A Bamboo Industry in the United States? Yes, Mr. President.

A Bamboo Project launches on Indiegogo furthering the cause of bamboo as a mainstream industry in the United States.

By: Eric Stevens September 27,2012

#abambooproject, #dotheboo

Bamboo has been deemed the new “wonder plant” and with good reason. Bamboo impacts the lives of over 1.5 billion people worldwide, has over 1500 uses that we know about now, is highly sustainable, sequesters up to 40% more Co2 than a forest of trees the same size, and is stronger than steel. 

Unless you live in the Southern U.S. you may not know that bamboo grows here. Yes, you read that correctly, it grows in the United States. So why don’t we manufacture bamboo here? The truth is I really don’t know. I can point fingers at the Wood Industry whom have intercepted studies being done on the benefits of bamboo and the viability of bamboo as a crop but that study commissioned by the USDA was stopped in its tracks in 1968.

Fast forward to 2006. Before this, bamboo had always been classified as a “non-wood” in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule.  (This is basically a list that dictates how much money to collect from the importers bringing it in to the U.S.) Because of the sudden large volume in sales of bamboo products bamboo was awarded its own classification. That in itself is a very big piece of evidence when discussing the popularity of bamboo. 

Bamboo is the fastest-growing woody plant in the world, capable of growing up to four feet a day. Most of it is grown organically, and in most locations requires no irrigation, pesticides, or fertilizers. Because of its fast growth, good mechanical properties, low price and abundant availability, bamboo is widely recognized as a promising resource for sustainable manufacturing.

Two important attributes of bamboo. First, an acre of bamboo can sequester 25 tons of carbon dioxide per year, compared to only 6 tons from a young forest. Bamboo is so effective in this role that Japan and the Netherlands are planting vast tracts of bamboo toward their carbon credit. Much of America’s lands are suitable for growing bamboo. After being imported as early as 1828 into the United States, bamboo grows wildly mostly concentrated in the Southern U.S. and Eastern seaboard. There are additional successful farms as far north as Ohio, Oregon and Washington.

Second, bamboo is an amazing fiber for paper and cloth. Global annual production of bamboo pulp is 1.5 million metric tons, with 80 percent from China and India. The cloth from bamboo is as soft as silk, more absorbent than cotton, and contains natural antimicrobial agents. Kimberly-Clark recently announced an agreement to work with Mount Vernon-based Booshoot to develop a mass-market toilet paper using 20 percent bamboo fiber. (source: Seattle Times 6/25/2012)

Additional benefits of bamboo:

  • Bamboo requires only one third of the water than cotton does. There is much less carbon associated with growing bamboo such as operating tractors in harvesting and maintenance than cotton.
  • Bamboo is stronger than steel and more durable than wood. (withstands up to 52,000 Pounds of pressure psi) It can be used as a composite, structural beams, flooring, scaffolding, supports, housing, and concrete reinforcement.
  • Bamboo is flexible. It can be used in virtually any application such as bike frames, domes, and other products.
  • Bamboo filters soil of contaminants and prevents soil erosion.
  • This plant has a use in every industry. 
  • Biomass: Just after three years of gestation period, from an one acre yield will be an amazing a minimum of 20 m tons, with 8-10% moisture and 1% ash content. There are higher silicone content in bamboo which makes processing imperative to achieve a clean burn. 
  • Popularity is growing every year.


I travel often to China and Southeast Asia and I see bamboo apart of daily life EVERYWHERE!  So, why not in the U.S.? Time (source The Global Warming Survival Guide 2007) and Newsweek (“Stronger Than Steel” 4/12/2008) recently identified the planting of bamboo as one of the top things people in America can do to help fight global warming. If this plant is truly this amazing then why are we not growing it at home?

As you will read in the remainder of this article, many different government entities and bamboo proponents are continuously asking the question; “Is bamboo the new wonder plant?” Where these organizations have fallen short, is creating a cohesive and vertical market in the United States. It is not often that all experts agree on the viability of one crop and do nothing about it. This is where the opportunity exists for Eric Stevens and A Bamboo Project. 

