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Bamboo stems, leaves and soft shoots are the main food source of the Giant Pandas. They consume as much as 17kg of bamboo stems, 10 -14kg of leaves, or about 40kg of shoots each day.
Properties of bamboo
Bamboo is, in fact, a type of grass of the same plant family as straw, thatch, maize, rice, and wheat – the Poaceae family. The plant is native to tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, America, Africa, and Australia. Unlike trees, bamboo grows vertically, and emerges from the ground at diameter. Being one of the fastest growing plant on Earth - some bamboo species grow up to 100 cm a day reaching the full height within 3 to 4 months, and some of the largest species can grow up to over 30 meters tall! Bamboo is mostly considered fully mature in a matter of 2 to 4 years, with stems being ready to harvest usually within 5 years. This makes bamboo advantageous to wood, that can take up to 20 years to mature.
Self-sustained and easily-maintained
Bamboo is considered a renewable and sustainable plant. It doesn’t require any pesticides, fertilizers or additional irrigation in order to grow. It has a self-replenishing growth cycle, which means that after harvesting, new shoots continue to develop automatically from the root system. Due to this rapid growth, throughout its lifetime bamboo plant will absorb 4 times more carbon dioxide than similar hardwood trees. Recent studies have shown that the entire process of manufacturing bamboo, from harvesting to exportation, has currently a carbon-neutral impact on the environment.
The plant of many uses
Being a very strong and durable material, bamboo is often used in construction and architecture. Especially in Asian countries, it is very common to use bamboo as bridges scaffoldings, or as a concrete reinforcing skeleton in many houses. For its wood-like properties, bamboo is now also a very popular material for a wide range of interior decorations, such as flooring, furniture, and even novelty items. It is considered a great alternative to wood, being just as, if not even more, durable than some wood – its woven stranding prevents bamboo flooring from denting, which is a common problem with many traditional hardwoods.
There are many uses of bamboo in our kitchens – from bamboo utensils, chopping boards known for their durability, through food steamers that are getting even more popular nowadays for their reliability and benefits – steamed food retains all natural flavours, vitamins and nutrients; to an actual food source! People in China believe that baby bamboo shoots are meant to be have anti-inflammatory properties. When eaten raw they lower blood pressure, steamed are meant to boost your metabolism. They’re an amazing source of fibre too! And, you can even make flour out of bamboo seeds.
Could bamboo make a perfect alternative to plastic everyday products? It is certainly a very strong candidate. Bamboo products are being used in health and beauty industry for quite some time now, with some products gaining more and more attention of the public. Items like bamboo straws, utensils, and toothbrushes are the new trend, being a biodegradable option that can replace pesky plastics. In the age when the planet is endangered by climate change and global warming, people strive to find ways to reduce the negative impact of our everyday actions.
We still need to be careful when it comes to buying bamboo clothing. Despite it being an extremely soft and comfortable textile, that also had antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, some methods used in the manufacturing process are not that eco-friendly as they may seem – many prove to involve very harsh chemicals used in the process in order to receive the desired silky-smooth fabric. This is due to bamboo fibres being very short, making it difficult to transform them into yarn. The material we should look out for are rayon and viscose. On the bright side, many companies started looking for more environmentally friendly methods that minimize harm at every stage of the manufacturing process - the new processing methods are meant to be done completely mechanically, rather than using harsh chemicals.