We’ve often heard it said—and sometimes I’ve said it myself—that bamboo has hundreds or thousands of practical uses. In fact, I’ve never stopped to add them all up, but my intuition tells me it’s true. And having operated an all-bamboo boutique for more than 15 years, I can tell you that the number of bamboo products available today is truly incalculable.
I’m not going to list every use for bamboo here, but I have put together a quick reference of 26 bamboo products from A to Z. Hopefully this impressive inventory will demonstrate the vast potential of what can be done with bamboo. And like I’ve said before, if it can’t be done with bamboo, it probably shouldn’t be done.
For more botanical details, check out our article on Bamboo Utility: Making use of the entire bamboo plant.
An ancient use for bamboo that we can trace back to the era of Japanese feudalism, bamboo arrows were a popular weapon of choice among the Samurai warriors. Strong, lightweight and easy to sharpen, bamboo arrows can fly from the longbow of skillful Samurai with deadly accuracy. At Bambu Batu, we’ve always preferred bamboo products intended for non-violent purposes. But we still respect the training and discipline of a talented archer.
For inspiration and relaxation, simply reach for this bamboo product of alcoholic fermentation. Cervesa Bambusa in Central Mexico adds local bamboo leaves during the fermentation process of their refreshing beverage. So when it comes time to celebrate the sustainability of bamboo, this is the craft beer you want. Their ever changing selection includes a variety of Old World recipes like German Hefeweizen and Belgian Pale Ale.
Another timeless classic from the bamboo catalog, Asians have been eating with bamboo chopsticks for millennia. These days, China and Japan go through about 80 billion pairs of chopsticks a year, mostly made from trees and meant for single use. Switching back to reusable bamboo chopsticks, the more traditional option, is an excellent way to curb waste and reduce deforestation.
At big parties and events, where dishwashing is virtually impossible and disposable dishes are essential, biodegradable bamboo dish wares are a superior alternative. The age of single-use plastic plates and utensils is over and done. I’m sorry to say it, but anyone who still throws away a trash bag full of plastic dishes after a birthday party is still living in the dark ages.
Check out these bamboo veneer plates available from Amazon.
Whether you’re fueling a green automobile or trying to sustain a powerful buzz, ethyl alcohol from bamboo is quickly becoming a viable option. Biomass ethanol is a renewable and cleaner burning substitute for fossil fuel. And up until now, most bio-ethanol has been produced from corn and wheat. But using food crops for fuel and energy has the unintended consequence of driving up food prices. Alternatively, bamboo grows even faster and more renewably than grains, and it’s not primarily a food crop.
Bamboo flooring has been around for a few decades now, and it’s one of the first major products to shine a light on bamboo’s strength and durability, and its real potential as a substitute for lumber. Nothing in the home takes such a stiff and steady beating as the floors. If fast-growing bamboo can hold up against this constant barrage of foot traffic, then surely it can compete with timber in a wide range of other practical applications.
For some garden furnishing with a dash of Asian flavor, the bamboo gazebo makes a stunning impression. Bamboo is famously strong and durable and makes an excellent building material. And when treated properly, the natural bamboo poles hold up amazingly well in the weather. Deck out your bamboo garden and Zen oasis with a bamboo pergola or bamboo gazebo, and find yourself transported to an otherworldly paradise.
Not just for lightweight garden construction anymore, the age of engineered bamboo houses has arrived. And these structures aren’t the rustic cottages of Gilligan’s Island. Today, companies like Bamboo Living Homes use engineered bamboo boards and beams in standardized sizes to build serious homes that meet building codes and safety guidelines.
Another pioneer in the bamboo construction industry, BamCore of Northern California not only builds with bamboo, but their homes are designed to be the most sustainable and energy efficient by any measure. The walls of their uber-green houses feature bamboo paneling with state-of-the-art insulation to conserve energy, and other properties that minimize the need for winter heating and summer cooling.
You might think we were reaching too far with this one. J is a tricky letter, worth 8 points in Scrabble. But actually, there’s no shortage of bamboo products like jackets and jerseys. So we sold bamboo poles for many years, and one of our most loyal customers in that department was the coach of local track and field team. Every season she would come into Bambu Batu and purchase a carload of bamboo poles to use for javelin throwing practice. Turns out they were the ideal material in weight, strength and straightness. And at just a dollar or two apiece, the price was just right.
The variety of bamboo products available for the modern, green kitchen is almost too vast to fathom. From cutting boards to salad bowls to mortars & pestles, we could easily fill an A to Z catalog with kitchenwares alone.
Bamboo knives are interesting and available in a range of styles. Some of them feature stainless steel blades with a contoured bamboo handle. I always prefer the ones with a full tang, that is, where the steel of the blade runs the full length of the knife down to the bottom of the handle. Other knives are completely bamboo, including the blade, so they’re generally not so sharp, and work better as spreading knives. But this salad shredding bamboo knife from Amazon is especially cool.
You haven’t really lived until you’ve spent a sultry evening in a set of bamboo lingerie, or alongside someone else likewise bedecked. Luxuriously soft and silky smooth, yet cool and breathable, I would argue it is the perfect material for sleepware. It also has a way of draping the body in a manner that all consenting parties will surely find pleasing.
Feast your eyes on these gorgeous Bamboo Lingerie items from WiWi, available through Amazon.
