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Choose a bed made with rapidly renewable materials

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Quick growers like bamboo, rattan, rice, and straw, are considered rapidly renewable crops, especially in comparison to the average lifespan of a tree. They require little chemical assistance and because they can reproduce so speedily, they can be substituted for wood, thus reducing the strain on virgin or old growth forests. Beds that make use of unwanted farming by-products, such as straw, are also great options since they prevent large-scale burning and the resulting air pollution.

How to find a bed made of a bamboo, straw board, or wicker

Currently there are no regulations for how rapidly renewable materials are grown, harvested, or labeled, but the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which provides a third-party certification program to verify that harvested trees come from sustainably managed forests, has begun certifying bamboo. Most items made with FSC-certified wood have on-product FSC labels, however some companies aren't consistent about applying them, so look hard and ask questions. Finding beds made from straw board may be equally challenging, so persistence is the key.

  1. Let your fingers do the finding: Search online for vendors carrying bamboo or rattan furniture. Many will deliver throughout the US.
  2. If at first you don’t see, ask!: If you don’t see labels indicating the materials used to make a bed, don’t be afraid to ask whether it is constructed using bamboo or rattan or straw- or wheat-based particleboard.

Find it! Rapidly renewable bed makers

Whether you’re looking for a green bed frame for your beach-inspired condo or your modern bungalow, there’s a furniture-maker for you. These pieces made of super-sustainable materials are both beautiful and strong.

Buying a bed made from rapidly renewable materials helps you go green because…

  • Crops such as bamboo, rattan, and wheat grow quickly, are easily renewed, and reduce the strain on valuable forests.
  • Wheat and rice straw can be used to make straw board, which if not reused, is burned, resulting in billowing air pollution.

Many products can be made from rapidly renewable materials, cabinetry and furniture being perhaps among the most popular. Harvested in short cycles of 10 years or less, rapidly renewable materials such as bamboo, rattan, or straw board are super-efficient land-users. A 60-foot length of bamboo, the most commonly used rapidly renewable material, takes only 59 days to replace, which is very little time compared to the 60 years required to replace a 60-foot tree.[1] A bed made of rapidly renewable materials, rather than long-cycle materials taken from virgin or old growth forests, slows the depletion of these finite raw materials.

Bamboo

Bamboo makes an excellent, affordable building material, both in raw forms and as bamboo plywood, called plyboo. Exports of bamboo furniture have risen from $625,000 to $1.2 million in the Philippines.[1] Bamboo houses are commonly constructed where the grass grows abundantly, and since it is flexible and lightweight, homes built from bamboo often remain standing even after earthquakes. Bamboo is seven to 10 times harder than maple, and has tensile strength superior to some steels.[2]

Bamboo, a type of grass and a common material for bed construction, is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. Some species grow 30 inches or more every day, significantly more than the 30 inches oak trees gain in an average year. Bamboo does not die when harvested, either; it simply grows new stocks to replace the old ones.

Found most commonly in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America, bamboo provides some important environmental benefits. It has net-like root systems, unique leaves, and creates dense litter on the forest floor that protects against soil erosion and reduces rain runoff. This is true even in locations where it is difficult to grow plants, such as deforested areas, riverbanks, and places where earthquakes and mudslides are common.

A bamboo stand will release 35 percent more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees and can sequester up to 12 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare. Bamboo is also very adaptable, growing in a variety of ecosystems. With 1,500 or more species, bamboo can tolerate between 30 to 250 inches of rain per year and thrives from sea level to 12,000 feet.[3]

Rattan

Rattan (made into wicker furniture) is another common material used to make furniture. It grows in the tropics and sub-tropics and is a climbing palm sometimes reaching over 600 feet in length. Like bamboo, it is strong and flexible and easy to work with. Rattan hugs other trees to climb the trunks, without disturbing the natural habitat. It can grow in degraded forests in marginal soil, and therefore can help prevent soil loss, etc.[1]

Straw board

Particleboard, which is most often made from wood fiber, can also be manufactured from wheat or rice straw, which are annually renewable resources. Particleboard made from straw is called straw board. Using what is considered an agricultural waste has several important environmental benefits.

Though some straw is left on fields to condition the soil, in many places straw is burned, thus causing serious air pollution. In addition to producing particulate matter, carbon dioxide, and other air pollutants, straw burning creates 56,000 tons of carbon monoxide each year in California. Rather than burning the straw, many farmers are finding a new market for a once-wasted byproduct. US agriculture produces an estimated 100 million metric tons of straw each year.[4]

Processing straw for use in particleboard requires less energy than that needed to process wood fibers. Straw board can be painted and stained like wood, is lighter than regular particleboard and therefore easier to transport, and is used in many applications, including furniture and cabinet construction, wall and floor panels, and doors. Straw board is strong and resists rupture and moisture, and therefore performs the same or better than wood particleboard. Straw is both abundant and inexpensive, and unlike wood particleboard, formaldehyde is not used on straw board, so it does not pose the same health risks.

Controversies

There are several challenges facing bamboo's reputation as an eco-friendly building materia. The growth in popularity of bamboo products has been detrimental to the natural forests in countries where bamboo grows. Existing forests are often cut down and replaced with bamboo plantations, negatively impacting biodiversity. Bamboo can be "over-managed" with chemical weeding and periodic tilling of the land to clear undergrowth. These practices increase erosion and produce a single-species plantation over large areas.

Although bamboo traditionally does not require pesticide and fertilizers, unless it is certified organic, you can’t be sure. In some growing areas, the intensive use of pesticides, weed killers, and fertilizers also affects the environment by releasing toxins into soil and waterways.

Glossary

  • formaldehyde: A flammable reactive gas belonging to the VOC (volatile organic compound) family of chemicals. It is widely used in personal care products, building materials, insulation, and home furnishings. Ingestion of the chemical can cause severe physical reactions, including coma, internal bleeding, and death. The US Department of Health and Human Services considers it a probable human carcinogen.
  • old growth forest: Also known as virgin forest, ancient forest, or primary forest, this is an area of forest that has attained great age and contains a variety of vertical vegetation layers, including large live trees. These forests may also be home to many rare species that are dependent on the ecologically unique old growth features.
  • straw board: Made of wheat or rice straw, straw board is very similar to particleboard, which is made from wood fibers. It can be used to construct furniture, walls, floors, doors, cabinetry, etc.

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