World trends in artificial flower design. The one of our most interesting topic on the Floresy blog.

Wellness tourism is booming. But you don’t have to be a health spa to take advantage of this trend in travellers. Here are some ideas that any hotel can implement to help appeal to the wellness tourist:

Promote good sleep

As a hotelier, you know that getting a good night’s sleep is a key factor in getting a good review and seeing repeat business. Whilst you may already be proud of the quality of your bedrooms, are you using it in your marketing?

Getting good sleep is paramount to health and wellbeing just as getting exercise and eating a balanced diet. So, go the extra step and help achieve a high sleep quality for your customers:

  • Help your guests avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime. A fruit and oat smoothie is a better option than a nightcap as the oats and dairy contain sleep-inducing compounds. 
  • Blackout curtains and/or eyemasks will help eliminate unwanted light
  • With people coming and going, it isn’t always easy to reduce noise levels, especially in urban areas. So how about complimentary ear plugs for all your guests?
  • Give your guests the option of no TV in their room.

You can help set the mood from the very moment your guests arrive and create a relaxed lobby. The use of plants and greenery to bring your guests closer to nature will have a beneficial effect. 

Review your menu

One of the best things about staying in a hotel is someone else does the cooking (and the washing up). For many travellers, this is an opportunity to indulge. However, for a wellness hotel, this may be an opportunity to indulge your guests in healthier options as well: 

  • Ensure you offer healthy, balanced meal options on your menu.
  • Consider including calorie information. This helps your wellness guest make informed choices about when they indulge.
  • Local and organic produce has long been a staple for many hoteliers and is a must for a wellness hotel. To push this further, you could include information about the local producers such as the ethics behind their business.
  • Include more plant-based choices on your menus – and make them accessible. How about an indulgent (and not particularly healthy) vegetarian main course? Better for the planet but also good for the soul. Avoid treating gluten-free or vegan options as afterthoughts. 

Find out about wellness activities in your area

What is there to do near you that would appeal to a wellness traveller? Activities or experiences that will help relax or enlighten are perfect and why not try them out yourself first so you can give informed advice. Show your prospective guests there are lots to choose from near your hotel. It also helps create a stress-free experience when you’ve done the legwork. Activities to consider include:

  • Yoga, meditation or alternative therapies.
  • Walking groups or maps for local walking routes or sightseeing tours
  • Expressive and creative activities such as drawing or painting classes, craft experiences like weaving or woodworking.

You can also bring the activities to your guests and organise events in your hotel.

Dare to drop the WiFi?

Whilst ditching guest WiFi altogether might be a bit drastic, how about a technology-free zone somewhere in your hotel. No phones, tablets or laptops allowed. This helps create a relaxing and stress-free zone for travellers looking to escape.

Got gym facilities? Promote them.

Whilst fitness is probably secondary to relaxation, exercise and mental health are closely connected. And a hotel gym is a great asset so make sure your guests know about. However, perhaps consider the choice of words when promoting your gym. To attract a wellness traveller, its often more about de-stressing and being active than it is about working out or getting ‘pumped’.

If you don’t have gym facilities, is there a local gym that offers day passes? How about the optional extra for guests to have an exercise bike or a yoga mat in their room for the duration of their stay? Make sure you have a solution for the physically active wellness tourist.

What to take away for your Wellness Hotel

Wellness isn’t all about exercise and healthy eating. It’s a holistic approach to looking after the mind and body. So take a step back and think about what really makes people feel happy and healthy and implement that in your business.

Floresy can help set the mood with some well-chosen artificial plants and trees. Our products are low-maintenance, realistic and perfect for your wellness hotel vibe.

 

It’s easy to access green space when living in rural areas. There are sprawling fields and woodland scenes painted across the rolling green hills of this sceptred isle. And the chances are that you can see green space from your home or drive through it on your way to work.

We know that living closer to nature can have benefits to our mental and physical health. But can people who live in cities gain the same health benefits by having access to green spaces?

What is a ‘green space’?

Green space is defined as:

an area of grass, trees, or other vegetation set apart for recreational or aesthetic purposes in an otherwise urban environment.

Green space and health

There are many health benefits that come from living where you have access to green space:

Green spaces make us more social

Urban design that incorporates green and colourful elements can increase social wellbeing. Simple and low-cost ideas such as painting concrete or adding planting along a roadside can promote happiness, our sense of environmental stewardship and community plus a greater trust of strangers. 

