New home for Life with Bamboo

Life with Bamboo now has its own home at

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See you at Life with Bamboo

Bamboo to the rescue

The results of an EU-funded project to treat waste water with bamboo are now being marketed. The project established the market viability of intensified bamboo-based phytoremediation for dairy and other food industry grey water applications. In other words, a bamboo forest can treat industrial discharge on a large scale.bamboo forest

The French company Phytorem is selling the managed process as the Bambou Assainissement (bamboo sanitation) filter. The process can be scaled for both domestic and industrial waste water, and is suitable for hotels, camp sites, retirement homes, housing estates, isolated infrastructures, wildlife parks, landfills, storm water and more.

Multi-purpose bamboo forest

Phytoremediation is essentially vegetation filtration. In this case the vegetation is a bamboo forest. Bamboo is well-suited because it has a very dense root system, is fast-growing, and suited to a wide range of climatic conditions. In addition, the bamboo can be harvested for fuel, construction, furniture, textiles or paper, just to name a few uses. The Phytorem web site also suggests food, but I’m not sure I’d be keen to eat bamboo shoots grown in industrial waste.

Of course, the use of phytoremediation has limitations. An EPA paper outlines some of the limitations and disadvantages for the broad process of phytoremediation. They include: depth limitations of the plant roots; the process is slower than other treatment methods and dependent on growth rates; leaching of contaminants into the groundwater and environment; and, accumulation of contaminants that may pass into the food chain. The many unique properties of bamboo, however, overcome some of the disadvantages of other types of vegetation used for phytoremediation. It gives me hope.

Do you have any experience with bamboo as a grey water treatment?

Bamboo on the Internet for October – my picks

Photo credit:

This stunning sculpture kicks off the October bamboo on the Internet list. It’s made from bamboo and string. More photos at the artists Facebook page.


Bamboo gets very personal with these products:

Furniture (or art?)

This beautiful bamboo chair is named flow. It was created at Scope design studio in Taiwan. I’m glad I don’t have to clean it though. Follow the link to see the more practical set of nesting stools, (not made from bamboo) and more.

Mac accessories

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

I’m almost tempted to ditch Android for Mac just to make use of the range of bamboo accessories available. Two came to my attention this month: a roll-top iPad cover and a wonderfully minimalist docking station for an iPhone. These would go well with Bamboola’s bamboo iPhone cover.

Art installation

Wang Wen-Chih’s “The Light of Shodoshima"

Wang Wen-Chih’s “The Light of Shodoshima”

If you’re lucky enough to get to the Woodford Folk Festival this year, you’ll be able to enter the amphitheatre through a 300 metre woven bamboo tunnel. The tunnel is this years special project. In collaboration with Cave Urban, it will be created by Taiwanese sculptor Wang Wen–Chih and team of volunteers. See more of Wang Wen-Chih’s work here. His installation, The Light of Shodoshima, pictured, is one of the many outdoor installations for this years Setouchi Triennale.

Sustainable outdoor cooking fuel

Bamboo charcoal for your barbecue? A start-up in the US is nearly ready to tap into the more than 80 percent of US households that own a barbecue grill. Hot Bambu is one of many Kickstarter projects. Have a look at the table below to see why you should be using bamboo charcoal.


HOT Bambú
Lump Charcoal
Wood Lump
Contains 100% natural bamboo charcoal
Sustainable grilling from a rapidly renewable resource
Does not contribute to deforestation
Processed in a respectful and environmentally friendly way
Burns clean with little smoke
Contains trees cut from primary forest, plywood, pine (soft wood), and treated flooring scraps
Contributes to illegal logging and green house gas emissions
Creates mass soil erosion and devastation of natural habitat
x Contains ignite coal and sulfur, sodium nitrate (gun powder), limestone, starch, borax (fertilizer), charred sawdust, and toxic solvents that are confirmed to cause kidney and brain damage
x Gives food the taste of fossil fuel

More on harvesting and storing bamboo

It’s now a month since I cut a selection of bamboo. The process was described in the World Bamboo Day post. The culms were all left upright in their respective groves, propped up off the ground by various means. harvestingpostSome had stones under them, others were held off the ground with bricks or blocks. Some sat quite neatly over, or in, the stump of a freshly cut neighbouring stem of bamboo. After a month of transpiration, this week I removed the cut bamboo from one grove.

After a month, the leaves are dry and crisp and brown. harvestingtranspThe top sections of each culm, where the branches start, are changing colour to yellows and browns. Below the branches, the colour on the lower parts looks to be pretty much the same as when they were cut. Unsurprising, given that this is where most of the  moisture is stored. I cut each stem just above the lowest branch and discarded the upper section with all the branches.

This sudden influx of bamboo culms has created an urgent need to get creative with storage solutions. The bamboo needs to be out of the weather, in a covered area, and off the ground. My storage solution?