The need for a bamboo industry in the United States.

Provided all legislation and forecasts stay on course during this election a perfect storm is brewing for the entrance of bamboo as a mainstream crop.
Let’s first look at the politics. 
  • This year the farm subsidy lobby appears ready to finally end the direct payment program-ten years later than the program's 2002 expiration date. 
  • The cost of the crop insurance programs has exploded from $2 billion a year in 2002 to $9 billion a year in 2011. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects the program will cost taxpayers $90 billion over the next ten years. 
  • Climate change is still happening even though our presidential candidates make very little mention of it in speeches. American farmers have lost a large amount of crops to the worst heat record/draught on record.  "Nobody is speaking out in a sufficiently loud way," said Bill McKibben, the author and founder of the climate change advocacy group 350.org. "We just came through a summer that saw the warmest month ever recorded in American history -- July. There's never been any month in any year warmer than that. And as far as I know, that went entirely unremarked by any of our political leaders." (Source: Huffington post 9/27/2012 Tom Zeller Jr.: Romney And Obama Charged With 'Climate Silence')
  • The U.S. commitment to bio fuel sources and its integration into conventional fuels has sparked controversy. As companies that supply motor fuel close the books on 2011, they will pay $6.8 million in penalties to the Treasury because they failed to mix biofuel gasoline and diesel.  The amount of biofuel and penalties will increase in 2012. The National Petrochemicals and Refiners Association argue that there is no such bio fuel on the market to be acquired. (Source: New York Times 1/10/2012.)

The environment:

At the rate of deforestation currently in the United States, only one-fourth of the forests standing today will be standing in 70 years.

Bamboo is being used as a bio filter in San Francisco making it an  ecological wastewater utilization system that essentially grows away, waste, producing a marketable crop in the process.

Bamboo has an intensive rhizome system that creates an effective mechanism for watershed protection, stitching the soil together along fragile riverbanks, deforested areas, and in places prone to earthquakes and mud slides. Because of their wide-spreading root system, uniquely shaped leaves, and dense litter on the forest floor the bamboo greatly reduces rain run-off, preventing massive soil erosion and keeping double that water in the watershed. Something to think about in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil spill.

The FTC accused some companies of selling Rayon instead of bamboo textiles and they were right. The current method of processing bamboo in China and elsewhere is very chemically intensive, a very dirty method of production. Advances made in processing of bamboo have led to closed loop manufacturing systems as being utilized in the EU or steam as a bamboo project is suggesting. 

Industrial:

  • From harvesting to manufacturing products that are in current demand with locally sourced bamboo material creates tens of thousands of jobs in the United States. We know this for a fact. These jobs exist in China today. 
  • Mississippi State University has begun research on Panda poo being collected to isolate enzymes in the panda’s digestive system that could aid in the breakdown of bamboo more efficiently. A panda’s diet is 90% bamboo. 
  • In a DOE commissioned Study 2001-2004 several materials were tested as filtration for mercury in coal plants. The best performing sorbents were carbon-based (i.e. corn-char, bamboo, tire-derived, and carbon soot) as demonstrated at the three coal-fired locations with mercury removals ranging from 83% to 99%
  • It is argued that products manufactured in China are cheaper and we cannot source bamboo products for that reason efficiently. I disagree. Let’s walk through the bamboo products journey from China. 


A U.S. company purchases an iPhone case for $5.00 (source alibaba.com) this same product is sold to the U.S. consumer for $35.00. Please add to that the equivalent release of CO2 x 50 million cars while you are at it. This is the reported output of one container ship from China to the United States. 

WHY the HUGE markup? Well there are a lot of people to be paid in your products’ journey. Shipping is anywhere from $3,000-$6,000 dollars. Then there are customs, brokers, warehousing, and salesmen that all need to make money resulting in the $36.00 towel. If bamboo is sourced here, the “middlemen” and transportation affects are WIPED OUT. As a benefit you will also be saving our environment, creating jobs, and find additional uses for this wonder plant. After considering all the different factors when ordering from China; the United States can afford to be competitive.