Green space slows cognitive decline among the elderly

In addition to combating social isolation through a greater number of connections, green space can also help promote healthy ageing. Living in greener neighbourhoods, and the lifestyle associated with it (physical activity and social support) can slow cognitive decline that comes with natural ageing.

Green space is good for children’s behaviour 

Just as green space may increase our sense of community, a greener urban environment may reduce aggressive behaviour among adolescents. Also, children who live closer to green spaces maybe better at paying attention, such as when at school. And students who have a view of greenery from their classroom can improve their performance during tests. 

Green space helps us concentrate at work

Green roofs are good for the environment but having a greener view from your office window may help boost a worker’s concentration. Study participants performing a boring, mind-numbing task were given a 40-second ‘micro-break’ by looking at a city rooftop scene. The participants who looked at a green rooftop subsequently made fewer mistakes and showed better concentration when the task resumed than those who viewed a concrete roof.

What are the health impacts of living in a city?

Surprisingly, there are many health benefits associated with living in urban areas:

  • City dwellers often have a lower carbon-footprint than people live in more rural areas due to denser housing and better use of public transport.
  • Obesity rates are lower in cities, maybe because people walk more.
  • You’re also less likely to die as a result of a road traffic accident in cities.

But living in a city also some negative impacts on health:

  • People who live in a city are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders and from mood disorders
  • The brains of urbanites handle stress less well than their rural counterparts
  • Air pollution is higher in urban areas and can contribute more premature deaths per year if proper controls are not put in place.

Why is green space important in a city?

In developed countries, the majority of the populations live in urban areas such as cities. In 2010, a staggering 90% of the UK’s population lived in urban areas compared to 82% in the US, and 76% in Germany.

Incorporating green space design into urban areas means being able to address some of the negative health effects of city living. And because of the higher density of people, these green spaces can impact a significant proportion of a population.

Green space can also help reduce air and noise pollution and also help keep a city cool.

So providing access to green spaces in cities becomes vital for maintaining the health and wellbeing of the majority of a country’s population.

Adding a rooftop garden helps you and your community

If you run an urban business, you can help improve the environment for your local community – as well as your staff or guests – by adding a rooftop garden. 

To help limit the weight and maintenance of such a garden, consider combing natural elements with some well-chosen artificial trees and plants. Floresy stock a range of artificial plants for outside spaces and can help you choose the right options for your exterior space. Call us today for more information on how we can help ‘green-up’ your environment.

 

Wellness tourism has a global worth of $639 billion. In 2017, there were over 830 million wellness trips representing 17% of all global tourism. Plus the average wellness traveller spends more per trip than the average tourist. Spending by wellness tourists is 53% more when travelling internationally and 178% more for domestic travel.

What’s more, is the forecast for growth. Global wellness tourism is growing at an annual rate of 7.5% which is notably faster than the overall tourism growth prediction. The industry’s value is set to reach $919 billion by 2022 and surpass the 1 billion wellness trips per year.

So why is wellness tourism growing so fast?

What is Wellness Tourism?

Wellness tourism is a vacation, holiday or short break that puts your wellbeing at the centre of your experience. Travellers seek to relieve stress, regain a balance, pursue a personal passion or life goal or to simply kick-start a new healthier lifestyle.

Examples of a wellness trip include:

wellness tourism infographic

Wellness tourism infographic

  • Holidays that give the opportunity for reconnecting with nature either through their location or through activities they offer such as 
  • Yoga retreats are popular choices as they combine physical and spiritual stimulation with relaxation, calm and inward reflection.
  • Activity-based holidays aimed at those seeking physical exhilaration.
  • Creative-themed holidays where travellers can attend creative writing boot camps or artists’ retreats.
  • Cultural experiences that seek to connect people with other cultures or religions. 

Wellness destinations are not health farms where the objective is weight loss. Neither is it travelling to another country seeking medical treatment.

So, why is wellness tourism growing so fast?

Wellness is the tonic to the stresses of modern life and is a growing trend. Wellness dumps the fad diets and fitness crazes for a more holistic approach to health. People are realising that they are in control of their own good health. 

Wellness promotes healthy ageing

Our population is ageing. In 2015, 12.3% of the world’s population was aged 60 or over. That’s around 901 million people. By 2030, this is projected to increase to 1.4 billion or 16.4% of the world’s population. And he over 85s age range will show the biggest growth.