Hang them from the rafters

Storing culmsI’m very fond of simple, practical solutions to any challenge or problem. To create an additional area to cure and store the freshly cut, slim and light bamboo culms I used some silver rope and short lengths of bamboo. Like a series of swings or trapezes. This system will be easily culms

Taiwan → bamboo → Bamboola

At Zhushan bus station

At Zhushan bus station

On a trip to Taiwan earlier this year, I was keen to get to Zhushan to visit bamboo craftsman Liu Wen-Huang and his Bamboola workshop. Like other parts of Taiwan we visited, from the time we arrived in Zhushan, kind and friendly local folk went out of their way to assist us. And we needed a bit help. Arriving at the bus station, we found that the Information Centre had closed down and we no idea how to find Mr Liu. A departing bus was delayed while an English-speaking woman helped us contact the workshop. No one seemed to mind.

tea trays

Tea trays

Mr Liu’s wife collected us from the bus station and drove us to the workshop. On arrival we were offered green tea and invited to open the puzzle boxes. We failed.

The showroom is full of beautifully finished items of original design. Although travelling light, some purchases could not be resisted. Among other things, my travelling companion purchased a set of tea trays and I took home a tea canister. The lid fits with precision and gives an excellent seal to keep tea fresh.

We were just about to be rushed off to the bus station to get the last bus of the day to Xitou, when Mr Liu himself arrived and instantly offered to drive us to the accommodation his staff had kindly arranged for us in Xitou. This gave us time for a factory tour.

Inside the Bamboola showroom

Inside the Bamboola showroom

The factory is high tech. Ideas are developed using specialised computer programs and the laminated bamboo sheets (currently manufactured in China with moso bamboo) are cut with precision by computerised cutting machines. Mr Liu demonstrated the computer programming he uses with a current special project of 5 km of curved book shelves for the National Taiwan University library. Awesome.

Mr Liu then drove us through some very steep back roads to the Ginko hotel in Xitou. The 40 minute trip was very scenic. We passed many moso bamboo groves growing on the steep slopes. Upon arrival we took refreshments with Mr Liu, his wife, and their friend the hotel manager before they left to drive back to Zhushan. Our stay in Xitou warrants a bamboo story in its own right. For another post.

You can read more about Mr Liu and Bamboola here.

Bamboo on the Internet for September

A compilation of posts on the Internet about bamboo from Google Alerts in September:

River rafting• Inspired by the La Balsas rafts, the Shearwater Steiner School in northern NSW made a bamboo raft and took a trip. If this looks tempting, you might like to try it in Borneo. Insect repellent tops the list of things to bring for this trip.

• Like the look of bamboo but worry about it invading? Try artificial bamboo. Follow the links for pictures.

Bamboo house

Bamboo house

• Online architecture and design magazine Dezeen featured a prototype bamboo house in Vietnam designed to withstand floods up to three metres above ground. From there I followed links to posts about the stunning Wind and Water Bar and more light and spacious low-cost bamboo housing. Continue reading

Drill bits for bamboo

Spur and screw point

Spur and screw point

Drilling holes in bamboo is not like drilling holes in wood. With the right drill bit a clean hole can be drilled. A drill bit with a spur, or wing, pre-cuts the bamboo, while the screw point keeps the drill bit where it is needed instead of sliding around on the smooth surface.

Messy exit wound

Messy exit wound

However, drilling right through a round piece of bamboo results in an messy, splintered exit wound where the smooth outer surface outer coating is cracked and split – no matter what drill bit is used. This is a problem discussed at length in a thread on Bamboo Forums if you’re interested in following the discourse.

Star-M packet

Bamboo is NOT kind to drill bits. Of the 2 drill bits I purchased – 4 & 6mm – the 6mm bit turned out to be one I used most, so it rapidly became blunt. The silica outer coating of bamboo blunts drill bits and knifes much faster than wood does.

At my request, some drill bits just arrived from Japan (Thanks Chris!) – I couldn’t find anything similar to replace the 6mm Star-M drill bit I purchased in a VERY large home improvement store on the outskirts of Tokyo this time last year. You can read about the Star-M drill bits in English here.

6mm peg, straight through

6mm bamboo peg, straight through

The freshly arrived drill bits were of two lengths – 16 cm, and the more standard 9cm. Left to my own devices, it would not have occurred to me to buy a 16cm long drill bit, but the long one was instantly handy for drilling straight through the rather scrappy and dry large bamboo that supports the seasonal shade cloth for the vege garden. Straight through. No more need to guess where that hole on the other side of the bamboo should be. (Thanks, Chris).

Have you got a friend in Japan who can dash off to the local hardware to pick up some drill bits for you? (Thanks again, Chris). No? I’m sure you can find them online.