Q: I’m a regular reader and make my living as a furniture designer/builder. I confess I’m in love with bamboo – I use it as often as I can and would love to spout to every client about it’s sustainability, renewability and ecologically friendly properties but there is one thing that bothers me about this product. It seems perfect in every way except for the fact that it was brought to me via a massive trans oceanic co2 belching container ship. Do I just suck it up and say “it’s a step in the right direction” or is there some other way to get around the co2 issue?

-Chris, Victoria, BC

A: The perfect scenario for any designer is to walk to work and have all the materials you need healthily and restoratively growing right next to your shop. But for the rest of us- we have to develop a value system for selecting the most appropriate materials and resources with which to work. You are off to a great start by asking the right questions, such as- is a material recycle-able, renewable, non-toxic, and/or enjoyable to use??

Bamboo, Bamboo Forest, Green Material, Eco-Friendly Bamboo

Bamboo is rapidly-renewable, restoring itself for use in just five years, and requires far less energy to harvest and produce than most ‘lumber’ products. Bamboo also has an incredible range of product- from flooring to cabinetry, drapery, and in your case, furniture. Its production and by-products yield healthy, salvageable materials that continue to be used in new ways.

All materials require transport, and shipping remains to be a relatively efficient means of transport, despite the wrong fuel. (Anyone out there working on hybrid-ships, btw??) But until the entire processes behind global shipping switch to more environmentally-friendly practices, you’ll have to take a different tack. The good news is, there are ways to offset the climate-changing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions of shipping. TransNeutral, a partner with DriveNeutral and TransGroup, is a non-profit program that calculates the GHGs produced from shipping and adds a voluntary ‘tax’ of 1/7 of a cent per pound for funding of Green House Gas Emission Reduction programs such as reforestation and renewable energy projects.

TransGroup, TransNeutral, carbon offset

To learn more about GHG Emission Reduction programs, visit the Chicago Climate Exchange for a full listing of these programs. You may also suggest to your suppliers that they look into TransNeutral credits.

Best of Luck Chris! Let us know if you find local materials that you enjoy working with.. or invent the next wind and solar powered turbo tanker (with your spare cash.)


Piper Kujac, San Francisco, Contributing Writer for Inhabitat

Piper Kujac is a LEED accredited designer in San Francisco with architectural experience ranging from project manager at C. David Robinson Architects to design consultant at Origo, Inc., developing the Best House Ever business model. Trained in Architecture at the environmentally-conscious University of Oregon, she admits to an obsession with materials and resources and thrives on finding new means and methods of sustainable design. She is co-chair of the NCC Emerging Green Builders committee of the USGBC and teaches a class in Sustainable Project Development at the UC Berkeley Extension. She enjoys knitting, running marathons, and the occasional design competition, winning first prize in the Green Dollhouse Competition. She also loves trekking through virgin rainforests in Oregon, Thailand, Malaysia, and Brazil, where she recently fell in love with Ipe trees.

Piper can be contacted at [email protected]