In small areas or temporary spaces where you’re not ready to install a bamboo floor, the bamboo floor mats are the optimal solution. We used these in our retail store, where they easily withstood 10-12 years of steady foot traffic before they needed replacing.
We found Anji Mountain bamboo mats to be the highest quality. They have a well-padded, non-slip backing, a wide trim around the edges, and an easy-to-clean bamboo surface. They also come in a wide variety of sizes and colors.
The soft hand and temperature regulating properties of bamboo fabric make it just the perfect thing to sleep in. Yala Designs makes a wonderful assortment of nightgowns, night shirts and pajama sets.
Bamboo Odor Eaters
We couldn’t put together a list of eclectic bamboo products without including bamboo charcoal, which in this case falls neatly into the O position of the alphabet. Bamboo charcoal has amazing purification properties, making it suitable as a water filter, a toothpaste, and an air freshener. Leave a package of bamboo charcoal in your sock drawer or your refrigerator, and let it eat the odors away.
Another fabulous use that really showcases bamboo’s potential as an environmental savior, bamboo paper is immeasurably more sustainable than tree pulp. Whereas a tree takes at least 15 or 20 years to reach maturity to be harvested for pulp, bamboo grows to its full height in a single growing season. When bamboo is cut down, it grows right back, like grass, without having to be replanted. And as bamboo grows, it produces 30-35% more oxygen than an equal area of hardwood trees.
Bamboo toilet paper is a particularly exciting product to learn about.
Bamboo Quarantine Supplies
You never know when public policymakers might issue another period of quarantine. We still can’t agree whether it’s the most effective strategy for protecting public welfare, but maybe at least next time we’ll be a little better prepared. To make your stay-at-home experience more pleasant, be sure you have enough bamboo toilet paper. And since you might end up spending more hours than usual in bed, you might want to treat yourself to a luxurious set of bamboo sheets.
Bamboo Reusable Straws
Plastic straws are another one of those annoying disposable items that populate the growing islands of ocean garbage and generally rub me the wrong way. Thankfully, we have bamboo, whose hollow stems (culms) have the perfect shape and size. Intelligently designed, whether by nature or some other supernatural being, reusable bamboo straws are the natural solution. And when they eventually wear down, they will biodegrade quickly and easily in your garden compost.
Definitely one of our all-time favorite bamboo products, and another superb alternative to the single-use plastic industrial complex, bamboo sporks deliver minimalism at its best. It’s a spoon, it’s a fork, it fits in your purse or pocket, and you can use it anywhere. Best of all, it won’t linger in a landfill for centuries and centuries like so many other plastic utensils.
The high silica content of bamboo leaves make them an excellent natural remedy for arthritis and fragile cartilage. Silica is essential for collagen, which is crucial component for healthy hair and joints. Steep your freshly dried bamboo leaves in hot water and serve up a refreshing cup of supplemental nutrition. The taste of bamboo leaf tea is smooth, earthy and nutty, and you can always add honey or lemon to change it up.
This item may come as a surprise to the un-indoctrinated, but bamboo underwear might be the best-kept secret in my wardrobe. Bamboo fabric is soft, breathable, temperature regulating, odor resistant and anti-microbial. What could be more perfect for keeping your private parts clean and comfy?
In addition to the many characteristics of bamboo fabric that we’ve already mentioned, it’s also moisture wicking and super absorbent. Combined with cotton—I prefer a 70% bamboo and 30% organic cotton blend—bamboo towels are the most delicious thing to step into when you step out of the shower.
Also called gamelans, these traditional Indonesian instruments are a great conversation piece and an incomparable addition to any jam session. The use of the gamelan in Java and Indonesia goes back about 2,000 years, prior to the arrival of Hinduism and Buddhism in the Southeast Asian archipelago. In more recent history, Bambu Batu started selling the bamboo xylophones, a modern adaptation of the ancient gamelan, back in 2008. Kids who came into the shop couldn’t keep their hands off them, and the grown-ups loved playing with them too.
You can’t have bamboo fabric without bamboo yarn. A recent innovation in the textile industry, bamboo yarn entered the market sometime between 2000 and 2005. Derived from the cellulose of the incredibly renewable bamboo plant, specifically Moso bamboo from China, these threads and fabrics are soft and durable, while also being breathable and hypoallergenic. The process of making bamboo yarn involves boiling the bamboo down to a pulp, extracting the cellulose with lye, and reconstituting it into a long, sturdy thread.
Bamboo Zafu Cushions
The connection between bamboo, Buddhism and mindfulness traces back many thousands of years. So it’s only natural to offer bamboo meditation pillows, or Zafu cushions, made from this soft and sustainable material. For firm support, the pillows can be stuffed with bamboo batting, but buckwheat hulls seem to make the best filling.
Take a look at these Organic Zafu Cushions on Amazon.
The amazing attributes of bamboo don’t end here. Check out more engaging articles from our blog to learn more.
- Bamboo Ski Poles
- 9 Reasons bamboo is more sustainable
- 3 Ways bamboo captures and stores carbon
- 11 Reasons I prefer bamboo over cotton
- Every part of the bamboo plant is useful
FEATURED PHOTO: Bambu Batu, the House of Bamboo, was an eco-boutique in San Luis Obispo specializing in all things bamboo, operating from 2006-2020.