Archive for the ‘Bamboo Products’ Category

Bamboo Import Europe

If you’re living in California, you probably already know where to get your bamboo. Of course, if you’re in San Luis Obispo, Bambu Batu has everything to satisfy your appetite for bamboo socks, towels and bedding, as well as an endless array of gifts and decor for the conscious lifestyle. And when it comes to finding bamboo flooring and building materials, we are happy to recommend Cali Bamboo down in San Diego. But this is only the tip of the proverbial bamboo shoot.

In today’s global village, someone on any corner of the planet might take an interest in something they read about on some other corner of the planet. For example, I regularly get people from Europe and Canada asking me where to find good bamboo products. If they’re in Canada, it’s not too unreasonable to have something shipped from California. But in Europe, the cost of shipping and customs makes it pretty impractical. Which leads us to our question.

Where can I find the best bamboo in Europe?

Versatile and multifarious, bamboo comes in all shapes and sizes and formats. We could be talking about bamboo for your garden, bamboo for your kitchen floors, or bamboo to replace your worn out bed linens. So let’s just tackle one category at a time.

BAMBOO BUILDING MATERIALS IN EUROPE

Apart from a few ornamental gardens and arboretums (see below), no one in Europe is really growing a significant crop of bamboo. The most useful varieties, being predominantly subtropical, just won’t thrive in a European climate. So if you’re shopping for bamboo flooring, bamboo thatching, or bamboo poles for a special building project, you’ll be buying imported bamboo, just like you would in California.

Our extensive research of the continental market led us to Bamboo Import Europe, based just outside of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Their vast showroom is open to the public, Monday through Saturday. If you can’t make it up to Holland, they also ship anywhere in Europe, usually within 3-6 days.

Bamboo Import’s selection of building materials is as impressive as any I’ve ever seen. Peruse their website to view an immense assortment of bamboo poles, fencing, plywood, pergolas, picnic benches and more. No project is too big or too small.

Their site also features an epic photo gallery that could inspire even the most reluctant bamboo skeptic with visions of tropical dream homes and architectural marvels that range from the truly exotic to the immaculately modern. And if you find any of these visions irresistible, Bamboo Import’s installation team can come to your home and help turn your bamboo fantasy into a reality.

Bamboo Import works directly with longstanding partners in China, Indonesia and South America to source the very best materials and maintain the highest levels of quality control on all their bamboo products.

BAMBOO AND NATURAL FIBER CLOTHING

I’m pleased to report that eco-boutiques specializing in natural fiber clothing are not an altogether rare site in Europe, at least not in the larger cities. I’ve seen several in Barcelona and in Germany, even in some smaller cities. If you can visit one of these small boutiques, that’s always your best option. There’s nothing like seeing, feeling and trying it on in person. You can also reduce the carbon footprint by avoiding shipping.

If you can’t find a shop close by and you’re happy shopping online, we can earnestly suggest Thought, formerly Braintree Clothing, based in the UK. Originally founded in Australia, this small team of forward thinkers have been developing their brand since 1995, in accordance with the strictest standards of sustainability and social responsibility.

It’s clear that this visionary company of eco-fashionistas has put a lot of thought into everything they do. From their sleek website to their elegant garments, everything has been done with care. Today they offer an extensive line of men’s and women’s wear, made from naturally grown bamboo, cotton, wool and hemp, as well as tencel and modal.

Thought’s stunning selection of sustainable clothing will leave you feeling good, and their mantra will give you something to think about. “Wear Me, Love Me, Mend Me, Pass Me On.” Their website has a whole section devoted to promoting better care for your clothing, which translates into taking better care of our planet.

BAMBOO TOWELS AND BEDDING IN EUROPE

Finding bamboo towels and bamboo bedding remains a challenge, which is too bad, because these are two of my favorite bamboo applications. We’re still looking for the best source (or any source, really) for sheets, but we have found a German towel manufacturer with a line of bamboo towels.

Möve (that’s German for seagull) is based in east Saxony and has stores all over Germany, mostly in the east and the north. Furthermore, they produce all their towels in Germany. German craftsmanship is something I’ve come to love and trust, but unfortunately their selection of bamboo bath towels is a bit limited at the moment. Black, white and hot pink are not my favorite bath colors. But they do have a wide variety of bamboo hand towels and wash cloths. And until further notice, this is our best lead.

BAMBOO GARDENS IN EUROPE

If you’re looking to buy live bamboo for your garden, you can start by just visiting your local nursery and checking out some seasonal garden shows. They take place all over Europe in the spring and summer.

Or if you just want to see a pretty bamboo garden, check your nearest botanical garden. Just about every city has one, they are often affiliated with the local university. In France, Germany and northern Europe they are particularly impressive, and I recall that Berlin has an especially nice Japanese Garden.

But if it’s Europe’s most incredible bamboo garden you’re looking for, you’ll want to head to the south of France. About 30 miles northwest of Nimes, the Bambouseraie has been propagating vegetation and welcoming visitors since 1856. Today the spectacular garden includes about 300 varieties of bamboo, making it one of the most diversified bamboo collections on earth. (Experts put the total number of bamboo species somewhere between 1200 and 2000.)

Among the 80+ acres of bamboo groves, you’ll also find a flourishing boscage of century-old magnolias, ancient ginkgos, and majestic oak trees. The Bambouseraie even has a bamboo hedge labyrinth, so you can truly get lost in the sticks!

International Sensation

In California, we sometimes like to think we have a monopoly on all things hip, cool and eco-conscious. It’s true, California has produced and popularized some pretty cool things: Vans, Frisbees, the Tesla Roadster, the Grateful Dead. I could go on and on. Just check out this documentary on California Innovations.

But Californians certainly cannot take credit for bamboo. Bamboo is a prolific plant with an ancient history and widespread appeal. Some of today’s most important innovators and producers of modern bamboo products may be based in California and Oregon, but we could hardly refer to this miraculous plant as a West Coast original.

Bloggers Without Borders

The fact is, I do some of my best writing when I’m traveling, on the road and away from California. At the same time, our international readership is growing. When we launched the Bambu Batu blog back in 2008, we were writing for the small, local community of the Central Coast. But today we get readers from across the country and around the world, so we see it as our duty to cover a more cosmopolitan array of bamboo topics.

A recent sojourn through the Old World made me aware of a growing bamboo scene in Europe. Germans and Scandinavians are somewhat well-known for their progressive energy and environmental policies, so it should come as no shock that alternative materials like hemp and bamboo are as popular in Europe as they are in the Golden State. Still, it’s always a bit of surprise to wander through a city of gothic cathedrals, black turtle necks and heavy trench coats, and then come across an island tiki bar or a colorful boutique filled with tree hugger t-shirts.

Now if only I could find a decent Frisbee anywhere between the Amstel and the Ebro.

Arashiyama Bamboo GroveBamboo Tourism

So you’re in love with bamboo, and you just can’t get enough of it? Welcome to the club.

My name is Fred and I’m a bambooholic. That’s right. Without my regular fix of noble bamboo grasses, I get terribly wound up. When the monotony of ordinary life brings me down, or a particularly grueling day at the office leaves me on edge, there’s only one thing to bring me back to center.

That’s right, there’s nothing so calm and balancing as a quiet stroll through a majestic grove of bamboo. And when that’s not available, an inconspicuous seat among a few clusters of potted bamboo will do just fine.

If I could, I’d travel the world to visit all the greatest bamboo forests in the world. And I’d pay a visit to every arboretum and botanical garden with a bamboo collection worth mentioning. Well, unfortunately that hasn’t been possible yet. But in the meantime, I’m keeping a list of the world’s best bamboo gardens, just in case the opportunity arises.

The Bucket List of Best Bamboo Gardens

Now if you Google “best bamboo garden” — and maybe you already have — you’ll probably get pages and pages of results for Chinese restaurants, all cleverly (if not originally) named Bamboo Garden. Maybe someday we’ll get around to writing reviews for bamboo themed restaurants. But don’t hold your breath. Instead, grab your notepad and your world atlas, because we’re heading on a tour of the world’s greatest bamboo gardens.

NOTE: We present following list in no particular order, although the gardens are numbered to make the list easier to scroll. Otherwise we have organized the list by continent, beginning with Asia, which not surprisingly lays claim to the greatest number of incredible bamboo gardens, especially in Japan.

