the info on the bamboo. Good to know.

  5. Carol says:

    Regarding a readers comment on recycled wood for floors; If you live near a city of any size, there are teardowns all the time in the more affluent areas. In Nashville, in the past, teardowns were advertised in the Sunday paper. Usually you had 2 to 4 days to salvage anything from the house including hardwood floors. Teardowns in Nashville have increased dramatically in the 8 years since I left. When I move back, one of the first things I will do is to contact the demolition companies. I want floors, trim, cabinets and bathroom fixtures. Tubs are a must! I don’t care what the refinish cost is. They don’t make them like they used to. My only concern is lead paint. Ugh! Like Pam says, everything we do to renovate is outdated eventually. The old stuff is a fortune to duplicate in the “new” retail market when building a house. I just realized the other day that I have purchased only 1 new piece of hardcase furniture in my life. I caught the “junk” bug in college. I’m 50 now and have collected the most fabulous Art Deco – MCM collection of furniture and would not trade any of it for new! It’s already out of style, repurposed and reflects my individual taste. The quality is amazing and of solid wood, dovetailed construction. I drove my Volvo for 15 years and they don’t make them like they used to so I bought a jeep. I can haul larger STUFF! Happy hunting everyone!

  6. pam kueber says:

    Great tip! Yes: “…everything we do to renovate is outdated eventually. The old stuff is a fortune to duplicate in the “new” retail market when building a house.”

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