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Are bamboo floors really green?

Green Bamboo
Bamboo trees grow as fast as a foot a day.
Bamboo trees grow as fast as a foot a day.
ULTRA.F/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Let's look at what makes bamboo floors green.

First, there's bamboo's rapid growth and regeneration. Bamboo is technically a grass, not a tree, that starts with rhizomes, stems that grow underground and send shoots and leaves above ground. Once the young bamboo is planted, it takes anywhere from four to 10 years for the usable "wood" to mature. After that, the plant can grow new shoots each year. And the shoots grow quickly: as much as a foot per day [source: Bowyer].

As a result, bamboo plants can be harvested on a regular basis without killing the plant, unlike trees used in hardwood floors, which die when harvested and can take decades or longer to mature.

Because of its faster growth rate, bamboo beats most trees when it comes to carbon sequestration, how quickly it can absorb carbon. Slow absorption of carbon has been linked to contributing to the greenhouse effect and the depletion of the ozone layer. Because bamboo grows so quickly, it absorbs more carbon -- and produces more oxygen. About two-and-a-half acres of bamboo sequesters 62 tons of CO2 per year, compared with the same area of a young forest, which holds on to 15 tons of CO2 [source: Environmental Bamboo Foundation]. Additionally, bamboo generates around 35 percent more oxygen than the equivalent number of trees [source: International Network for Bamboo and Rattan].

And beyond that, high-quality bamboo is stronger than regular hardwood floors, partly due to the fact that it's a grass that bends in the wind. Because of its flexibility, high-quality bamboo is as durable as most types of hardwood.

So you're thinking: This is great, when do I start laying the bamboo? Before you buy, read on to find out why bamboo might not be as green as you think.