ASIA:

1. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto (Japan)

In a city teeming with monuments of historic and cultural significance, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove of Kyoto — also called the Sagano Bamboo Forest — adds yet another rich layer of texture to this glorious metropolis. A natural forest of sprawling, towering bamboo, the Japanese Ministry of Environment manages the grove as a tourist attraction and natural reserve. There are several trails leading through the park, where visitors can feel themselves being swallowed up by the massive grasses. Once upon you could come here and meditate to the sound of rustling leaves and clonking bamboo poles, but today the forest has risen to the status of world-class, must-see destinations, so don’t expect to have the place all to yourself.

2. Higashikurumeshi Chikurin Park, Tokyo (Japan)

A peaceful botanical garden with a naturally flowing spring and some 2000 thriving shoots of bamboo, Chikurin Park is located close to the train station and charges no entrance fee. If you’re looking for an oasis of bamboo in a quiet suburb of Tokyo, this densely wooded grove is well worth a visit.

3. Hokoku-ji Temple in Kamakura (Japan)

A Zen Buddhist temple dating back to the 14th century, Hokoku-ji is often referred to as the Bamboo Temple. Amidst the various structures, all beautiful specimens of Japanese architecture, you’ll find of grove of about 2000 Moso bamboo poles. If you want to take in a genuine Zen experience with your bamboo, this is the destination.

4. Suzume-no Oyado Ryokuchi Park in Tokyo (Japan)

Though not one of Japan’s larger bamboo collections, this grove has been established for more than 200 years. The metropolitan park is named after the large species of sparrow (suzume in Japanese) that once overwhelmed the area. Today you’ll still find many of these and other birds among the bamboo, but not in the great quantities of centuries past. You can also visit a traditional and fully restored Japanese house here.

5. Wangjianglou Park in Chengdu (China)

Deep in the heart of this central Chinese super-metropolis (population approx. 14 million), Chengdu’s Wangjianglou Park is the ultimate urban hideaway. With charming teahouses and meticulous landscaping that sprawls out for acres and acres, the highlight of this stunning park is arguably its historic and extensive collection of bamboo. Numerous monuments here are dedicated to Xue Tao, a famous Tang dynasty poetess, whose passion for bamboo has been well documented. In her memory, the landscape architects also planted more than 200 species of bamboo, and today they have grown to magnificent size and splendor.

6. Zizhuyuan Park, Purple Bamboo Garden in Beijing (China)

One of Beijing’s seven largest parks, with a history tracing back to the 12th century, the Purple Bamboo Garden consists of three lakes and a series of canals and bridges occupying more than 100 acres. The bamboo planting began in the 1500s, during the Ming Dynasty, and today you can find more than 50 species growing on the premises, as well as an assortment of bamboo structures. The park earned its name from the abundance of purple bamboo, but the quantity and diversity of bamboo growing in the park is truly astonishing.

7. Juknokwon in Damyang (Korea)

The South Korean county of Damyang is well-known for its thriving bamboo forests, and the residents have gone so far to make a tourist attraction out of their prolific bamboo. In addition to the verdant arboretum, the region is also home to a bamboo theme park, a bamboo museum, and a bamboo festival. The arboretum, “Juknokwon”, features some very scenic and well-maintained walking paths and an artificial waterfall.

8. Son Tra Mountain Bamboo Forest and Museum in Da Nang (Vietnam)

Vietnam’s largest bamboo museum is the essentially the work of a single monk named Thich The Tuong. He started collecting and planting bamboo in this idyllic corner of the country about 10 years ago as a way to preserve and share this vital symbol of Vietnamese heritage. He claims now to have more than a 100 species of bamboo on his property. You can discover an amazing array of treasures — both natural and manmade — throughout the surrounding forests of the Son Tra peninsula.

9. Carolina Bamboo Gardens (Philippines)

Carolina Gozon Jimenez began this garden in the year 2000 on a 5 hectare (12 acre) plot of land just outside the crowded capital city of Manila. Today the beautifully landscaped acreage features about 45 species of bamboo, both indigenous and exotic. Some very striking bamboo structures also showcase the plant’s impressive potential as a construction material. Most interesting of all may be the Bambusetum, Carolina’s bamboo gene bank, preserving a diversity of bamboo genetics for generations to come. The facility also hosts seminars and events to promote bamboo and environmental stewardship.

SOUTH AMERICA:

10. Serra dos Órgãos National Park near Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

In any other setting, this bamboo garden would be a highlight in itself, but here in the 40-square-mile national park, the bamboo almost gets lost in the landscape of dramatic rock formations and lush vegetation. A peaceful trail leads through the grove into a place of zen known only to real bamboo aficionados, but that’s only one small facet of this stunning landmark. Come for the bamboo, stay for the spectacular topography!

Sunrise over Serra dos Órgãos National Park with the iconic “Finger of God”. (Wikipedia) 11. El Paraiso del Bambu y La Guadua (Colombia)

A real Mecca for the most serious bamboo enthusiasts, Colombia’s “Bamboo Paradise” is like a living monument to this astonishing plant. Outside of Asia, Colombians probably make better use of bamboo than any other nationality on earth. An educational facility and agro-tourism destination, the Paradise hosts tours and workshops, and grows some of the most impressive bamboo specimens in the world. Demonstrations provide participants with hands-on experience in planting bamboo and using it for a vast range of purposes, from ecological conservation to construction. Of course, all the buildings on the premises are fashioned from giant timber bamboo.

NORTH AMERICA:

12. Manoa Falls Trail near Honolulu (Hawaii)

A very popular hike on the island of Oahu — where it’s pretty difficult to walk into the woods and find anything less than sensational — this trail will lead you up the mountain through a lush jungle and a gorgeous bamboo forest before reaching the namesake waterfall. At the bottom of the hill, Lyon Arboretum (formerly Manoa Arboretum) offers plant lovers a spectacle of tropical diversity,  brimming with palms, gingers, heliconias, bromeliads, and aroids.

13. Pipiwai Trail and Bamboo Forest of Maui (Hawaii)

Located within the Haleakalā National Park (famous for its 7-mile wide volcanic crater), this 6-mile trail will take you through a massive, wild forest of bamboo that stretches out as far as the eye can see. For such an majestic and expansive forest of bamboo, it’s one of the easiest in the world to reach. Prepare to be mesmerized by the sound of leaves rustling and bamboo canes knocking together. Keep going and you’ll reach a couple of incredible waterfalls, one of them (Makahiku Falls) over 200 feet tall. Technically, bamboo is not native to Hawaii, but then nothing really is, because the terrain was created by volcano eruptions. Everything living on the islands today arrived from elsewhere, by wind, by sea or by bird.

14. The Makaleha Hike on Kaua’i (Hawaii)

Unlike many other bamboo gardens on this list, this one is no walk in the park. I mean that quite literally. To reach this wild bamboo forest, you may have to explore deep into the outback. Although the trail is officially less than three miles, it is recommended only for expert hikers. Bring rugged hiking shoes, and a first aid kit, just in case. Along the way you can expect to see 5 or 6 waterfalls and a plethora of biodiversity. And beware: if you wander too far from the river, you might also expect to get lost in the dense forest of bamboo and jungle!

15. Allerton Botanical Garden on Kaua’i (Hawaii)

Covering 80 acres on the south shore of Kaua’i, this botanical garden offers one of the most picturesque settings on an exceptionally picturesque island. Among its rich array of tropical wonders, the garden has a glorious grove of golden bamboo. Besides the stunning diversity, this garden emphasizes landscape design, so you don’t have to be a trained botanist to appreciate the meticulous planning and outdoor aesthetics.

16. Bamboo Giant in Aptos (California)

As we’re based in San Luis Obispo, on California’s Central Coast, I just had to include this “local” favorite, a phenomenal nursery nestled in the coastal hills just south of Santa Cruz. But if you think this is merely a case of provincial favoritism, think again. Bamboo Giant encompasses 38 acres of sprawling runners and clumpers and koi ponds and bamboo pagodas — just big enough to feel lost, without actually getting lost. I’m guessing there are well over a hundred varieties of bamboo on the property, but it’s hard to say. For the most part, the various groves are very well labeled with little markers, which can be very rewarding for more horticulturally curious bamboo lover like myself. But eventually, even I reach the saturation point and lose count. Anyway, if you happen to fall in love with a certain strain of bamboo, you can take some home in a pot, because it’s all for sale.

17. Bamboo Garden in North Plains (Oregon) Overlooking the Bamboo Garden Nursery in North Plains, Oregon

Boasting the largest collection of temperate bamboos in the United States, the Bamboo Garden Nursery occupies more than 20 acres in a beautiful woodland setting, just outside of Portland, Oregon. The garden operates as a nursery, with hundred of varieties of bamboo for sale, but it’s also open to the public. In addition to the outdoor groves, there are numerous greenhouses on the premises. Spend a couple hours and you can expect to see some interesting wildlife among the bamboo as well.

