Building the Ultimate Green Kitchen

The ecoconscious love bamboo because it’s rapidly renewable and sustainable. It looks and feels like wood—but often carries a cheaper price tag—and is extremely durable. However, it’s important to know that not all bamboo is green.

A member of the grass family, bamboo grows fast and is simple to farm, adapting easily to a harvesting cycle of five years, without the use of irrigation or pesticides. Because the root system of a bamboo grove is not killed when the stalks are cut, the harvesting cycle can continue as long as the grove stays healthy.

But as bamboo has become trendy, some unsavory growers have entered the marketplace. They clear-cut forests to grow bamboo, cut stalks before maturity, or use harmful pesticides in the growing.

Because there are no groups that monitor bamboo farms (like FSC does with forests), you’ll have to do a little more work to make sure you’re getting green bamboo. Shop exclusively with green retailers and ask about the source of the bamboo they sell. It’s a major selling point to have responsibly farmed bamboo, so chances are it will already be advertised as such. For online retailers, shop EcoTimber, Smith & Fong Plyboo, or Bamboo Hardwoods.

You can also buy what’s called strand bamboo: recycled bamboo strips that are thrashed, bundled, and pressed together. It’s a fairly new material that’s extremely dense and long-wearing—it’s twice as hard as oak and standard bamboo flooring—making it a good fit for high-traffic areas. And strand bamboo doesn’t dent and is less susceptible to water damage. The only drawback is that it’s a little tough on the back when standing up for long periods.

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Smith & Fong Plyboo

These strand flooring planks are available in a dark or honey stain. Cofounder Dan Smith makes at least six trips a year to China to oversee quality and environmental control of the bamboo farms he sources from. To further ensure socially and environmentally responsible processes, Plyboo is part owner of the factories where its bamboo manufacturing takes place—a rarity in the industry. $5.99 per square foot.

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Bamboo Hardwoods

This company is one of the largest bamboo retailers in the country and still manages to follow green business practices. The company hires contractors to monitor and maintain the quality standards in the factories its bamboo comes from. Its four varieties of strand bamboo will run you $2 to $6 per square foot.