When you think about the process, materials and impact of creating a building, for example your office building, what comes to mind? To us at Ola Impact we can picture the concrete trucks, a massive amount of emissions-intensive steel , the unending loud sounds of heavy machinery. The terms “climate-positive” and “construction” just don’t seem to go hand-in-hand.


This is something the company RIZOME is working to change. RIZOME is sequestering carbon and developing bamboo into the primary regenerative global construction material. As you can imagine, it’s been a long journey for their team, but a journey well worth it working to bring scalable solutions to the ecological crisis. Learn more about their story through our interview with the Co-Founder Troy Carter below! 

What is your brand name and website? What is your name and role at the company? Where are you located?

Our company is called RIZOME, a name that comes from the root structure of bamboo that makes it so regenerative and fast-growing.  I’m Troy Carter, a co-founder located in Hawaii, along with team members located in the Philippines and Florida.

What problem is your brand working to solve? What is the solution you are providing to this problem and what sets your brand apart?

Plant Bamboo. Make Engineered Lumber. Sequester 10 gigatons of CO2 by 2050.

carbon positive construction materials

We’re on a mission to sequester carbon and develop bamboo into a primary global construction material. Problem: Ecological Disaster

The construction industry is an ecological disaster. Embodied carbon from construction accounts for 11% of global CO2 emissions and 28% including lifecycle building operations. Cement contributes 7% and steel up to 8% of global emissions. Wood requires huge land areas and is harvested globally at unsustainable rates, with 18.7 million acres of new deforestation each year. Large-scale reforestation to sequester carbon is slow, has been hampered by expensive and inaccurate verification, and is difficult to monetize in an inefficient and opaque offset market.

Solution: Regenerative Bamboo Building. RIZOME has developed a climate-positive bamboo alternative to wood, steel and concrete after two decades of innovation.

We believe that one of the largest revolutions in building materials in the coming years will be the widespread adoption of high-tech engineered bamboo lumber. As this shift occurs, every new building will support a climate-positive CO2 drawdown and provide regenerative local bamboo economies in regions that need it the most.

What are your brand values? How does your brand live up to these values on a daily basis?

In short: we have hippie values & German engineering 😉

Impact:

RIZOME addresses every aspect of SDG17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Our reforestation and employment initiatives in the Philippines have deep support from indigenous groups, farmers, and government. Regional NGOs and national banks have offered to facilitate large-scale planting of giant bamboo and the associated emergence of a fundamental shift in the environmental, economic and social reality of Mindanao.

We plan on being one of the first SDVista SDG17 verified reforestation projects. With a strong regenerative presence in the Philippines, we hope to expand the bamboo carbon economy globally.

Scale:

We chose the Philippines because of its potential for large-scale planting. Mindanao was dramatically deforested through legal and illegal logging over several decades, until logging was banned 5 years ago. Today, Mindanao’s landmass includes over 300,000 hectares (750,000 acres) of barren, deforested land. Much of this land is owned by Indigenous Populations (IP) and impoverished communities that remain economically and socially marginalized.

eco friendly construction materials

Economy:

Our bamboo processing facility has dramatically benefitted the local community. Farmers can now generate additional revenue from their existing bamboo stands and have access to stable fair employment in a region where people rely on wages as low as $6/day. We anticipate further stabilizing effects as the bamboo and carbon economy expands.

Ecology and Fire Resistance:

Giant bamboo is the fastest growing grass on the planet. The faster we harvest, the more it grows. Bamboo also does not die in the grass fires that have devastated other reforestation attempts with native hardwoods in the area. We only plant clumping bamboo to not compete with native species. We plan on increasing biodiversity with native forest interplanting in future years.

Water:

Water is a major issue worldwide. Bamboo helps restore the water cycle. The unique rhizome mat of the plant reduces catastrophic flooding and erosion, and also recharges aquifers to mitigate drought.

Social:

We have already begun to see the early social impact of a thriving bamboo economy. Anecdotal evidence: former rebels underemployed since the armistice with the government 3 years ago have become bamboo harvesters.

Gender equality:

Unlike the lumber industry which is both machine-heavy and male centric, the light weight of bamboo enables women to participate in the bamboo economy, as well as the community’s decisions to favor women for the nursery portion of the program

Indigenous Populations:

We have deep support among local indigenous groups in our launch region of Mindanao. There are 7 hill tribes divided into 2 ethno-linguistic groups. Our project is one of the first to offer economic opportunity to this disenfranchised community. They benefit at every level from nursery development, carbon offset revenue sharing, harvesting of current native bamboo forests, and ecological restoration and reforestation.

How did you or the company founders come up with this idea? What is the story behind the company and founders?

History: RIZOME and its sister companies have been leaders in climate-positive bamboo construction for 25 years, pioneering the use of bamboo in over 500 US residential developments and achieving the first bamboo building code ICC certification. Past projects used round bamboo timbers and so remained a highly customized construction process. Laminated bamboo panels have been prohibitively expensive, so conventional plywood and drywall finish were used to stay cost competitive. Seeing the large amount of plywood and unsustainable engineered wood products used in each building, David, our founder and head of product, was determined to change his industry’s impact on forests and the climate. The key: make bamboo into standard dimensional building products at price parity with wood.

That was 2012. Seven years later, after extensive technical and manufacturing development, regulatory wins, and sourcing the largest bamboo in the world, we finally began production. In 2019 we launched our first manufacturing facility in Mindanao, Philippines, to process giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper) culms into slats. Now in Q2 2020 we are shipping containers to customers in North America and Asia, expanding our manufacturing, and looking to scale globally.

 Walk us through your daily routine. How do you and your team live sustainably?

David and I (Troy) live in a small bamboo residential community on Hawaii next to the beach. Our other co-founders Fred, Rick, and Russell are in Maui, California, and Florida. In Hawaii we have a pretty simple, joyful life: morning swim, breakfast, work all day, play in the garden.

ecofriendly lifestyle

How do you avoid eco-anxiety to stay positive and motivated to build a sustainable business?

Interesting question. I don’t avoid eco-anxiety. I accept the grief of the impact humans have on non-human nature, and daily life and work is nourishing enough to continue joyfully. Climate is one of the biggest themes of the decade, so the caliber of people working in this area is incredible. I get to work with our world-class partners every day, which is amazing.

What tips do you have for other brands and individuals to live more sustainably and have a positive impact on this world?

Live in a balanced way with people you love on a big enough problem to attract the smartest people on the planet.

How can our community support you and your mission?

Social proof for funding and sales and hiring. RIZOME is looking for the most passionate, brilliant people to help us grow a next generation nature-based climate company. Check us out here.

Check out their social pages to follow their updates and support RIZOME’s mission to build a better world!

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