At Copernicus, we are trying to make more conscious decisions as a company, and a big part of our environmental impact is our products. 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) 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.
In this post, we’ll explain why Copernicus is choosing to use bamboo in some of our products.
What Is Bamboo And Why Does It Matter?
Bamboos are fast-growing perennials, which grow as much as one meter per day (OneTreePlanted.org). After learning about the strength of bamboo, we designed our first easel about 10 years ago, the Double-Sided Bamboo Teaching Easel, which is manufactured at a facility in China.
When we look at the environmental impact (remember the two biggest issues with steel: environmental destruction and the production of greenhouse gases), 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.
Instead of creating carbon and adding to global warming,
bamboo removes carbon.
How Strong Is Bamboo?
Bamboo has a higher tensile strength than steel. This means that if you pull on a piece of bamboo and a piece of steel, it will take more force to break the bamboo.
Any bamboo parts or products that we make are designed to hold the same or more weight than a comparable steel product. Because working with bamboo is different than working with steel, sometimes we have to design parts a bit differently to ensure that they are as strong. For example, on our Book Browser carts, the stretchers are a larger size in bamboo, to support the same amount of weight that the steel model does. We test all of our designs, regardless of the material, to ensure that they can stand up to rigorous classroom use, and will be durable for many years.
Given what we have learned about the material, and knowing that it would still be safe, durable, and long-lasting, but also kinder to the environment, bamboo is an obvious choice to continue using for more of our products.
Measuring Our Impact
Over 80% of all product-related impacts are determined during the design phase – meaning the majority of the environmental impact is decided in the design stage.
We measured the carbon impact of our traditional steel easel in comparison to our bamboo easel and determined that every time a bamboo easel is purchased over a steel easel, we avoid approximately (keyword – approximately, this is still a developing field of study!) 25 kg of carbon, which is equivalent to avoiding 101 km or 63 mi of driving!
And that’s just one product! Let’s say 1,000 bamboo easels are purchased over steel easels, we are then avoiding 25,000 kg of carbon or 101,000 km or 63,000 mi. That’s like driving from New York City to Los Angeles 22 times!
But trees also sequester carbon and grow in forests, right? So why did we pick bamboo, a type of grass, and not a tree? There are two main reasons. Firstly, bamboo does not die after it is harvested, unlike tree species; it grows back from its rhizomes like grass does. Secondly, bamboo is extremely fast growing; it can grow up to a full meter in a single day during a rapid growth phase in its first 45-60 days!
Both these factors make it much more renewable than any tree species. It can be harvested every 4-5 years, and then it regrows. In comparison, teak or oak need over 50 years of growing time before they can be harvested, and logging practices reforest by planting seedlings rather than allowing stumps to shoot out suckers to regrow like a natural forest would.
An Educator's Perspective
“I couldn’t resist the beautiful natural colors of this easel, and I highly recommend it to any teacher who is looking to create a calm classroom environment. I’ve had my Bamboo Teaching Easel for three years, and its amazing durability keeps it looking new, year after year.”
-Laura Santos, Third-grade teacher, Blogger, California
Instagram @coreinspiration, Blog: Core Inspiration
“This easel brings me so much joy. My Bamboo Teaching Easel quickly became an integral part of my daily literacy lessons and one of my favorite teaching tools. Not only is it functional with lots of storage, but it’s beautiful TOO!!”
-Ashlea Oaks, Literacy Coach, Washington, DC
What Comes Next for Bamboo at Copernicus
This is all an evolution. We are far from perfect, but we are trying to move towards more renewable materials like bamboo. This is just one step on a very long but necessary journey. We have recently expanded our line of bamboo products to include more easels and storage carts. We want to be a business that is a force for good taking people, planet, and then profit into consideration when making business decisions.
Each time a bamboo product is purchased, we also donate to World Wildlife Fund’s panda habitat restoration project. Be sure to explore all of our bamboo products, and keep an eye out for more in the future.
View our Bamboo Teaching Resources, Activities and more.
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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