EUROPE:

18. Bambouseraie bamboo garden in Languedoc (France)

Looking for another excuse to visit the south of France? Here it is. (You’re welcome.) About 30 miles northwest of Nimes, the Bambouseraie has been propagating flora and welcoming visitors since 1856. Among this prepossessing collection of oak, gingko, magnolia and more, you’ll soon find that this privately run botanical garden specializes in our favorite grass: bamboo. Today the leafy menagerie includes about 300 varieties, making it one of the most diversified bamboo collections on earth. (Experts put the total number of bamboo species somewhere between 1200 and 2000.) Wander about 80+ acres of bamboo groves and soak up the serenity as you bathe in the glory of this amazing plant. They even have a bamboo hedge labyrinth, so you can truly get lost!

19. Kew Botanical Gardens in London (U.K.)

Not necessarily one of the most impressive groves of bamboo, no must-see list of botanical gardens would be complete without mentioning the Royal Botanic Garden of Kew, which covers a tremendous 326 acres and calls itself the home of a mind-boggling 8.3 million plant and fungal herbarium specimens. For an enhanced sense of tranquility, the bamboo garden lies hidden in a quiet corner between the lake and the Rhododendron Dell. In addition to the several resplendent stands of bamboo, you’ll also find some prehistoric ginkgo trees and a traditional Japanese farmhouse. Keep an eye out for the local dragonfly population as well.

And last but not least!

20. Batumi Botanical Garden (Autonomous Republic of Georgia)

Who would have thought that a world wide tour of bamboo gardens would bring us to the former Soviet state of Georgia? Me neither. It’s probably pretty off-the-beaten-track for most of us, but the Batumi Botanical Garden definitely deserves a spot on the bucket list. I thought I’d been to every great Botanical Garden in Europe, from Lisbon to Bucharest, but here’s a new one.

Now if you’re like me, you might think a former Soviet territory would be the last place on earth to find a tropical wonderland. And so, where is Georgia anyway? You may want to consult an atlas, but Georgia is located on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, between Russian and Armenia; it also borders Turkey and Azerbaijan. So is that in Europe or Asia? God only knows.

This immense garden covers more than 250 acres of rugged terrain on this remote stretch of subtropical coastline known as the Green Cape of the Black Sea. Open to the public since 1912, a few of the gardens highlights are its majestic, 125-year-old magnolia trees and giant sequoias. Batumi also boasts an incredible diversity of succulents, palms, roses, camellias, citrus, evergreens, and yes, bamboo. An astonishing collection of East Asian plant life comprises about 40 percent of the garden, including some exquisite Japanese gardens and a profusion of bamboo forests. If you’re looking a for a far-flung botanical adventure, this one’s for you!

The world’s a big place, and bamboo is notoriously prolific, so I’m sure we’ve missed some significant examples here. The entire island of Bali perhaps? If you have a favorite bamboo forest or garden that we overlooked, please let us know in the comments section below.

Featured Image: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto, Japan (Unsplash)

Bamboo for Gardens is one of the best books about bambooBamboo literature for your library or coffee table

Here at Bambu Batu, we’re just crazy about bamboo. Perhaps you knew that by now. We grow it, we wear it, we eat it, and we read about it.

As one of the oldest cultivated plants in human history, you can believe there are quite a few books about bamboo. So your chances of reading every bamboo book are about as good as your chances of visiting every bamboo garden. That’s why we’ve put together this list, a sort of greatest hits compilation from the world of bamboo literature.

Yes, you might say we’re a little obsessed. But no, we’re not completely bamboo bonkers. That is, we haven’t read every book about bamboo ever written. We’ve read quite a few though, and sold several titles in the shop. We’ve also spent years researching bamboo and networking in the bamboo industry. There’s no doubt, in fact, that we are authorities on the subject.

NOTE: To make shopping easier, we’ve included some affiliate links in this article.

Bamboo Subject Matter

Bamboo is an enormous subject, so to get a better handle on it, let’s break the literature down into three distinct topics. And before you order what may be described as the “bible of bamboo”, be sure that it actually covers the topics of bamboo that you’re interested in.

For example, if you’re planning to build a bamboo house, and your “bible of bamboo” is actually a phenomenally comprehensive account of bamboo’s anthropological history, then you might be in for a disappointment. Just be sure you know what you’re looking for, and always check the product description or the summary on the back cover before you make a purchase.

To make shopping for the right book even easier, we’ve included direct links to Amazon.

Books on BAMBOO GARDENING & HORTICULTURE

If you’re planting or maintaining a bamboo garden, be sure your book is about growing bamboo. Plenty of bad book reviews on Amazon come from gardeners who bought books filled with “useless” information about the history of bamboo.

Bamboo for Gardens, by Ted Jordan Meredith

Probably of my number one go-to for bamboo eye candy, this beautiful volume explains the many great reasons for planting bamboo, and then goes about describing how to do so in your own garden to get the very best results. An excellent addition to the coffee table, the book is also rich with encyclopedic, botanical information on selecting, planting and maintaining the best species for your setting.

Ornamental Bamboos, by David Crompton

Another very nice looking and extremely informative anthology of bamboos, this beautifully illustrated book covers a couple hundred varieties of the most attractive tropical and subtropical bamboos. Not only fun to look at, but also filled with useful, specific advice for planting and growing.

Farming Bamboo, by Daphne Lewis and Carol Miles

If you’re thinking about growing bamboo on a larger, maybe even an industrial scale, then this is the book for you. Lewis and Miles are positively the North America authorities on large scale bamboo cultivation. An invaluable resource for any bamboo farmer, the book is loaded with practical information on the growing, harvesting and marketing of bamboo for myriad purposes.

Books on BAMBOO HISTORY

For the real bamboo enthusiast or scholar, there is an abundance of literature out there on the 7,000-year (give or take) history of bamboo. These sorts of books will typically address the many uses of bamboo over the centuries, from eating to building to paper making. Some are likely to focus on one area more than another. You’ll also find a wealth of mythology and folklore that usually appears alongside bamboo history. More specialized books can also cover those erudite topics.

The Book of Bamboo, by David Farrelly

This comprehensive compendium just overflows with fascinating facts, stories and illustrations. Written with exuberant passion, the book covers the history of bamboo and its co-evolution with Asian civilization, exploring the plant’s countless uses in both the past and the present.

Bamboo, by Susanne Lucas

Here’s yet another handsome volume to prove that bamboo is magnificently photogenic, on top of all its other remarkable traits. One of America’s foremost authorities on bamboo, the author Susanne Lucas is executive director of the World Bamboo Organization and a horticulturalist, designer, and landscape gardener based in Massachusetts. Her book provides a very thorough history of bamboo and its uses by humans over several millennia, while also cataloging the impressive range of innovations and applications in modern times.

Books on BAMBOO CONSTRUCTION

A subject that’s undergone something of a renaissance in recent years, bamboo construction is fascinating even for the layman, and can get very technical for those actually wanting to build a structure they can comfortably live in. Depending which sub-category you belong to, be sure that the bamboo construction book you buy contains the types of pictures and the level of detail that will be most useful and interesting to you.

Grow Your Own House, by Simón Vélez

Considered something like the Master Guru of bamboo construction, no one has done more to demonstrate the incredible building potential of bamboo than Colombian architect Simón Vélez. In Grow Your Own House, Vélez presents a stunning selection of bamboo structures that will change the way you think about bamboo shelter. Contrary to the title, the book only includes a handful of houses, but it’s filled with examples of ingenious construction features that could be used across a variety of applications.

Building With Bamboo, by Gernot Minke

This stimulating volume is loaded with useful, practical images and information about bamboo’s uses as a construction material. Featuring a great selection of bamboo structures, the book will inspire you with its broad scope and educate you with its up-close details.

Bamboo Architecture & Design, by Chris van Uffelen

This beautifully laid out book showcases an array of bamboo structures in Asia and South America, demonstrating the plant’s ability to measure up favorably against both timber and steel.

Appendix and Endnotes

There are literally hundreds of books about bamboo out there, and these are just a handful of our favorites. If you’re looking for something more specific —whether it’s Building a Bamboo Fly Rod, the secret to Cooking With Your Bamboo Steamer, the exotic elegance of decorating with Bamboo Style, or whatever have in mind — it’s all available.