The baby boomer generation, those currently in their 60s and early 70s, want good health to get the best out of their later years. Plus they have the money, time and conviction to make their health goals a priority.

Being in better health as we age means that our growing population will not create an equal impact on healthcare. We don’t want to be a burden or to lose purpose as we age, and the pursuit of wellness allows us to remain independent and vibrant.

Wellness empowers people

The pursuit of wellness is not dependent on firstly consulting healthcare professional. People are able to make well-informed, proactive decisions about their lives independently.

One of the biggest shifts in healthcare is the balance or power or knowledge between a patient and their doctor. The wealth of information available to us as individuals is partly responsible for this shift.

People are realising that prevention is better than cure. So improving our health means that we are in control of our health choices. We are less dependent on a prescription or drug and therefore a faceless, third party like Big Pharma.

The wellness industry is booming

Naturally, as the overall wellness industry grows so too does wellness tourism. The popularity of mindfulness apps and plant-based diets are growing and many aspects of wellness are accessible and low cost.

Wellness brings global philosophies

Exploring other cultures can give a traveller a connection to the past, a fresh understanding of themselves or a simple sense of the one world identity. New ways of thinking can bring rejuvenation and a new zeal for life. We can access tai chi in Western countries but nothing beats the authenticity of morning practice in Bejing, for example.

How can Floresy help?

We can help create a welcoming environment for your wellness guests using our experience as interior plant landscapers. Wellness tourists may have expectations on the style and quality of the venues they choose and we can help your business meet that expectation. Find out more about our artificial plants for hotels or contact us today to speak to one of our customer managers.

The houseplant interiors trend is going from strength to strength and won’t be stopping anytime soon. So, what are the indoor plant trends 2019?

Bigger, more mature indoor plants

Houseplants will become statement pieces in our interiors. Just as we invest in furniture so will also we invest in our greenery. Big, floor standing plants will become fixtures in our homes and workplaces – if they’re not already.

So when you next purchase a houseplant, consider investing in bigger and more mature plants.

 

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It isn’t surprising that forest bathing – spending time in a forest or other green space – is good for you.

Forest bathing or Shinrin yoku is becoming very popular in some countries. Countries such as Japan, in particular, take this practice very seriously.

But more than just hokem or new-age hippy-ness, there is growing scientific evidence to back up why spending time in green spaces is good for our health.

A recent analysis in the scientific journal, Environmental Research, drew on data from multiple previous studies. The combined studies tracked a total of 290 million participants from 20 different countries. The study suggested a correlation between spending time in green spaces and several health benefits:

  • Reduces stress
  • Reduces the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Reduces risk of Type II diabetes

Above all, the participants were also more likely to describe their own health as “good”.

Why is forest bathing is good for our health?

There are many contributing factors to why spending time in green spaces is good for us. They include:

  • Promotes physical activity
  • Social interaction
  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Improved air quality

Other theories include an increased exposure to the microorganisms can strengthen the immune system. But also that particular chemicals emitted by trees may actually affect our health in different ways. Some compounds have anti-bacterial properties whilst others may actually increase the activity of our immune system.

Forest bathing as a therapy

“Green prescriptions” have been given to people with various ailments since the Victorian age. And the connection between greenery and health contributed to town planning and the addition of so many parks during the 19th century.

The NHS provides advice to their GPs on the physical and mental benefits of visiting green places. The NHS states that 6-8 months after receiving a green prescription, 63% of patients are more active and 46% have lost weight. Encouraging physical activity outside in good quality green spaces is, therefore, a valuable tool in disease prevention.

Forest Bathing and Biophilic Design

Of course, the principles behind forest bathing and biophilic design are the same. We are innately connected to nature and benefit from being close to natural things such as water and plants. Biophilic design takes these principles and incorporates them into our urban and interior spaces.

How can I incorporate forest bathing into my lifestyle?

You may already be subconsciously seeking out nature for relaxation. Going for a walk is an obvious idea but for many people living urban lives, access to good quality green spaces may be difficult. So if you’re in a pinch what can you do? Here are some ideas:

  • Listen to nature’s sounds, such as birdsong and running water, to help de-stress and relax.
  • Make sure you have greenery in the form of indoor plants or even artwork depicting natural scenes.
  • Make time at the weekend to visit a green space such as a local park or a garden that’s open to the public.

