Making Strides: Comparing the Carbon Footprint of our Bamboo and Steel Easels

Carbon footprint comparison classroom easels

At Copernicus, we are trying to reduce our impact on the environment as much as we can, and we are focusing on the most critical areas first. The largest area of impact is in our products, and our goal is to ultimately reduce the carbon footprint of our products by 50% by 2025. What does this mean for the products we sell? It means we are working towards using new materials, changing the design, and adjusting how we manufacture these items to provide more planet-friendly choices. In this blog post, we will share why we chose bamboo, what a carbon footprint means, and how we compared two similar easels (one steel and one bamboo). Read on to learn more!

What is bamboo?

Bamboo growth diagramBamboo is a renewable resource because it is actually a member of the grass family, even though it is typically mistaken as a tree. This is an important distinction because when you harvest a shoot of bamboo, the root system does not die like a tree would during some types of logging practices. Instead, it regrows using rhizomes, just like grass would when you mow your lawn.

The bamboo we use to make products is a species known as Moso bamboo which grows quickly. Moso bamboo grows up to 3 feet/1 meter per day during a rapid growth phase in its first 45-60 days and only takes 4-5 years for the stalk to reach maturity at 4-5”/10-12cm in diameter. A birch tree, on the other hand, can take 40-50 years to reach a size suitable for harvesting.

Bamboo shoots

The regenerative nature of bamboo allows the soil and roots to stay in place during harvesting which keeps more carbon stored within the ground instead of being released. Project Drawdown even credits bamboo production as an approach to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Bamboo durability

Classrooms can be rough and tumble places. Before we started using bamboo, we tested it to ensure its durability. We conducted four tests: load, humidity, impact, and surface cleaner. We were able to confirm what we thought — bamboo is an incredibly strong and durable material. Read our blog post to learn all about the results!

What about steel?

We use steel in the majority of our products because it is extremely durable, safe, and long-lasting. All factors which are ideal in a classroom! Plus, it is extremely recyclable if the product is no longer usable. Unfortunately, even though it is recyclable, it does not have a very clean start to life. Steel is made of iron ore (which is taken from the environment in large open pit mines, Mont Wright Mine in Fermont, QC pictured) and this iron ore requires the burning of coal to make it into the steel we know. Those are two big issues; environmental destruction and the burning of coal, which produces greenhouse gases. These gases, in particular carbon, contribute to global warming and the climate crisis. When we look at the environmental impact, bamboo is less damaging to the landscape than open pit mines. It tends to be grown in plantations, creating some habitat as long as it is managed properly. Plus, bamboo sequesters carbon as it grows, meaning it pulls carbon out of the atmosphere and stores it in its stalk, roots, and surrounding soil. So instead of creating carbon and adding to global warming, bamboo removes carbon. 

Mont Wright Mine

What is a carbon footprint?

Carbon footprint iconA carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an item, process, industry, company, or individual. It is a way to understand the impact of our behaviors on the environment, especially when it comes to climate change.

We use the unit CO2e, which stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. Carbon dioxide equivalent includes not only carbon dioxide (CO2) but also methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and the four fluorinated gases (HFCs, PFCs, SF6, NF3). Since carbon dioxide is the most commonly produced, all of the other gases are multiplied by certain factors to become an equivalent of CO2 to make comparing emissions easier.


Comparing a bamboo easel to a similar steel easel

We selected two similarly constructed easels to compare – one of our original easels, made from steel, and one of our easels made from bamboo. These are the emissions just to create the product, no transportation, packaging, or end-of-life emissions are included.Carbon reduction product comparison

Now keep in mind, these are still approximations! This is a new field of study that is constantly changing, so we may see some fluctuations in these numbers over the coming years as carbon emission factors become more precise. Throughout our review process, we referenced peer-reviewed comprehensive sources and received guidance from a Product Life-cycle Assessment Consultant (LCA Consultant). We will also continue to improve our own products in the coming years as well. 

This means 25 kg of greenhouse gas emissions were mitigated every time a bamboo easel was purchased over a steel easel, which is equivalent to avoiding 101 km or 63 mi of driving.

How we measure

Nuts and bolts on a scaleWe weigh every single piece of each product, down to even the nuts and bolts! We then multiply the weight of each part by its material’s carbon emission factor. These emission factors tell us how much carbon is produced in the creation of each type of material. We multiply the emission factor by the weight of each part to calculate how much carbon it produced. All the parts are then added up to get the total carbon footprint for each product. To see an example of a product footprint, please click here

What's next?

As we continue to make strides toward our goal of reducing the carbon footprint of our products by 50% by 2025, we will continue to explore, design, and test ways to keep making progress. As you can see, just changing to bamboo does not get us to our 50% goal, so we need to look to other changes in the future. That includes looking at existing products (and parts such as tubs and book ledges) and finding ways to reduce their carbon footprint through material selection and manufacturing processes. It doesn’t stop there with products. We continue to remove plastic packaging and look for alternative means of packaging to help reduce the carbon footprint of our products.

Bamboo is not only neutral and aesthetically pleasing for classrooms, but it is also a durable and more sustainable choice. With the addition of many new solutions to our bamboo classroom product line, we now offer even more products to suit the needs of educators and their busy learning environments.

We will continue to explore more ways to reduce our impact, and we’re excited about the challenges ahead.

Copernicus bamboo product lineup


Explore our line of bamboo products Watch our Bamboo Durability video

For every bamboo product purchased, we will make a donation to conserve natural panda habitat through the World Wildlife Fund*.

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Since 2018, Copernicus has been a part of a community of like-minded companies that want to use business as a force for good. We want to redefine what a successful business is by being directed and shaped through a social and environmental conscience. 
Learn more about our B Corp journey


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* © 1986 Panda symbol WWF-World Wide Fund For Nature (also known as World Wildlife Fund).
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