And just when thought you knew all there was to know about bamboo, perhaps you’ll discover a brand new obsession with Japanese Bamboo Basketry. Wherever your bamboo passion takes you, go there with gusto, and maybe some day you’ll be writing a bamboo book of your own.

Bamboo Fountains for Feng ShuiGet into the Flow

Maybe I just watched too much Gilligan’s Island as a kid, but there’s something about being surrounded by bamboo that I find very relaxing. Whether it’s a thriving bamboo garden, an attractive arrangement of lucky bamboo, or a tasteful piece of bamboo furniture, it can really set the mood and create a sense of space. There’s no doubt that a little bamboo can do wonders for your Feng Shui, and nothing will do it better than a nice bamboo fountain.

NOTE: To make shopping even easier, we’ve included some affiliate links in this article.

Feng Shui for better Chi

Feng Shui experts agree that a well-placed fountain is one of the best ways to introduce a positive energy flow into your home or office. A good fountain can improve your Feng Shui in three basic ways.

WATER: One of the five primary elements of Feng Shui — along with earth, metal, wood and fire — water is easily overlooked in most interior decoration schemes. But according to Feng Shui, water plays a crucial role in matters related to money and career. Still water (in a fish tank, for instance) brings a calming energy needed for new beginnings. Flowing water helps you to move forward and let go of things you no longer need. Just watch for spills. Stains and water damage to your hardwood floor are not likely to improve your financial well-being! MOTION: One of the chief functions of Feng Shui is to encourage the flow of Chi, or Qi, the fundamental energy force in traditional Chinese medicine. By arranging furniture and other objects in an advantageous position, the Chi can be sped up or slowed down. You can also redirect it towards or away from different aspects of life, including health, wealth, romance, and so on. An excellent way to promote the movement of Chi is to have something that actually moves, such as the flowing water of a fountain. Just be careful, as excessive or inappropriate movement can stir up chaotic and disruptive energy. SOUND: Another element that people often overlook in their home decor, sound is a form of energy created by vibrations in the air. Properly harnessing these vibrations can attract very beneficial energy into your home or office. Pleasant sounding wind chimes (from bamboo, for example) can accomplish this, as can the sound of trickling water from a fountain. Again, be careful when you introduce sound to the setting. As with motion, sounds that are too loud, too repetitious or just too shrill, can do more harm than good. Bamboo Fountain Features

For years we’ve been using bamboo fountains around the house and in the store. And it doesn’t take a Feng Shui zen master to see how these water features improve the overall good vibes. Whenever a child comes into the shop, they almost always make a bee line for the bamboo fountain set-up. I’m not sure whether they see it first or hear it, but it never fails to captivate their attention. Maybe it’s the Chi, maybe it’s something else, but the wisdom of the child is absolutely tuned into it.

Sometimes I like to add a couple water plants, and maybe one or two goldfish, to give the fountain even more life. This requires changing out the water more regularly, but it’s worth it. The vibrant plants and happy goldfish can bring priceless benefits to your Feng Shui.

Also, it’s a good idea to used bottled water, because the city water (in my experience) tends to be very hard, so the calcium and minerals can muck up the water basin and the pump pretty quickly. If that happens, an old toothbrush and some vinegar solution will usually do the trick.

With these factors in mind, let’s go ahead and take a look at a few of my favorite bamboo fountain kits. To make shopping easier, we’ve included some Amazon affiliate links in this article.

Five Arm Bamboo Fountain

Probably my favorite bamboo fountain, for price and simplicity. The five arms — three running in one direction and the other two running perpendicular — allow it to balance easily on a round or square container, and lend the fountain an interesting, elegant appearance. Ideal for indoor use.

This kit includes the pump and the bamboo and takes about two minutes to set up. All you need is a medium sized bowl (about 12-18 inches in diameter) made from glass or ceramics. Do NOT use a bamboo or wooden bowl. As nice as it sounds, it will swell and crack from the water. For the construction of the fountain, this company uses a specific variety of bamboo (which seems to be a trade secret) that does not split in water. You’ll also need a place to plug it in, as the pump runs on old-fashioned electricity.

The Five Arm Fountain is available from Amazon for easy delivery.

24 Inch Adjustable Fountain

Great in any container and perfect for outdoor use, this fountain makes an excellent addition to the zen garden. The kit is simple to set up and easy to attach to a bowl, barrel or pond liner. The height of the spout is adjustable, which means you have some control over the sound of the water: the higher the spout, the louder the splash. If you’re setting it up outside, try to keep it mostly in the shade, as this will preserve the bamboo by protecting it from prolonger, direct sun exposure. 

You’ll also need a place to plug in the electric pump, either an extension cord running into the house, or you can order this small solar power inverter from Amazon.

Bamboo Accents makes a great line of bamboo fountains, each of them, including the 24″ Adjustable Fountain is available conveniently from Amazon.

20″ Rocking Fountain Shishi Odoshi

Also known as the Deer Scarer, because of the knocking sound it makes as it teeters up and down, this is another excellent fountain for outdoor use. The traditional design relies on the weight of the water as it fills one end of the fountain and causes it to tip over, spill out and swing back up. 

The kit is fairly simple to assemble, but with a little imagination you can cleverly incorporate it into a pond or other more elaborate garden setting. You will need a vessel or pond basin of some kind to catch the water as is spills forward from the front spout. From there, the water pumps back up to the top spout. 

The pump, hose, platform base and all bamboo parts are included in the kit. The Shishi Odoshi Rocking Bamboo Fountain is also available from Amazon. And for an outdoor electricity source, you might consider a compact solar power inverter from Amazon.

There you have it. I hope these ideas help. It really doesn’t take make much add a little splash of Om to your home or a bit of zen to your den! 

Bamboo shoots in a Japanese marketBamboo shoots: Add some bamboo to your diet for a little extra protein and exotic crunchiness

These days, it seems like there’s nothing you can’t do with bamboo. Surely you’ve heard about bamboo flooring. If you’ve ever been to Bambu Batu then you know about bamboo clothing and sheets and towels. You’ve probably heard about things like bamboo bicycles and toothbrushes. Then there are the more obscure items like bamboo charcoal and bamboo toothpaste. Most of those topics have been covered in our blogs, so you can follow the links to read more about them. 

NOTE: To make shopping easier, this article may include one or two affiliate links.

Can you eat bamboo?

So if you can wear bamboo, and sleep on it, and brush your teeth with it, and build a house from it, you sort of have to wonder: can I eat it too? Not surprisingly, the answer is YES. 

Eating bamboo is actually one of the oldest bamboo uses of all. It’s difficult to say for certain, but people in Asia have probably been eating bamboo as long as they have been eating rice. Some sources suggest that the cultivation of bamboo as a food source dates back some 7,000 years.

You might wonder how people could eat such a woody plant, prized for its hardness, used in flooring and cutting boards. In fact, when the fresh culms (or shoots) sprout up at the beginning of the growing season, usually spring or early summer, they are actually quite soft and tender. The important thing to know is that raw bamboo contains natural toxins (glycocides), and therefore must be cooked or fermented before they can be consumed by humans. So when we say to eat it fresh (which is usually best), that does not mean uncooked, it just means not dried, canned or fermented.

What are the best varieties of edible bamboo?

Of course, it’s a different story for the bamboo-loving panda bears. Their massive and specialized jaws, teeth and stomachs allow them to eat their bamboo mature and uncooked (i.e. hard and woody). For obvious reasons, we do NOT recommend trying this at home!

Among the couple thousand species of bamboo, there are just a handful of varieties that the connoisseurs consider most suitable for eating. So unless you’re growing one of the following strains, don’t go rushing into your bamboo garden to throw together a bamboo salad.

Bambusa oldhamii: Here’s a variety that might even be growing in your garden. Oldhamii is a giant timber bamboo, and the most widely grown strain in the U.S. Its shoots are highly valued and known to be tender, fragrant and delicious. If your grove is fully grown and healthy enough, you might try harvesting some fresh shoots. Just remember to boil them before eating. If you buy canned bamboo shoots from the store, they are likely to be this variety. Phyllostachys edulis: Also called Moso Bamboo, this giant timber variety is indigenous to China and Taiwan, and is also the most widely used for bamboo textiles. Mature stalks can grow nearly 100 feet tall and get to be several inches in diameter. Fresh shoots from a well-established grove can weigh more than 5 pounds; that’s a quite a meal. Depending what time of year it’s harvested, it may be dried or eaten fresh.  Phyllostachys bambusoides: a large timber bamboo from Japan whose shoots are eaten either fresh or dried.

