Chinese Bamboo Keyboard Manufacturer a Local Green Design Leader

Jiangqiao Bamboo and Wood hails from China’s Jiangxi province, where bamboo resources are plentiful. Though the company began as a flooring company, they are now diversifying their production to include the latest in green design: bamboo keyboards.

In recent years, bamboo – a rapidly regenerating material – has gained popularity as a sturdy, sustainable alternative to wood flooring. Currently, China produces 200,000 cubic meters annually of bamboo plywood.

[social_buttons]However, the history of bamboo’s use as an interior and even exterior material goes back way before sustainable buildings became trendy. Native to much of South and Southwest China, bamboo was first used to make paper, calligraphy brushes, and musical instruments thousands of years ago. For well over a century, it has been crafted into a range of household articles including chairs, baskets, mats, cutlery, and cabinets.

Bamboo – which is actually a grass – can be harvested after only four to six years of growth, much shorter than the 30-60 years required for comparable wood species. Replanting is not necessary, as bamboo regenerates on its own; and the speed at which it does so means it offers excellent erosion control.

Jiangqiao, which began manufacturing the green keyboards last October, has already received orders for 40,000 finished units, and is China’s sole producer of bamboo keyboards.

The company says the product is as strong as its plastic equivalent. Proof that bamboo’s strength surpasses what its flexibility suggests lies in the fact that modern Hong Kong developers prefer bamboo over steel reinforcing rods when constructing some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers.

Jiangqiao faced the same difficulties typical for adapting bamboo for industrial use, including keeping the bamboo keyboard frame from cracking, preventing the bamboo bottom plate from distorting and firmly fashioning the buttons with the main board. However, the company has successfully developed (and patented) its formula, and also developed a bamboo mouse and USB expected to go on the market this spring.

Though Jiangqiao is not the first company to use natural resources in computer accessories, it may be the most eco-friendly. Much of the bamboo used in the keyboards, says the company’s general manager, is leftover scrap from bamboo floorboard manufacturing.

Combining efficiency with aesthetically pleasing design, Jiangqiao is earning a name for itself in innovation and sustainability.

Photo Credit: Cleaner Greener China

  1. Bobby B.

    That is a cool keyboard, but it probably is a little presumptuous to say that an item made of bamboo is anymore “green” than a comparable wood product. Do not be fooled into thinking that bamboo products are made by stately, old-world craftsmen one-by-one. It is a highly industrialized process.

    Trees may take longer to grow, but processing bamboo is extremely energy intensive. Just look at the number of individual pieces in a bamboo cutting board or a bamboo flooring plank, and consider how it’s put together. Since bamboo is hollow and circular, thin strips are cut from the circumference, squared on all four sides, and glued together in a high pressure plate press that is heated to a high temperature with hot oil. It then has to be cut to whatever finished dimension is required. The process is similar to what is used in most plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) mills. In contrast, solid wood products are simply cut from a large trunk to a final dimension and dried. The steps of gluing, pressing and re-sawing are not necessary to yield a finished product.

    Now, I am not saying that there is no place in the market for bamboo products; my son actually has a baseball bat made from bamboo. However, until you tour a wood products processing facility, you have no idea how much energy must be expended to turn the feedstock into a finished product.

    In closing, I see so much angst from the greens when discussing the effects of rubber plantations on certain regions. Isn’t bamboo also grown on large farms (plantations)?

  2. Jeff Delkin

    Cool product. Kind of. Bobby B. makes some valid points. There’s also the question of adhesive as well. Consider the glue to bamboo ratio. And what is the bamboo finished or coated with? Especially to withstand heavy use. You have to wonder. How are the buttons attached? How is the action created? There’s plastic in there somewhere.

    In regards to bamboo ‘plantations’ We’ve been working with bamboo for six years and studied it for another two. Bamboo plantations may exist, but I have only seen one. Alternatively, the bamboo is grows in the wild. It’s fast grwoing, and there is an abundance of bamboo in several provinces along the bamboo belt here in China and in the hills of Vietnam. Individual farmers lease land from the government and harvest it sustainably. The biggest concern turning over food crops to grow more bamboo as the demand increases. Generally, governments are tuned into trying to strike a balance.

  3. Bobby B.

    “The biggest concern turning over food crops to grow more bamboo as the demand increases.”

    The same concern has shown itself in the United States’ government-mandated ethanol debacle. To quote from Mark Levin’s excellent work “Liberty and Tyranny” on the subject:

    “Government policy played a significant role in driving up demand and prices not only for fuel but food, contributing mightily to severe food shortages and even famine in the Third World.”

    Of course, the Supreme Court case of Wickard v. Filburn in 1942 basically laid the foundation for government intervention for all future farming practices. It even has the potential to affect backyard gardeners. Naturally, the statist’s response to havoc of his own creation were summed up by Rahm Emmanuel in November 2008:

    “Rule one: Never allow a crisis to go to waste. They are opportunities to do big things.”

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