At Floresy, we understand the importance of greenery in our home and work environments. If you want to increase the greenery in your space, without increasing your water consumption or the time it takes to maintain your plants, our artificial products are here to support your needs. Give us a call today to find out how we can help.

A survey of 2000 UK workers by Mindspace (a co-working and collaborative workspace provider), uncovered some disconcerting opinions among employees. A surprising 16% of 18 to 24-year-olds said that they had left a job because of its poor workplace design. A further 31% of workers felt their current work environment was uninspiring, while 28% stated that their workplace is simply outdated and dull.

Another study by Office Genie in 2017, a whacking 45% of employees were frustrated at the lack of collaborative spaces in their place of work. And 20% actually stated that their work environment hindered their ability to do their job.

So how does a modern business attract, and retain, the more discerning generation of employees a.k.a. the millennials? What can office design do to improve worker happiness? Would adopting resimmercial design help with your businesses recruitment challenges?

What is resimmercial design?

The word ‘resimmercial’ is a blend of two words: residential and commercial. And this is exactly what resimmercial design is all about – blending home and work life. By creating spaces that are more home-like and less like a place of work, designers are hoping to make the office a more comfortable place to be.

Resimmercial design follows on from commercial spaces that have introduced more creativity to their premises. Sometimes, that may have been through necessity such as the “hot-desking” concept. Other reasons include wanting to change the atmosphere to make it more productive or relaxed.

Resimmercial design

Workplaces that feel more like home. Resimmercial design.

The main principles are creating spaces that feel warm, welcoming and homely plus flexibility for employees with different working preferences. This is predominantly achieved by opting for non-traditional office furniture, moving away from neutral tones and adding more natural textures into the work environment.

What are the features of resimmercial design?

Communal and casual areas

Think less “open-plan office” and more hotel lobby. These areas are lounge spaces with casual seating arrangements that are conducive to conversation. But likewise, a good resimmercial space also more secluded spots for those times when someone needs a quiet place to work.

Multi-functional spaces

By assigning less purpose to a space you allow it to adapt to the needs of the people working there. A room isn’t a meeting room because it’s just another space that could be used for a meeting. Is that a coffee bar or a standing desk? The user decides.

Soft edges and rich textures

That oh-so-typical modular office furniture is replaced with less ‘officey’ pieces often in vibrant colours or natural materials such as wood, cork or bamboo. There are more fabric coverings in a resimmercial space including tactile velvets, prints and other interesting textures. Just like all the curtains, carpets, cushions and upholstery that you would expect to find in a comfortable home.

Resimmercial design is a relaxing work environment

Resimmercial feels like you could be working whilst sitting on your sofa at home

Closer to nature

Resimmercial design often incorporates biophilic principles too. The use of plants helps to create a healthy and relaxing environment As does other natural materials such as stone and water. There may even be a fish tank (ok, that’s very “dentist’s waiting room” and nothing new but, aw, look at the fishies!).

Why choose resimmercial for your office?

An important factor that influences a millennial’s decision making, whether it is spending money or choosing a company to work for, is the ethics and authenticity of a brand or employer. Creating positive working environments shows a commitment to staff welfare above and beyond what any brochure or HR person can demonstrate. And this will be important for any prospective millennial candidate.

Once you’ve attracted talented people to your business it’s important to retain them. The cost of hiring a new employee can cost as much as what you’re paying them. Offering a flexible work environment will help to keep your employees happy and productive. Of course, flexibility must include options for not working in the office in the first place. Reducing staff turnover helps reduce the overall cost of recruitment.

Stress and the mental health of our colleagues is a serious topic. Ping pong tables and breakout areas aren’t remedies for depression. But sympathetic resimmercial design can, in part, offer a less intense working environment for anyone going through a mental illness.

Get it right and the result is fresh, valued and happy staff. And since happiness is a powerhouse, this can lead to improvements in productivity, better work/life balance and fewer sick days. It’s a win-win.

Happy workers in resimmercial office

Ok, there’s a happy worker and then there’s this guy.

Of course, this flexible, adaptable and spontaneous office design could not exist without the advent of mobile computing. WiFi and other technologies that have freed us from the standard 1.5m power cable “leash” are fueling this office place revolution. But is the idea of a progressive workplace anything new? Read our blog post on the history of office design to find out.

