Bamboo-hoo: The Greenwashing of Snowboarding
I don’t know about you, but I am not buying into this whole “green craze” in snowboarding. Sure, we can make fun of wakeboarding because their activity is potentially more offensive to the environment than snowboarding, but when it all comes down to it, snowboarding is just not a “green” activity.
We human beings need to feel better about ourselves though, and the snowboard industry seems to be wholeheartedly jumping on the bandwagon of “eco-friendly” products. And what word says “eco-friendly” like bamboo! Let’s be realistic though, riding a snowboard or wearing socks made of bamboo isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.
Sure, bamboo has plenty of benefits for clothing. It’s highly renewable and grows back without replanting. It requires no pesticides, and will grow like a weed just about anywhere. And of course once processed, it’s silky and wonderful and naturally anti-microbial and moisture wicking. So why wouldn’t every one want to use it?
There in lies the problem: everyone does want to use it. From snowboard first layer companies to high fashion, you are hard-pressed to find a line without at least one piece of bamboo in it. Sure it’s easily renewable, but where is all this bamboo growing? Well, the high demand for bamboo in everything from clothing to flooring is causing many Chinese farmers to turn natural forests into bamboo fields. And even though it’s not necessary, many cultivators are starting to use fertilizers that are hardly “organic” to make the fast growing plant grow even faster.
So the solution is to just buy American, right? Well, in addition to defeating one of the other major-eco benefits of bamboo (it’s cheap and low-impact because it grows near the factories) there really is no such thing. China is the only place with the technology and machinery to effectively grow and mill bamboo. China’s eco-policy? Well, that air in Beijing didn’t get so thick from solar and wind power.
A little more research and it turns out to process bamboo into that lustrous and wonderful sheen we enjoy so much in our socks, some pretty gnarly chemicals are used. Carbon disulfide (shown to affect the normal functions of the brain, liver, and heart) and sodium hydroxide (which causes swelling or spasms of the upper airway leading to obstruction and loss of measurable pulse; inflammation of the lungs and accumulation of fluid in the lungs) help turn the fiber into something we can use. I guess the point is to be good for the environment, so who cares about the Chinese factory workers, right?
Oh yeah, and what about the pandas? What will they eat if we use all the bamboo for t-shirts and snowboards? Think of the pandas! But I digress…
The solution? Don’t feel too good about yourself just because you are wearing a bamboo t-shirt. You are not helping anything. If you really want to make a difference, try eating Sun Chips or buying your gas from BP. Go green!
A WHOLE BAMBOO LINE!