If you plan to harvest shoots from your own bamboo garden, do it early in the growing season when the fresh culms are just beginning to emerge. Supposedly, the new culms that are still completely underground will taste the best. Slice them lengthwise in narrow strips for preparation.

How nutritious are bamboo shoots?

You wouldn’t think of woody bamboo stalks as being particularly high in nutrients. And they’re not, which is why panda bears have to spend almost the entire day eating (and chewing) just to get enough vitamins and minerals.

But as with many freshly sprouted seeds and grains, the young and tender bamboo culms are actually packed with nutrition.  That’s the stage when the nutrients are available and most highly concentrated. And when you think about the growth rate of these giant timber bamboos — some of them shoot up a foot or two a day — it should come as no surprise that those fresh, new sprouts are just loaded with fuel. 

Essentially, the young bamboo shoots are a great source of protein, minerals and fiber. At the same time, they are low in fat and sugar. By virtue of its growth habit, bamboo does not require any pesticides or fertilizers, unlike most commercial food crops. New research on the subject also suggests that bamboo can improve appetite and digestion, and even treat diseases like cancer. 

How does it taste?

Today bamboo shoots remain a very popular component in a wide variety of dishes throughout southeast Asia and beyond. But we don’t usually cook with bamboo because its exquisite flavor. Instead we use bamboo to add a little extra texture, as well as some fiber and protein. When it comes to flavor, we let those exotic Asian spices do the talking.

Bamboo makes an excellent addition to just about any kind of soup, curry or mixed vegetable dish. Meals that incorporate bamboo and coconut milk are especially popular in Indonesia and southeast Asia. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about! 

Fermented bamboo is common in Nepal and northern India. If you’re a fan of fermentation, you can check this recipe for Bastenga and Kesei. You might also enjoy this recipe for kimchi and this article on the science of sauerkraut

The variety of culinary uses for bamboo shoots is virtually unlimited. So get a hold of some culms and get into it. If you don’t have a good grove in your backyard or a fresh bamboo vendor at your local farmers market, you can find canned bamboo shoots at most Asian specialty shops or major supermarkets.

If you have a favorite bamboo recipe you’d like to share, please let us know in the comments section below.

Cooking with bamboo kitchenwares

If you like cooking and eating bamboo, chances are you also enjoy cooking and eating with bamboo kitchen implements. Bambu Batu carries a wide selection of kitchen tools, from travel utensils to cutting boards. If you check online, you can also find some very high quality bamboo cutting boards at Amazon. Ideal for use in the kitchen, wood from bamboo is extremely hard and naturally antimicrobial, making it resistant to germs and easy to keep clean. 

Featured Image: Bamboo shoots in a Japanese market (Wikipedia)

Best Bamboo SheetsGoing undercover to find the best Bamboo Sheets on the market

I’ll never forget my first set of Bamboo Sheets. It was a game changer, a revelation, a paradigm shift. As a kid I always loved my flannel sheets, so fuzzy soft; I just had to put up with the night sweats in the summertime. In my bachelor days, I once tried to pimp my pad with some deluxe satin sheets from a high-end lingerie store, but every night they would slide off the bed, and after just one wash the fantasy was already unravelling. 

My first encounter with Bamboo Sheets came in 2006. Bambu Batu had only been in business for about eight months. At that point, we were mostly still selling bamboo furniture and home decor: lamps, tiki statues and suchnot. We had a few pairs of bamboo socks and t-shirts in the shop, and we’d just discovered the miracle of bamboo towels, but we’d yet to fully appreciate the wide, wide world of bamboo textiles.

So I tracked down a small family-owned company called DreamSacks in Ashland, Oregon. At the time they were specializing in silk sleep sacks, but they were also something of a vanguard in the realm of bamboo fabric, offering a limited assortment of 100% bamboo sheets and small line of women’s blouses and tank tops.

I went ahead and ordered a few sets of sheets for the shop and one for the home. One night on those sheets and the world would never be the same. Who knew that such comfort was even possible? Just unthinkably soft, somehow silky and fuzzy at the same time, warm but also cool. I couldn’t wrap my mind around these sheets.

As great as these sheets were, they were only the earliest and first generation of bamboo bedding. With time, research and development, they would just keep getting better and better. Eventually bamboo sheets became quite the hot trend, and for good reason. In addition to being remarkably soft, bamboo fabric is also naturally antimicrobial (odor resistant) and temperature regulating (warm in the winter, cool in the summer).

But as with anything else in such high demand, the market would be flooded with competitors, and a vast range of quality, from the exceptional top-of-the-line to the lowly imitators at the bottom. So we did our due diligence and spent some time inspecting innumerable brands of bamboo sheets in order to find the very best.

NOTE: To make shopping even easier, we’ve included some affiliate links in this article.

What to look for in a set of Bamboo Sheets BAMBOO CONTENT: While some products, like the bamboo towels, seem to get better results from a blend of bamboo and cotton, the best bamboo sheets consist of 100% bamboo. (NOTE: Because of the process used to turn bamboo into fabric, regulations require bamboo products to be labeled viscose or rayon. So if the packaging or label on your sheets or says “viscose from bamboo” or “bamboo rayon”, it’s all the same thing.) THREAD COUNT: Usually thread count is the most important factor to look at when comparing sheets. In my experience, however, the bamboo sheets are so soft, that the thread count can be a little misleading. Bamboo sheets with a 250 thread count, for example, can feel more like cotton sheets with 800 or 1000 thread count. Still, it’s something to consider if you’re comparing products and prices. DIMENSIONS: Of course, you want to be sure to get the right size sheets for your bed. This can get a little confusing with things like standard kings, eastern kings and California kings. (I find the chart from Wikipedia very helpful in this case.) Also, pay attention to the mattress thickness. Some brands offer sheet sets for different depths; others only make extra-deep sheets, and if you have a standard thickness mattress you just have to tuck the excess fabric underneath. COLOR OPTIONS: When I lie down in bed and close my eyes, the color of my sheets is not my greatest concern. On the other hand, if you’re laying out the extra cash for a set of supremely comfortable sheets, you probably want them to look good too. Some brands will have more options to choose from, and if you’re looking to match a very specific color, you may have to dig around a bit. EXTRA, EXTRA: Sheets are one thing, but what if you’re looking for a comforter to match, or a duvet cover? You might want some extra pillow cases in different sizes, or some little accent pillows. And how about sham covers? Some brands offer all these things, while others only provide the basics. RESULTS: The Best Bamboo Bedding

From our extensive experience in the realm of bamboo fabrics and textiles, we’ve come up with a short list of the products that we believe represent the best quality and value available in the way of bamboo sheets. And to make shopping for bamboo bedding even easier, we’ve included a few Amazon affiliate links to help you find them more quickly. 

YALA Bamboo Dreams Sateen Luxury Sheet Set

Formerly known as Dreamsacks, Yala has long been a pioneer in the bamboo clothing business. Their first line of bamboo apparel debuted around 2006, and with each season their fabrics and fashions have just gotten better and better. If money is no object and you absolutely must have the best bamboo sheets, there’s no substitute for Yala’s Bamboo Dreams Sateen Luxury collection, available conveniently from Amazon.

Yala’s founders, a husband and wife team from Oregon, were teaching English in China when they came up with the idea of starting a business as way to create jobs and opportunities among the local population and to promote innovative, renewable resources like bamboo. They’ve always been into it for all the right reasons. And Yala remains committed to providing excellent working conditions and sourcing products that are Certified Organic and Fair Trade.   

The bamboo sateen material that goes into these sheets has a 300 thread count (that feels like 1000 thread count cotton) and is made from 100% organically grown bamboo. Using only low impact dyes, the sheets are available in a range of soft earth tones, and in all the standard sizes. Yala also makes coverlets, comforter covers and pillow case sets from the same exquisite fabric. For softness and sublime comfort, nothing else compares to this heavenly bedding. 

YALA Bamboo Dreams Sheet Set

If you’re not quite ready to splurge for the Sateen Luxury set, but you still want to experience the magnificence of bamboo bedding, then these are your best bet. Yala’s original line of 100% bamboo rayon sheets set the standard for the industry. 

Don’t be shocked when they come out of the washing machine feeling like a ton of steel; once they’ve dried they become the pinnacle of sumptuous softness, and they are remarkably durable as well. The 250 thread count is comparable to 800 thread count cotton. YALA’s bamboo sheets can also be found on Amazon.