 

The history of office design reads almost like a history of society.

History of office design: the first office buildings

Administration is probably the second oldest profession in the world. Every ancient civilisation would have needed it and the administrators, no doubt, needed some sort of office (including the obligatory uncomfortable desk chair). The first purpose-built office building in the UK is still in use today. It’s believed to be the iconic Old Admiralty Office that stands on the banks of the River Thames in London. Built in 1726, it’s purpose was to accommodate and process the significant amount of paperwork generated by the Royal Navy. 

East India House, also in London, closely follows The Old Admiralty Office. Embracing the benefits of centralised administration, office buildings began appearing all over the capital and beyond. As you would expect from 18th century Britain, the office class system was immediate. A governmental report on office layout recommended separate rooms for more “intellectual work”. Whilst for the “more mechanical work”, a number of clerks would be housed in the same room (under the proper superintendence, naturally).

Offices of the early twentieth century

Offices were originally part of factory buildings. And they were run like factories too. Many followed the principles created by the mechanical engineer, Frank Taylor. “Taylorism” sort to maximise efficiency by filling vast open-plan offices with rows upon rows of office workers. Needless to say, his methodology lacked the human touch and those offices probably more closely resembled factory-farming than they do a modern day office.

As technology allowed skyscrapers to grow in size in the 1930s, so did the amount of office space. And this allowed for more congenial working conditions. The open plan office began to include private offices for meetings and managers plus communal spaces like kitchens and canteens. Lifts allowed buildings to go higher while electric lighting and air conditioning helped improve the worker’s experience.

Birth of the modern office

Thanks to the Great Depression and a world war, it wasn’t until the 1960s that office design really starts to embrace human interaction, however. Burolandschaft, a concept from Germany, means “office landscape”. It first grew in popularity across northern Europe before spreading to the rest of the world. Layouts were less regimented and the first significant use of office plants was seen. It’s easy to understand how modern office layout design attributes itself to Burolandschaft.

A greater variety of working spaces including communal areas, meeting rooms plus more private individual desks lead the sociable and gregarious Burolandschaft designs to morph into the Action Office(!). Women also began to enter the workforce in greater number during this period. The creation of the desk ‘modesty panel’ quickly followed.

history of office design

So much sexism, so little time

Dark times

However, the addition of autonomous and private working spaces of the Action Office lead the history of office design down a dark alley. As modular office furniture too evolved to meet office trends, the infamous office cubicle was born, nay, spawned. Cubicle farms began to more closely resemble Taylorism than Burolandschaft as the profit-over-people mentality of the 1980s peaked.

Where is office design today?

Despite an uninteresting office design period known as the 1990s, the decade did witness the dawn of the digital revolution. It was this paradigm shift that allowed employees to finally emerge from their cubicle cocoons and see sunlight for the first time in almost two decades. This is perhaps the biggest leap forward in the history of office design.

And technology continues to play the most significant role in office layout evolution. Whilst the concept of a private cubicle desk still exists today, workers are no longer confined to them because of mobile computing. The Cloud, WiFi and decent batteries allow people to work wherever they choose. 

Resimmercial design – when working from home meets open plan office – encourages comfortable and flexible working spaces that feel more like home than the office. Choices of where to work (or where not to work when on a break) can assist a person’s schedule or simply support how they are feeling that day. Collaborate and creative spaces allow teams to work together or hold meetings and presentations. Whilst secluded nooks and pods cater for more quietly productive working.

The future of office design

It’s hard to predict the future but we can learn from the past. Technology has shaped our offices just as much as how an individual’s value within society has. It is likely that a greater respect for people’s health and family life will see a flexible working revolution. In a global society with growing access to virtual and augmented realities and 3D printing, these technologies will no doubt also shape how and when we work. Or the AI overlords will rise up and we’ll back in the cubicle farms where we belong. 

 

Interior landscaping is an expression in use by many interior designers who work exclusively with indoor planting schemes to describe what they do. You’ve probably heard of landscaping – the physical process of reshaping the land. Hard landscaping refers to structures such as walls, pergolas, patios and even follies. Soft landscaping is the term for the planting within the landscaped garden.

