Mailbag - Bamboo Floors vs the Environment
Jan 29
Questions about bamboo floors are common, and this post from Remodelista addresses them beautifully. And here's an old post from me that discusses the subject as well, with some bamboo shopping links.

Readers have great Qs. And, often these highlight the fact that there are no easy answers in life - even when it comes to being kind to our environment.

Reader Paul posed the following Q:

My wife and I are involved in a project to build a bathroom into the second floor of our 1940s home. We are trying to decide on flooring at the moment, and I read with interest your article, "My personal Carbon Credit Program," in the October/November, 2012 issue of the Northwest Renovation magazine. We are interested in using solid bamboo flooring available from Home Depot, but my internet research has indicated that the bamboo flooring industry be should avoided due to its heavy reliance on environmentally unfriendly chemicals in the manufacturing process. My research also suggests that bamboo flooring cannot be sanded and refinished like hardwood flooring, and that it is prone to irreparable damage from water. Can you shed any light on these claims for us before we purchase our flooring?

This confusion comes down to a couple issues, in my opinion. Bamboo is re-growable, so it is considered an environmental-friendly resource. However, most bamboo flooring comes from Asia. The factories are not monitored, so pollution and waste practices are questionable. The chemicals used in this flooring are another big question mark - and those chemicals will off-gas into your house. Finally, the quality can be suspect - the bamboo might not hold up well to wet climates or, alternatively, to dry climates. There is a way around this, however. You can buy US grown and processed bamboo from an eco-friendly company. Start your research with Bamboo Revolution in Portland. And you do have to do your research when you're concerned about how your decisions affect the environment.

As an intro to the next question, please be aware that that I do not buy salvage in order to resell it, that I have no storefront, and that I'm in Portland, OR. If you have a question about a product, an item, or where to find and what to do with salvage, send me a specific email with your issue and I will do my best to answer you. If a picture of your salvage is appropriate, please send it along, as did a gentleman in South Carolina:

I have 30 - 40 windows from a 1906 Arts & Craft home I'm renovating that I'd like to sell ... do you know who might be interested ?

His windows are pictured above. Though I have never been to South Carolina, here is how I would start the search when the items are pulled from an old house:

1. Start with a Google search: architectural salvage (your town and state). Call these people, and offer to send them your email pics. If they do not want your item, ask for references and keep calling / emailing. Expand your search as appropriate to nearby towns.
2. Another Google search: deconstruction services (your town and state). Start making those calls again. Be aware that many of these services may not want to pay for your windows or other items you're trying to get rid of, but you need to call and ask. Deconstruction services are paid for tear-down and carting away, but they may pay under some circumstances, and they also may have suggestions for you.
2. Post your items on Craigslist, and even ebay (for pickup only).
3. Donate your items. Habitat for Humanity is everywhere.

Lastly was a comment from my niece. She was speaking with someone who was researching the possible intersection of socioeconomic issues with preservation. In particular, if people live in an urban area with no access to green spaces, do they understand how their decisions regarding use and recycling affect the environment? Can you understand what is happening in the ocean if you've never seen it? Maybe not. But I know a boatload of people who have seen the ocean, yet think nothing of buying and discarding plastic water bottles - one after the other. So, for anyone who needs a refresher on the amount of trash in our oceans, here is a recent article about the pollution one man recently found during a long sea voyage. It's a helluva read.


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