Bed Voyage

Bed Voyage also produces a very nice selection of bamboo bedding. It may not have quite the elegance of YALA’s Bamboo Dreams fabrics, but their pricing is very competitive. Bed Voyage also delivers a marvelous range of colors, about 15 hues in all, available in all the standard bed sizes. As with all bamboo sheets, these are extremely soft, in addition to being temperature regulating and anti-microbial. Wash cool or warm and dry low, it’s as easy as that.  

We typically stock a good selection at Bambu Batu, and Bed Voyage bamboo sheets are also available for convenient delivery from Amazon.

Cariloha

Classic bamboo sheets from Cariloha are very hot on the market. Made from 100% bamboo rayon, they promise all the softness and hypo-allergenic properties of a good bamboo fabric. I don’t have any personal experience sleeping on this brand, but they offer a 100% money-back guarantee, so you really can’t go wrong. Cariloha bamboo sheets are also available for order at Amazon. They come in five handsome colors and in all the standard mattress sizes.

So there’s a few options to consider, and we’re confident that if you stick to one of these brands of bamboo sheets, you won’t be disappointed. Just watch out, there are some inferior brands out there, and some bamboo sheets that are really only 40% bamboo blended with 60% polyester. When it comes to bamboo bedding, go with the 100% every time. And sweet dreams!

Bamboo Bicycle from Calfee Design

For the last dozen years or so, we’ve had the pleasure with providing our customers with nearly every bamboo product imaginable. From bamboo pens to bamboo paper, bamboo water bottles to bamboo towels, bamboo cutlery to bamboo underwear. But no matter how hard we try, seems like people always manage to come up with a request for a bamboo item that we don’t carry.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had people ask about bamboo bicycles. Over the years, we did have one bamboo bicycle in the shop, and it turned a lot of heads, but before anyone could buy it, I decided to keep it for myself. To be honest, it was a actually more of a novelty bike than a high-performing mode of transportation. Still, while running short errands around town, it never fails to fetch a lot of compliments.

The fact is, when you buy a good bike, you want to buy it from a place that specializes in bikes. You also want to have a selection of bikes to choose from, so you can get the right size and color and style that you like. And finally, you want the assurance from a real bicycle mechanic that everything is in ship-shape, and that when it’s not, you know you can trust them to repair it.

As a bamboo specialty shop, Bambu Batu doesn’t really meet any of those criteria, and it’s not really our style to pretend that we do. That’s why we never really got into the bike business. Sure, we shared a few bamboo bike stories on social media when they came across our radar, and some really cool photos, too. And if we knew someone in town that was carrying bamboo bikes, we’d gladly send our customers there. (San Luis Obispo is fortunate to have a couple of great bike shops with some very helpful and knowledgable staff: Art’s Cyclery and Foothill Cyclery; also Trinity Cyclery in Grover.)

So although we don’t sell bamboo bikes, we’re happy to answer all your bamboo questions. And we always love to talk about and promote a good bamboo product. So if we know where to find a good bamboo bike, we’ll point you in the right direction. 

Bamboo Bicycle Backstory

It would be easy to assume that the bamboo bicycle is a recent invention, the brainchild of some new age, granola-hugging tree lovers. But in fact, the origins of the bamboo bike go back more than a century. The Bamboo Cycle Company of England patented the first bamboo bikes in 1894, only eight years after the first gas-powered automobile from Karl Benz.

The advent of stronger and lighter-weight metals rendered the bamboo bicycles impractical and uncompetitive, so they never really took off. At least not for another hundred years or so. In the past decade, environmental enthusiasts have taken the idea to a new level, where the 19th century innovators would have never dreamed. Today, there are a tremendous variety of bamboo bicycles available, including some very high performance mountain bikes and racing models. (See below.)

Why Bamboo Bikes?

In addition to bamboo’s long list of environmental benefits — renewability, sustainability, carbon sequestration, oxygen production — the material’s light weight and tensile strength make it an excellent option for bicycle construction. Take a closer look at bamboo’s characteristics, and the choice is obvious. Most varieties naturally grow like straight, hollow tubes. It really doesn’t take a ton of imagination to turn a few stalks of bamboo into a bike frame. 

Furthermore, bamboo’s abundance in developing countries makes it a very practical and ideal alternative to industrial metals like steel or aluminum, especially in tropical regions. And as environmental awareness spreads globally, the interest in natural alternatives to industrially intensive materials is growing everywhere. So sometimes, entrepreneurs in some pretty far-flung places are finding ways to capitalize on a very readily available resource and sell their uniquely stylish bikes to eager and affluent westerners. But today I just want to take a look at a handful of my favorite bamboo bike companies.

A Survey of Bamboo Bicycles

BOO BICYCLES

Boo Bicycles of Fort Collins, Colorado, probably produces the biggest selection of bamboo bikes anywhere. Their 10 different models include an amazing array of mountain bikes, city bikes, gravel racing bikes and an urban commuter bike. When you’re ready to invest in a serious bamboo bike, give these guys a call.

Each of their bikes is handmade, using the highest quality bamboo in combination with aluminum and/or carbon fiber. Boo Bicycles’ website features dozen of photos of cycle races in the Rockies, various bamboo bike models, and close-ups of the technical features. It’s also filled with information and videos describing the ecological benefits of bamboo as a readily renewable resource that grows without pesticides or fertilizers and doesn’t require industrial processing. 

Boo Bicycles sells directly on their website. They offer completely built bikes as well as separate bicycle frames. Keep in mind, these are some serious high performance cycles, and some of them sell for $10,000 or more.

GREENSTAR BIKES

A young company based in Minnesota, Greenstar conceived their first bamboo bike in 2010 and had their earliest prototypes on the road by 2012. Today they offer two basic styles, a single speed fixed-gear and a 21-speed EcoCross Hybrid. Each model comes in a wide range of sizes and colors, and every bike is handmade from bamboo and recycled aluminum.

Greenstar touts their product as the Affordable Bamboo Bike, with the EcoCross Hybrid selling for around $549. Their website includes a directory of dealers across the country who carry Greenstar Bikes, including Trinity Cyclery of Grover Beach, just 15 minutes south of Bambu Batu. 

CALFEE DESIGN

Located in prime cycling country, on the outskirts of Santa Cruz, CA, Calfee Design makes an remarkable line of high performance bicycles that combine bamboo, hemp and carbon fiber. Calfee claims to have created the first modern bamboo bicycle back in 1995. Their website lists tremendous selection of bike frames, priced roughly between $2-5000.

What I really like about Calfee are their Do-It-Yourself bamboo bike kits. DIY bamboo bike frame kits for a couple hundred bucks, and you won’t need any welding equipment, because the bamboo is so easy to work with. And of course, since you’re building it yourself, you can customize many of the features to make a bike that’s truly unique, just like you!

BOOMERS INTERNATIONAL

The bamboo bicycle business is really booming in Ghana, and here are a couple examples to prove it. Boomers International produces a very attractive line of bamboo bike frames which are available for purchase online and from My Boo in Germany. Most frames are priced around £350. In cooperation with Boomers, My Boo also sells the complete line of electric bikes in Europe, for around £1,400 – £4,000.

In addition to delivering an impressive product, Boomers is making an important difference in Ghana. Their factory has delivered more than 2,500 bikes since they began production in 2014. Today they have a staff of 50, who all receive a livable wage under fair working conditions with breaks and health benefits. They also employ more than 200 bamboo farmers.

Not only that, but Boomers also provides free job training for young Ghanians and sponsors hundreds of local children with school scholarships. In conjunction with UNICEF, the company has donated more than 150 of their bamboo bikes to local schools, mostly to young girls.

GHANA BAMBOO BIKES

We couldn’t do a story on bamboo bicycles without including this philanthropic enterprise. More than just another company selling bamboo bikes, the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing carbon in the atmosphere and to improving lives in the west African nation of Ghana.

Over the past decade, they have manufactured thousands of bamboo bikes for rental in Ghana’s urban centers and for free distribution in more rural areas. The organization is committed to re-greening the country with huge plantations of bamboo, to be harvested for bikes, biofuel, and other modern applications. At the same time, they are creating jobs and opportunities for young men and women throughout the country.

This is just a small sampling of a few of the most interesting bamboo bicycle companies operating today. There are plenty more out there, like Simple Bikes in China, and In’Bô in France. If you have a favorite brand of bamboo bike that we overlooked, please tell us about it in the comments section below.