So, interior landscaping is a bit of an oxymoron. Afterall, there isn’t any land to be ‘scaped! Instead, it is the process of adding plants and greenery to work with the angles, dimensions and light inside buildings and internal structures. Perhaps ‘plantscaping‘ or ‘interiorscaping‘ are more accurate terms. All three of these expressions are rather interchangeable with businesses and designers using them to describe their own unique services.

Despite sounding trendy, the term has been in popular use within the industry for a considerable amount of time. The terms emerged in the 1970s following the publication of Richard Gain’s book ‘Interior Plantscaping‘. Some people choose to use the term exclusively for interior spaces will others use them to describe gardens within buildings.

Interior landscaping is the design and possible implementation of a planting scheme that compliments an interior space. It isn’t the maintenance of those plants although some companies will offer both these services. It also is less about a potted plant of your desk but more about structural planting that works directly with architectural details of a building. 

Examples of Interior Landscaping

Done properly, you probably won’t notice that an interior has been ‘plantscaped‘. We expect interiors in hotels, shopping centres or business foyers to have a certain look and feel.

A popular interior feature is the Green Wall or Living Walls. Usually imposing and certainly spectacular, green walls are plants grown vertically such as this example from Biotecture for Centrica’s office in Windsor.

Interior landscaping of a green wall

Interior landscaping includes impressive installations like his green wall

For large interior spaces – those with considerable ceiling height – using tall indoor plants, such as trees can be just as spectacular. Trees are ultimately architectural plants due to their size. And trees indoors certainly have the wow-factor.

Interior trees can be difficult to maintain due to how very, very thirsty they can be. Some have extensive roots systems that extend out from the trunk for almost as far as the tree is tall. So the solution is to use certain species that could be grown in containers. Or, the alternative solution to this problem is to use tall artificial plants and artificial trees indoors.

Faux Artificial interior tree

Bespoke artificial trees match your individual requirements

How does Interior Landscaping benefit me?

Interior landscaping offers the same benefits as any interior styling. Without a planting scheme, a room or building may seem off or cold and clinical. But, hey, if cold and clinical is your brand – go with that. Interiorscaping is more obvious when it is missing. Here are some of the benefits of interior landscaping:

Brand

Help define who you are and what you do from the moment someone walks into your shop or lobby. Plants and their containers can add humour, elegance or even a tropical vibe.

Ambience

The atmosphere is important in any setting. A structured, neat and uniform planting scheme will add a professional and serious note to an office or lobby. Softer planting can help people feel more relaxed and less anxious which is a great thing in a dentists waiting room.

Function

Plants can help define a room’s function: Lines of container plants will define doorways or walkways. Add discretion and privacy to areas for seating and talking by using the plants as screens or room dividers.

Wellness

Many studies conclude how important connection to nature is. It has a direct impact on the overall wellness and happiness of people working in any environment. Plants help add the greenery needed for that connection. The wellness experienced by workers leads to increases in productivity and fewer sick days.

Noice reduction

Big open spaces are echoey. You can help improve the acoustics of large spaces by adding a planting to dampen the sounds. This is great for open-plan offices and hotel lobbies. But also for busy restaurants. Less so for libraries.

Interested in learning more? Check out these posts on the benefits of artificial plants in commercial spaces and biophilic design.

Floresy has an interior landscaping offering as part of our bespoke services. By working closely with you, we will use our knowledge and experience to design a scheme that works for and for your space. Contact us today for more information on how we can help.

 

 

The manufacturers and retailers of bamboo clothing and textiles are singing its praises. They say this wonderfully soft fibre is so eco-friendly, you’re saving the planet just by wearing it. Too good to be true? Probably.

Following our recent blog post on the sustainability of bamboo as a wood alternative, we are looking at bamboo fabric with the same objectivity. So what do we already know about bamboo as a fabric?

  • Bamboo fabric is super soft, strong and lightweight.
  • It has good drape characteristics and allows the skin to breath making it ideal for clothing.
  • Bamboo also imparts it’s absorbent and anti-bacterial properties into its fabric form which is great for medical uses.
  • Plus textiles made from bamboo require less energy to wash and dry than other natural fibres.

Doesn’t that all sound fabulous so far? It almost reads like an advert from a retailer of bamboo clothing…

However, as with any resource or product, we need to look at the entire process – from harvesting to retailing – to understand the impact on the environment. It’s worth noting at this point that nothing has zero impact. When you cut down a tree or harvest a cotton crop there is an energy cost and direct effect on the immediate environment (“Hey, where’s my tree gone?” said the squirrel). Among other things, sustainability considers how that cost is balanced against providing income and education for farm workers and how easy it is to replace or regrow a resource.

