Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Bamboo: Building Sustainable Housing

The Green Housing Project: 30 dwellings made from bamboo.

Bamboo is a strong material and is in demand for housing construction in Bali.

Imagine that the brick walls are all the problems we inflicted on our planet. Hundreds of thousands of roots and shoots, hundred of thousands of young people around the world, can break through these walls. We CAN change the world.

-Dr. Jane Goodall

By Lin Smith

June 4, 2014—With very little care, a bamboo shoot can become a “structural column”, ready to harvest within 3 years and, being a perennial, it doesn’t need replanting each year. According to Bamboo Farming USA, it is a versatile, cash-producing crop. You can run poultry under the bamboo canopy to eat the weeds, with the droppings fertilizing the grove, or cut the poles of the bamboo and feed the tops to livestock.

Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, with over 1400 species. The hardier species will grow in colder climates, such as the mid-Atlantic states in the U.S.  Bamboo is a very strong plant and, when harvested, will provide houses that will last a lifetime.

Bamboo: Creating a Healthier Planet

In Bali,  a small island in Indonesia,  bamboo is increasingly used as a building material. Three years ago, Elora Hardy founded the company, Ibuku, which designs and builds sustainable homes from bamboo. Hardy states,  “Our view on being green comes out of being logical, doing no harm and being conscientious.”

Living in Harmony with Nature.

Bamboo Houses are open to the natural setting.

Growing up in Bali, Hardy was the only daughter of creative parents, who allowed her to design a fairy mushroom house when she was 9 years old, and, what kid wouldn’t love this, they built it for her as a playhouse! After attending art school in New York  and starting a successful career, she returned to Bali, intending to be a part of the bamboo culture that was taking place. Hardy’s father, John Hardy, founded the Green School in Bali, a campus made mostly from bamboo and Linda Garland had been promoting bamboo since 1993, in an effort to protect and conserve the tropical forests of Bali.

Green Village

Ibuku is in the process of building a housing complex called Green Village, which consists of 30 homes. Hardy hopes that Green Village will redefine the potential of sustainable materials, creating a development where people connect with nature. Green Village is designed by building replicas of the final product. First,  making small 3D, bamboo models and then replicating the design on the computer to refine it. The small house model then goes to the builders for construction–no blueprints, just the small 3D models. The builders measuring each stick on the small models to build to real size.

Hardy’s designs are about respect for the land and a connection with nature. There are no bulldozers and no flattening of the land. The houses are almost entirely hand made, the builders using wooden pegs instead of nails. Every stucture is completely unique, creating customized furniture, natural black bamboo flooring, handmade copper bath fixtures, skylights made from recycled car windshields, with nearby organic gardens. Many of the residents of the bamboo housing project have children who attend the nearby Green School, which is within walking distance.

2012 Greenest School on Earth by Center for Green Schools.

In Bali, the Green School provides an education that is natural and holistic, creating green leaders of the future.

The Green School

A percent of the houses sold go to scholarships funds for the Green School. The Green School was awarded the entitlement, “2012 Greenest School on Earth”  by the U.S. Green Building Council. With Dr. Jane Goodall as the speaker for the 2014 graduating class, the school’s mission is to, “Prepare students to be critical and creative thinkers, who are confident to champion the sustainability of the world and its environment….nurturing the passion of the children to influence change in the way we are managing this planet.”

And a final word from Jane Goodall, “Roots creep underground everywhere and make a firm foundation. Shoots seem very weak, but to reach the light, they can break open brick walls. Imagine that the brick walls are all the problems we inflicted on our planet. Hundreds of thousands of roots and shoots, hundred of thousands of young people around the world, can break through these walls. We CAN change the world.” -Dr. Jane Goodall

Bali has become a leader and role model in the world of sustainability.


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The Bamboo Bicycle

An American bike from 1896. The frame made of ...

An American bike from 1896. The frame made of bamboo. Exhibited in Prague’s Technical Museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Lin Smith

A Non Polluting Form of Transportation
December 16, 2013—The bamboo bicycle caught my attention when reporting on the Green Climate Fund Conference in Warsaw last month where the U.N. chief, Ban Ki-Moon, was seen riding around the city, and the conference hallways, on a bamboo bike. At the conference, the Bamboo Bike Initiative of Ghana was one of several projects being recognized by the U.N. as a Lighthouse Activity, a project which shines light towards the future, helping to build a low carbon and efficient world, “tackling climate change, health, financial and social problems.” They are recognized for the beacon of hope they shine on their communities and throughout the world. The Bamboo Bike Initiative provides an affordable form of transportation plus provides jobs for those in rural African communities.

The History of the Bamboo Bike
No one is credited with inventing the first bamboo bike, as it is thought many were building some form of the bike in the late 1800’s. The bamboo bike first appeared in New York around 1894, where it was on display by Bamboo Cycle, a company from England which patented it the same year. Following is a review sent to the company in 1894 praising the bike:

Sirs,
I am more than satisfied with my bamboo bicycle. I have ridden on rough, stony roads and it has shown no signs of wear and tear. I strongly recommend these bikes to my friends. The appearance of them is better than steel machines. There still seems to be a prejudice against them, but as my experience goes, it is an unfounded one. I believe they are as strong as any on the market.

This same review might have been written in 2013. They are highly recommended by those who ride them and stand up to any bike on the market, yet, they are not as widely accepted as carbon fiber or steel framed bikes.

Bamboo bikes today are made as road bikes, mountain bikes and racing bikes. The methods used to make the bamboo durable consists of smoking, heat treatment, torching or placing the bamboo in ovens. The poles can be joined using metal, resin saturated fibers or hemp and coated with a substance to prevent water damage.

The Bamboo Bike Initiative of Ghana
The Bamboo Bike Initiative was established in 2009 in Ghana to reduce rural unemployment by training apprentices to assemble the bamboo bike frames. The long term goal is for these apprentices to open workshops in their villages and train 5 or 6 more people to craft the bikes. The bamboo for the bikes is grown locally, which keeps the bikes at a lower cost, provides jobs for the unemployed in Africa and creates a healthy atmosphere, as it is a prolific producer of oxygen.

The Bamboo Bike Initiative partners with a company from Australia called Bamboo Rides, which supplies the equipment used to improve the precision and marketability of the bikes to meet European standards, where most of the bikes are sold. Growing bamboo locally not only creates jobs, but saves on carbon emissions, resulting from shipment of bamboo. Unlike carbon filled frames, which create pollutants at every stage from extraction to manufacturing, the bamboo bicycle frame is able to be recycled, leaving minimal environmental damage. Isaac Osei, Regional Director for Ghana’s EPA, states ” Vehicle ownership will rise as Ghana reaches record levels of growth, which will increase carbon dioxide emissions—educating people to make and use bamboo bicycles to commute will meet the goals for sustainability in Ghana.”

Finally, Mathew Sparkes, of the Guardian, writes about his bamboo bike ride, “When I first started riding the bike, nothing happened for a split second. Then, almost before I noticed, it sprang ahead as though it had more energy than I was putting in to it. It rivals carbon, steel, or anything I’ve ridden. It’s also as comfortable and soaks up the bumps. The feel of it comes from something that grows naturally—grass!”