FEATURED IMAGE: Bamboo Bicycle from Calfee Design

Brush with bamboo toothbrushes

It’s not that I don’t take my oral health seriously, but generally speaking, I have a pretty hard time getting fired up about dental hygiene. And yet, when it comes to sustainable and renewable alternatives to ordinary instruments, my zero-emission engine really gets revving. That’s why the recent wave of bamboo toothbrushes has got me (and thousands like me) bristling with excitement!

In a world of cut-throat salesmanship and a never ending supply of irrational needs to justify the invention of unnecessary products, the idea of a zero-waste and fully compostable bamboo toothbrush is a refreshing sight indeed. Put me on a desert island with an ample supply of tropical fruit and no access to wi-fi, and there are a million and one things I can easily do without. But a good toothbrush is not one of them. So it’s about time some brilliant engineers put their wisdom teeth together and started designing some even better toothbrushes.

Now let’s open wide and take a closer look and see what we can come up with when we apply a little sustainable ingenuity to this age-old implement of personal care. 

NOTE: To make shopping even easier, we’ve included some affiliate links in this article.

What makes a great toothbrush?

It’s quite simple really. There are just two things you need in a toothbrush: a handle on one end and some bristles on the other. The problem is, for the few decades of my life, I never had the opportunity to use a single toothbrush that wasn’t made from plastic. And considering that most toothbrushes last for just a few months, that means I’m personally responsible for something between 100-200 discarded plastic toothbrushes, lingering away in landfills across southern California and the world. Multiply that times however many billion people, and you start to see the problem.

In recent decades, toothbrush makers have gotten increasingly creative, innovating all kinds of incredibly shaped contraptions for for reaching those back molars. I never found any of them very convincing, although me kids are crazy for their toothbrushes that come shaped like giraffes and X-Wing fighters. But still, they’re always made from 100% plastic.

So when bamboo toothbrushes arrived on the scene, you better believe that this bamboo enthusiast sat up, took notice, and smiled a big shiny bright grin. So here’s a quick survey of a few bamboo toothbrushes that we’ve come across. And to make finding and purchasing them easier, we’ve included a few Amazon affiliate links in the article, as well as a couple links to our own bamboo shop. 

Top Five Toothbrushes

1. Brush With Bamboo

The great thing about these toothbrushes is that they are entirely plant based. Everything from the handle to the bristles to the packaging is made from bamboo and other plants, making it 100% compostable and biodegradable. Because we like these so much, we also sell them at Bambu Batu.

The handle is made from Moso bamboo, cultivated from wild bamboo forests in the mountains of China, where no pesticides or fertilizers ever come near. Vegetable oil is the key ingredient in the bio-based bristles. The result is a well-functioning and ergonomic toothbrush that can be buried in your backyard or in your compost pile when you’re through using it.

2. Smile Squared

The founders of Smile Squared were traveling on a humanitarian mission in  Central America when it suddenly occurred to them just how important a good toothbrush is for a child in the developing world. It didn’t take them long to come up with a terrific way to make the world a better place.

For every toothbrush they sell, Smile Squared donates a child’s sized bamboo toothbrush to a child in need. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is. What better way to pay it forward and promote good health in developing countries.

Smile Squared makes toothbrushes for children and adults, and they are sold individually or in sets of 4 or 6 on Amazon.

3. Bamboo Charcoal Toothbrushes

Honest Ninja now produces a line of bamboo toothbrushes with charcoal bristles. But before you clench your teeth in dismay, you might want to take a look at this article on the benefits of bamboo charcoal. Bamboo charcoal is very effective for purifying air and water, and also does a great job of whitening the teeth. The charcoal bristles are actually quite soft and gentle, and of course the handle is made from bamboo as well. 

Amazon sells these bamboo charcoal toothbrushes in sets of four, and the company offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so you can’t go wrong.

4. Natural Carved Bamboo Toothbrushes

Oralogy offers a uniquely designed series of toothbrushes made from carved beauty, for a extra touch of style. The brushes come in a pack of four, each with a distinctly carved pattern. They also use soft nylon bristles infused with bamboo charcoal for additional whitening and disinfecting properties. 

We also appreciate the fact that Oralogy donates a portion of its proceeds to 4Ocean, an organization devoted to removing plastic and garbage from the oceans and beaches.

5. ECOFELLA Bamboo Toothbrushes

One more reputable company delivering a high-quality bamboo toothbrush with charcoal infused bristles, ECOFELLA takes a couple extra steps to make themselves stand out. With every set of brushes they sell, they plant five trees in Madagascar, where 90% of the forests have been cut down. Customers also receive a free e-book entitled “63 Ways to reduce your waste”.

If you’re looking to pay it forward with your dental hygiene, this might be the best solution of all. EcoFella bamboo toothbrushes are available on Amazon in sets of four, each numbered, so you won’t lose track of whose is whose.

In the comments section below, let us know which bamboo toothbrush is your favorite to use. And until next time, keep on smiling!

Benefits of Bamboo CharcoalThe Seemingly Unlimited Uses of Bamboo

Few plants can display a growth habit to rival that of bamboo. Some tropical species are known to shoot up at a rate of a foot or two a day in the growing season. But what about bamboo’s prospects in the afterlife? Yes, it can be processed into thousands of products, from building materials to towels to just about anything you can imagine. 

Even bamboo that’s been eaten by panda bears and comes out the other end can be made into fabulous panda poo paper products. But how about bamboo that’s been destroyed by fire? Surely its potential must be severely limited. Well, think again.

Bamboo Charcoal

By cooking mature stalks of bamboo at temperatures around 1000º C, the hardy plant undergoes thermal decomposition and turns into bamboo charcoal. This dark grey and seemingly inert end product actually has a surprising range of uses. Historically, the myriad applications of bamboo charcoal date back many centuries, millennia even. We can trace the oldest written record to the Ming Dynasty, 15th century.

Most uses of bamboo charcoal involve either cooking or some type of purification. But some of the most intriguing uses did not “come to light” until the 20th century. Relying on its strength and durability, Thomas Edison employed a carbon filament fashioned from bamboo for one of his very first light bulb experiments. These days, however, the demand for bamboo filament lightbulbs has greatly diminished, so don’t expect to see any on the shelves at Bambu Batu. Although you might find bamboo charcoal in some of our bamboo toothbrushes, which make use of its teeth-whitening properties. 

NOTE: To make shopping even easier, we’ve included some affiliate links in this article.

Purification and Filtration

Like most varieties of charcoal, bamboo is very effective as a medium for cleaning both air and water. Most water filters employ some sort of carbon filtration system, but there’s a bamboo water filter method that’s as easy as dunking a slab of charcoal into a jug of water. Within 3-4 hours, the bamboo leaches the impurities from your tap water.

IPPINKA Bamboo Charcoal Water Filter is a product of Japan, and it reliably removes chlorine from your water, for a cleaner and better tasting refreshment. They come three sticks in a box, and each stick lasts about a month or two. Just boil the stick once a week for ten minutes to keep it fresh.

If you’re just looking for something to clear the air, bamboo charcoal is perfect for that too. A little bag of charcoal in the sock drawer, in the car, or in the bathroom, can provide an effective and inconspicuous solution to the unpleasant odor problems.

Brilliant Evolution makes 50 gram bags of bamboo charcoal that are sold in sets of four. The reusable pouches last for up to 2 years. The charcoal itself is non-toxic, has no added chemicals or odors, and is easy to compost at the end of their use.

Bamboo Briquettes

We usually associate it German sausages and American burgers, but really, who doesn’t love a good BBQ? The oldest use of bamboo charcoal is probably for cooking, much like how we use different kinds of charcoal when we fire up the grill. Stalks and culms of bamboo are cooked down to what’s classified as raw charcoal, and the remaining residue and bi-product becomes charcoal briquettes.

But bamboo briquettes don’t lend the same sort of flavor as a nice mesquite, so it’s actually not so common to cook with it on the grill. More likely, the charcoal goes into a furnace to be used for heating. It’s also an ideal source of heat for drying out tea leaves, a very common practice in Asia.

Honorable Mention

One final use of bamboo charcoal may or may not be worth considering, depending whether you’ve got the stomach for it! In 2014, Burger King in Japan introduced the all-black cheeseburger. They used bamboo charcoal to color the buns, the burger and the cheese. Black squid ink was also added to the ketchup to make a black sauce. Bamboo charcoal is highly revered in Japan, and these frightening looking burgers were actually a big hit.

I can’t attest to the taste of a black cheeseburger, but why not treat yourself to some cleaner water and a little more fresh air? Bamboo charcoal can do it all!