Eco-recap on growing bamboo

Whilst there are energy costs associated in its transportation, the production of bamboo can be super-sustainable:

  • It grows at a fast rate, absorbing C02 from the atmosphere as it matures.
  • Growing in its natural environment, bamboo does not require irrigation or pesticides.
  • Bamboo production supports small-scale farming in areas that are too inaccessible for large machinery.
  • It has a larger utilised biomass than cotton i.e. more product per plant per acre.
  • Once harvested, bamboo continues to grow so there is less destruction that leads to soil erosion.

Well, this sounds even better! Bamboo is great to grow and its great to wear. Sign me up!

But between plant and product, there is a significant area that needs exploring before bamboo can claim it’s eco-credentials.

Turning bamboo into fabric

Bamboo is not naturally soft. It’s a hard, woody plant that requires significant processing to turn into a textile. There are two methods for this: chemical and mechanical.

Chemical production of bamboo fabric

Those of you currently wearing any bamboo clothing may wish to slip into something with a higher cotton content whilst reading this.

The leaves and stalks of bamboo are effectively cooked-up in a vat of toxic chemicals including carbon disulfide, chlorine and sulfuric acid. Because it isn’t a closed loop system, the resulting cocktail, that is a risk to the environment, gets into waterways and landfills. Plus, these chemicals pose serious health hazards, including neural disorders, for the workers employed in the manufacture of bamboo fabric using this method.

Great.

This manufacturing process is neither eco-friendly nor sustainable. And it’s this method that produces the silky soft, wearable fabric that gets bamboo all that positive attention.

Mechanical production of bamboo fabric

Good news is that the mechanical method is more eco-friendly than the chemical method (but it would be difficult not to be). The bad news is that it is more expensive. The woody bamboo is crushed and left to ferment in a mushy mess using natural enzymes that break down the fibrous structures. The natural fibres are then mechanically drawn out and spun into yarn. This process is basically the same for making textiles from flax or hemp and the result is a linen-like fabric. It’s labour intensive and produces a low yield of fabric.

The reality is the vast majority of bamboo textile is not organic. Or at least any claim it has in being a truly organic fibre has limitations. Bamboo fibre can be organic – but it’s rare, expensive and unlikely to be fully traceable.

Bamboo and China

Any commodity, where it’s production is overwhelmingly dependant on China is not sustainable. China has one of the most unregulated markets in the world and hardly the best track record on workers rights. Plus a significant pollution problem. So even if bamboo is a better crop for the environment that does not automatically make it sustainable. At least not yet. China is stepping up with new environmental policies, mostly in response to the smog issues across its cities. So perhaps there is hope yet for Chinese bamboo to save us all. If only if wasn’t on the other side of the planet…

Here’s a handy infographic on bamboo

bamboo sustainable infographic

Bamboo infographic

It’s easy to be defeatist. Trying to make good, sustainable choices for our businesses and personal selves sometimes feels impossible. We, as consumers, often only have access to the information that retailers want us to know about their products. The result is we are sometimes left feeling naive, conned or like a failure when we’ve tried so hard to make the right choice.

But the positive in all this is just that – choice. Is bamboo fabric a better choice for the environment than organic cotton from a fair trade source? Maybe, maybe not. Is it better than polyester? Yes. Can bamboo production help protect deforestation in South America? Yes. Is the farming of bamboo across China likely (if not already) to be exploited if the west continues to view bamboo as a magic bullet? Probably. Is it a competition of bamboo vs cotton? No. Is it about making informed decisions? Yes.

The use of bamboo is a step in the right direction. It shows we are looking for alternatives. But bamboo, certainly for European consumers, shouldn’t be considered the final destination of that search. It’s a stepping stone in our journey towards sustainability.

 

The driving force behind any construction material is how cost-effective it is. Sadly this often results in practices that exploit the environment including the people used in the production process. With growing concerns over the impact of humans on our environment, bamboo is potentially one of the success stories. But is bamboo sustainable enough?

Why is bamboo sustainable?