Now multiply these savings by the furniture, home décor, technology accessories, flooring, and apparel products being sold in the United States today. The birth of the main stream bamboo industry is upon us. Companies like Teragren, and Booshoot have been the pioneers in this industry. Booshoot proved the pulp fiber model for bamboo by entering into an agreement with Kimberly Clark. Teragren founders Ann and David Knight with Craig Thomason are doing the same in flooring and other products by creating a bamboo fiber-based agricultural and industrial complex in the United States using proprietary propagation technology. The companies intend to harness the myriad applications of rapidly renewable bamboo to drive economic development and create jobs in the agriculture, energy, building products, food and beverage, bio-plastics, purification, transportation, aerospace and specialty textile fiber sectors. 

Add to that Booshoot; attaining a three year exclusive contract with Home Depot for bamboo ornamental plants commonly known as “lucky bamboo” the potential for bamboo in the United States is being proven. Home Depot could have continued doing business outside of the U.S. for bamboo, but this contract serves as writing on the wall showing that if a large U.S. retailer will source bamboo locally in its continued commitment to the environment and American economy others will follow suit. The positive PR resulting from these efforts in the “who’s greener” battle will motivate this change. 

All that remains is the additional front end investment and political support to establish a mainstream bamboo industry in the United States. All experts agree there is a potential for bamboo, they also agree there is still some perfecting to do in the manufacturing processes, not to mention additional potentials in Bamboo. 

The industries affected and created from bamboo are literally limitless; research has already begun in for use of bamboo in the aerospace, building, bio fuels, water and air filtration industries as an example. It’s a possibility in the near future to see your car’s body and interior made of bamboo composites and run on bamboo fuel. 

A bamboo project is looking to lead the way to a main stream bamboo industry bringing with it, technical knowledge gained in Asia and working with companies like Booshoot. Launching the project on Indiegogo on September 21st, a bamboo project is raising funds for a 2 acre parcel, processing center, and green house to serve as a research and development center in Southern California. A bamboo project offers locally sourced bamboo products as “perks” on this campaign to get the general public familiar with bamboo quality, feel, and durability. Through this initial funding by passionate people who give our idea merit, a bamboo project will build proof of concept.

Research will initially focus on cleaner and more efficient harvesting and production methods. 

Through a unique mix of lease and acquisition of parcels growing bamboo, a bamboo project will be able to fill immediate market need becoming a supplier to various industries while planting bamboo for future sourcing. Bamboo is cut and almost immediately replenishes itself so it is a carbon neutral source. 

Through locally sourcing our own materials and selling the bamboo to the industries requiring the least amount of manufacturing makes this project profitable from the start. This finances the development of new “open source” methods and technologies and thus begins the explosion of bamboo into a U.S. mainstream industry.

Long term goals include the development of bamboo into bio plastics, charcoal filtration, composites, textiles, and bio fuel. A bamboo group will begin the process of suggesting 3 year subsidies for those farmers who begin growing bamboo to offset the 1-3 year growth period before initial harvest. Considering the end of long term subsidies to ALL farmers later this year, this could provide incentive for farmers to begin to plant bamboo. In industries like cotton, unless cotton can maintain and harvest itself cotton faces a dismal future without these subsidies. 

Building a Bamboo industry in the U.S. is the next logical step in our search for greener technologies and ways to lower our respective carbon footprint. They say life always finds a way. It appears Bamboo does too.

Please visit Indiegogo  and lend your support to a Bamboo project and take part in the further creation of a bamboo industry in the U.S. and visit our site: #abambooproject for a wealth of information on bamboo and its uses.  

Also join us on Facebook Twitter or GPlus!

Additional links:
Bambootility ( A weatlh of information on bamboo) 
Booshoot (The Queen of the Bamboo industry)
Bamboo Farming USA (Daphne The OTHER Queen of Bamboo) 
Teragren ( Ambassadors of Bamboo) 
Bamboo is Grass (EXCELLENT resource and renoun expert.)
Calibamboo (Flooring)

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