Photo Credit: Charred bamboo, ready to enter the next stage of life (Wikipedia)

Bamboo Towels by Daisy HouseThe Quest for the Best

When we started selling bamboo towels more than a decade ago, there weren’t many brands to choose from. Back then, in 2006, BAMBU BATU was still the only all-bamboo boutique in California, and we were determined to stock our shelves with some incredible towels, at a time when no one had even heard of bamboo towels.

We took our chances and ordered a case of 60/40 bamboo-cotton blended towels, made in India, from a now defunct company with a major distribution center on the east coast. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but one thing is certain, those towels exceeded even our greatest expectations: as soft as cashmere, amazingly absorbent, odor resistant, and built to last. When the company discontinued the towels a year later we were absolutely devastated. Not only did we love the towels more than anything, but they were far and away the best selling line in the store. Apparently BAMBU BATU’s small scale success was not enough to keep the multi-national factories running.

After that heart break, it took us years to find a comparable replacement that lived up to that same level of quality, softness, absorbency and durability. Those towels had opened our eyes to a whole new world of post-bath luxury, and the genie would NOT go back in the bottle. So we dabbled in a dozen or more different brands of bamboo towels, ordering samples from all corners of the globe.

We washed, we dried, we daubed, we shimmied. But we were not about to settle for anything less than the very best. Eventually, we came up with a winner, and those are the towels we proudly sell in our San Luis Obispo brick-n-mortar shop and online

Our exhaustive research led us to many brands of bamboo towels, and a tremendous range in quality. Some towels were exceptionally soft but just didn’t seem very absorbent. Others were just too easy to snag on jewelry, on finger nails, or in the dryer. And some just didn’t seem to have the softness or the fluffiness that we’d come to count on from a great bamboo towel. 

All in all, the realm of bamboo towels is a wonderful and luxurious world to explore. So it’s a been a marvelous experience and great learning process. And now I’d like to pass along some of that bamboo knowledge, with this quick tour through some of the leading brands of bamboo towels. By the way, if you find this article helpful, you might also want to read our study on  the best bamboo sheets.

NOTE: To make shopping even easier, we’ve included some affiliate links in this article.

TOP CHOICE: 1. Daisy House Bamboo Towels

Amid the forest of bamboo companies, it’s not easy to narrow it down to just one superior choice. So what makes Daisy House stand out from the crowd? We love these towels for a lot of reasons. Most of all, they accentuate all the characteristics that make bamboo towels great: super soft, super fluffy, and super absorbent. Made in Turkey from a blend of cotton and bamboo, they also hold up very well over time.

In addition to these essential traits, Daisy House towels come in an astonishing variety of colors. Last time I checked there were 22 to choose from. Maybe your bathroom is hot pink with flamingo wall paper, or perhaps you’re trying to match the aquamarine tiles you picked up on your last trip to Mexico. Or do you prefer to go au natural? No matter what, they’ve got you covered. And we’re not the only ones ranking them number one; the Wall Street Journal also rated them the best overall towel.

Furthermore, Daisy House is a small, family-owned company, with excellent, friendly customer service. In an age of automated everything and corporate conglomerates, it means a lot to me when I can purchase my sustainable bamboo products from real humans with souls and voices.

2. Caribbean

In my experience, and as much as I love the bamboo, I have to say that I generally prefer the towels that are made from a blend of bamboo and cotton. It’s like they somehow give you the best of both worlds. But if you absolutely must have 100% bamboo, then Caribbean is the way to go.

These guys are real purists. They use nothing but 100% organic bamboo. And they donate a portion of their profits to UNICEF for children. So there’s a lot to love about these towels. Maybe they’re not as thick and fluffy as some of the bamboo-cotton blended towels, but the light weight and silky softness makes them ideal for babies and children.

The only down side here is that you won’t find a tremendous selection of colors. Being such purists, they only use un-dyed bamboo, so all their towels are white. But if you’re looking for 100% unadulterated organic bamboo towels from a company that really cares about helping children around the world, then Caribbean is your best choice. You can purchase their bath towels individually, but the price drops significantly if you buy them in sets of 6 or 12.

3. Murphy Bamboo

Murphy offers a line of luxurious bath towels made from 70% bamboo and 30% cotton. The ribbed terry fabric gives these deluxe towels and extra air of plush softness. There’s no doubt, these are some wonderfully soft, fluffy and absorbent towels. Personally, I’m a big fan of of ribbed towels, so that’s a plus for me, but some people might prefer a more uniform texture. The only other downside is the lack of color selection. Murphy Bamboo towels are currently only available in white. Check Amazon for current pricing and availability.

4. Cariloha

This company sprouted up out of nowhere about five years ago and dominated the internet virtually overnight. Their online presence makes them impossible to ignore, but they also deliver a very high quality product. 

As with any great bamboo towel worth mentioning, these are extra super cushy. Cariloha uses a 50-50 blend of bamboo and Turkish cotton to produce a great towel that’s exceptionally soft, fluffy and absorbent. They also offer a beautiful selection of colors, which can be helpful if you’re trying to match a specific bathroom decor. Your best option is probably Cariloha’s bamboo 3-piece towel set, which includes a generously sized bath towel, a hand towel and a washcloth.

5. Chakir Turkish Linens

Another excellent line of luxuriously soft towels made from a blend of 65% Turkish cotton and 35% bamboo. Chakir towels are comparable to Daisy House and Cariloha in price and quality, remarkably soft, thick, fluffy and absorbent. They are also available in several colors. 

UPDATE: Last we checked, these towels were sold out on Amazon, and it was not known when they would be available again. Seems that these towels are just too hot to keep in stock. Visit Amazon to check on current pricing and availability.

6. Brooklyn Bamboo

This company offers a luxurious 3-piece set of 100% bamboo bath towels, with all the fabulous qualities of softness and absorbency that make bamboo towels such a wonderful choice. The woven jacquard pattern adds an extra touch of elegance. Brooklyn Bamboo also carries a variety of bamboo towel sets for babies.

Keep in mind, with the 100% bamboo, these towels are not going to be as thick and fluffy as some of the bamboo-cotton blends like Daisy House. Also, Brooklyn bamboo towels are only available in a couple of colors, grey and off-white.

7. Bamboosa

Looking for a good family feeling and an American-made towel, look no further than Bamboosa of South Carolina, recently relocated to Los Angeles, California. This family-owned and operated company is a true pioneer in the bamboo field. Since around 2004, they have been committed to providing the most environmentally responsible and ethically produced bamboo products imaginable, while creating jobs and opportunities right here in America. 

Bamboosa’s towels are made from a blend of 80% organic bamboo and 20% recycled polyester. They are incredibly soft and absorbent, and so far as we know, the only bamboo towels being manufactured in the USA. 

As a small mom-n-pop enterprise, however, their availability is sometimes rather limited. Currently they have a bamboo gym towel and a some bamboo baby towel sets in stock.  Visit their website to order and to check availability.

8. Bamboo Classic

Their name says it all. No frills, just great bamboo. Made from a blend of 55% bamboo and 45% cotton, these towels are certainly soft and absorbent. To increase the softness and absorbency, they recommend washing the towels before use.

The Bamboo Classic towel sets only come in white, but check out Amazon’s price for a set of four bath towels, and you’ll see that they are among the least expensive bamboo towels on the market. However, the low price might come at the cost of durability. These don’t seem to be the same quality material that we’ve handled elsewhere.

CONCLUSIONS

The benefits of bamboo as a textile go on and on. It is one of the fastest growing and renewable plants on earth, and its versatility is unparalleled. Fabric made from the bamboo plants has also proven to be hypo-allergic, anti-microbial and odor resistant, making it an excellent material for products like t-shirts, socks, underwear, and more.

With such softness and absorbency, bamboo is also an ideal material for towels. But not all bamboo towels are created equally. And in my experience, some varieties of bamboo fabric seem to harness that softness and absorbency better than others. For instance, the bamboo-cotton blends appear to make the best towels — fluffier and more absorbent than the 100% bamboo towels that I’ve used. Even so, there is something appealing about a towel made from nothing but bamboo.

In assessing these towels, we also take into consideration the philosophy and spirit of our bamboo producing colleagues. As a family-owned business founded on a commitment to environmental awareness and social responsibility, we care about a lot more than just the bottom line. Therefore, we like to promote and do business with other like-minded companies. And so, for all of these reasons, we’ve chosen Daisy House as number one, and named Caribbean a close second.

Whatever bamboo towel you choose, we wish you all the best in your bathing, drying and bamboo swaddling!  

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