Bamboo is a fast-growing plant. Incredibly, some species grow up to 1.2m per day! The plants can reach a harvestable height within 3-5 years. So whilst wood is still a renewable resource, trees used in the timber industry will take between 20 and 60 years to reach suitable felling heights. Bamboo has a higher yield because it “outgrows” trees.

When you cut down a tree for its wood, you kill the tree. When you cut down bamboo, it continues to grow as the base and roots remain intact. This helps prevent soil erosion often associated with deforestation. The continual growth of bamboo also means it is continually taking carbon from the atmosphere. Plus bamboo forests spew out more oxygen than hardwood forests by 30%.

Bamboo happily grows in inaccessible areas where it wouldn’t be possible to farm timber such as slopes and smaller plots of land. It grows in abundance across Asia and is sometimes seen as a problem plant because of its fast-growing and prolific nature. Furthermore, growing bamboo in its natural habitat means its production also has a much smaller impact on the local ecosystem including no requirement for irrigation or fertiliser.

Because of its suitability for small-scale farming, bamboo also supports local economies and their small, independent farmers. Communities are safe from deforestation or exploitation by logging corporations as well. Bamboo can be cut by hand eliminating the need for energy-consuming machinery.

Bamboo also has potential as a biofuel. It is a high-carbon material and so is an obvious choice for converting into a biofuel. India is leading the way by using bamboo as a biofuel due to the plant’s abundance in its northern region. Whilst its use as a fuel is still in an experimental stage, it has the potential to contribute to greener fuels industries.

How does bamboo compare to hardwood as a material?

Bamboo is waterproof meaning it is easier to clean and has better stain-resistance than hardwood. This is a great plus when using bamboo as wooden flooring. Whilst all wood has antibacterial properties, bamboo is particularly so making it “cleaner” overall when compared to normal wood.

Hardness is an important factor when considering a construction material. For wooden flooring, the hardness of the wood effects how durable the flooring is. The hardness of wood comes from its fibre density. Hardness is measured using the Janka Hardness Test. This equates to the force required to embed a steel ball half its diameter into the wood.

Natural bamboo has a hardness of 1300-1400 which is comparable to birch (1260), beech (1300) and oak (1360). Carbonised bamboo (heat treated to darken its natural colour) has a hardness of 1000-1100 which is still hard than pine (870).

Bamboo scaffolding is the norm across China but bamboo can even be an alternative to steel for reinforcing concrete. So regardless of the question is bamboo sustainable, it’s certainly extremely versatile.

Bamboo sustainable alternative wood

Is bamboo a real alternative to wood?

What are the environmental impacts of bamboo?

Bamboo cannot be grown on a significant, sustainable scale outside of Asia so all of the bamboo products in use in the West are imported. Around 80% of bamboo is grown in China, so there is the emission cost in transporting it around the globe to Europe and the USA. However, the environmental impact of shipping bamboo across the Pacific may not appear all that bad. It is comparable with logging transportation across the Americas, including within the USA itself.

Asia has less regulation than western nations regarding the use of pesticides and other chemicals used in the farming process.

With the demand for bamboo increasing so too is the financial temptation. Local farmers may choose to destroy local habitats in order to increase bamboo growth opportunities.

When asking is bamboo sustainable, it isn’t just the growing and harvesting that requires consideration. The ease with which the material can be transformed into a usable product is important too. As bamboo is a slender plant it requires additional processing to create planks. Timber can quickly be cut into ready-to-use planks. Bamboo needs to be glued together and that requires an adhesive – which is an additional chemical. There is also an additional energy cost to consider especially if the bamboo is carbonised to create a darker shade. However, there is less wastage unlike when turning timber into planks.

Bamboo as a textile is a bad idea due to the significant chemical use in its production.

There is no official grading system for the quality of bamboo used in flooring or furniture so quality-control of a final product may also be an issue. You can look for the FSC logo on a bamboo product which will mean that it has come from a more sustainable source.

Conclusion

Whilst there will always be an impact with using natural resources, it’s important to understand the relative impact each material has so we can limit or even mitigate the environmental costs. So, is bamboo sustainable? Well, it can be and where you are on the planet is a big factor. The use of bamboo in western countries may ease the rate of destruction of the rainforest in South America. But if all it does is shift the deforestation to other places on the planet, then there is no real benefit. As with any natural resource, it needs proper management otherwise it will become no different to the hardwood forests.

Discover ideas for using bamboo plants in your interiors from our blog post artificial bamboo tree inspiration.