How bamboo conserves resources and protects the environment

How bamboo conserves resources and protects the environment

July 29, 2021

Earth Overshoot Day and the urgency for more climate action

Earth Overshoot Day marks the point in time when we have used up all the annual natural resources that our planet provides. In 2021, that date is 29th July. It confirms the trend that was already visible before the pandemic: we are living beyond our means and using up our natural resources too quickly. This makes it all the more important to take measures to conserve these resources, and thus also to take climate action. Our carbon offset project for sustainable bamboo reforestation in Nicaragua shows how both can be combined.

The "perfect storm" of climate change and resource scarcity

The historical data of Earth Overshoot Day, calculated by the Global Footprint Network, shows: since 1970, humanity has been consuming beyond its means, currently amounting to 74 percent above planetary boundaries this year alone. If this trend continues unchecked, this additional consumption could lead to a situation that various climate experts have called the "perfect storm". Extreme weather, species extinction, even the pandemic - these are all facets of the combination of climate change and resource scarcity. The answer must be to curb the overconsumption of finite resources. We need to define our lifestyle and prosperity within the boundaries that the world gives us. Earth Overshoot Day urges us to take action in this direction, which can range from climate-friendly consumption decisions by individuals, to corporate investments in nature-based climate action solutions.

Climate action and resource conservation through bamboo cultivation

One example of such measures is our bamboo reforestation project on the Río Kama in Nicaragua, which we are currently developing with local partners. As a first step, we planted more than 1 million plants of a native species of giant bamboo on almost 2,400 hectares of land. The long-term goal is that some of these plants, once fully grown, will be harvested and used as a substitute raw material for conventional, slower-growing wood.

Since only parts of the bamboo plant are removed during harvesting, (the plant itself remains alive and new parts grow back) bamboo plants store the absorbed CO2 in the long term. If, on the other hand, trees were used for the same purpose, all of their CO2 storage capacity would be lost once they are felled. Products made from bamboo as a raw material therefore contribute to a low-emission and resource-efficient economy. At the same time, they strengthen the economic prospects of the local population.

Further advantages of bamboo:

  • Bamboo grows quickly. If managed properly, this makes it the most sustainable form of biomass. While average trees need about 70 years to produce the amount of 60 tonnes of pulp in one hectare, bamboo can produce up to 30 tonnes in the same area after only five years.
  • Some species can grow in relatively nutrient-poor soils, while the heavy leaf fall creates a dense layer of organic compost. This makes bamboo a perfect plant for the restoration and reforestation of degraded land.
  • Bamboo's broad but shallow root system breaks up compacted soils, reduces rainwater runoff and soil erosion, and acts as a filtration system that slowly returns water to the water table.
  • Large bamboo plantations provide a link between isolated patches of forest. Their leaves provide a quick and permanent canopy, increasing both habitat areas and biodiversity.
  • Bamboo helps mitigate climate change. Over a ten-year period, it (one plant?) removes up to 500 tonnes of CO2/hectare from the air. Bamboo also stabilises the microclimate, therefore contributingto climate change adaptation.

Our project in eastern Nicaragua is already certified by the VCS, and covers almost 2,400 hectares, with an additional 1,000 hectares of old forest as a protected zone. This means that it already saves an average of 37,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, and will produce around 200,000 tonnes of bamboo for further use in the future. This carbon offset project is one of many solutions for a climate-friendly life and economy on earth.

Further information on our project is available at