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My Startup Builds Homes Out Of Bamboo

David Sands
Founder, Bamboo Living
Bamboo Living
from Pāhoa, HI, USA
started May 1995
alexa rank
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Hi, I am David Sands and I am on a mission to help save our planet. I have started two companies, Bamboo Living where we design and manufacture homes of structural bamboo, and RIZOME where we are developing bamboo-based building materials to replace wood, steel, and concrete for construction and are creating large scale carbon drawdowns with our bamboo plantings.

At Bamboo Living, we developed the first-ever building code standard for structural bamboo and have manufactured hundreds of bamboo houses, and are expanding into designing entire communities.

At RIZOME we have a goal to draw down 10 gigatons of CO2 by 2050 and develop bamboo into a primary global construction material.


What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

My parents were environmentalists and my dad was a businessman. My mom saw an environmental problem in central Florida and tackled it, ending up on the governor’s task force for the environment. My dad was into goal-setting reading Psychocybernetics when I was young and setting goals for himself and his business. He grew his retail business into a chain of stores and became the President of the National Retail Merchants Association.

Develop a personal mission, set goals related to that mission, and take action on those goals. Be willing to take what comes and persevere knowing how important the mission is to you.

I and my two brothers all became Eagle Scouts by setting and accomplishing goals. I grew up wanting to do something that would make the world a better place.

Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?

I moved into an ashram after undergraduate school and loved it. Eventually, though I went back to grad school and became an architect. In the early 90s, I designed and built a communal home on Maui for one of my brothers and some of our friends. It was completely off-grid and incorporated recycled materials. I bought fifty 8-foot mahogany louvered doors that had been pulled from a hotel that was remodeled. Those doors became all the walls of the house and were on tracks so they could be slid open creating an open pavilion in the jungle. However, when they delivered the construction lumber needed to build the house it was like a gut punch. A whole forest had been cut to build a single house. I realized that every house being built was destroying our forests. I thought about all the clear-cuts in the Northwest I had seen and knew I had to come up with a different way of building.

The next year the friend who helped me build the house and I decided to design and build our first building out of bamboo. No trees would be cut to build that structure. We built that first bamboo house for a friend on the weekends. Other friends heard about what we had done and wanted bamboo buildings. And so Bamboo Living was launched.

In 2009 I read an article in the Natural Resources Defense Council magazine about the amount of CO2 being generated by human activity. I had recently read some studies about the CO2 captured by bamboo as it grows. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant and harvesting does not kill the plant which can live 60-100 years. I wrote a paper on using bamboo for carbon sequestration and presented it in Bangkok at the World Bamboo Congress that year. I thought someone would pick up and run with the idea. Within a few years, I realized that it would need to be me. So with my brother and some friends we started RIZOME to implement my plan.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Bamboo Living is profitable and growing. We have a wonderful team of inspired people all interested in making the world a better place.

RIZOME planted over 1,000 acres of giant bamboo last year in a deforested area of the Philippines and is significantly expanding its planting efforts this year. RIZOME is going into production in the Philippines this year with bamboo-based building materials and is currently fundraising to expand its efforts into Florida.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I have learned that big challenges are the most fun and the most rewarding. There is nothing that compares with the fulfillment that comes from knowing you are making the world a better place. Mistakes will be made, and opportunities will be missed but passion and perseverance pay off.

My ongoing daily study and practice of yoga have taught me to enjoy continually expanding my comfort zone. Learning to be comfortable with discomfort is a worthwhile skill to develop and allows us to tackle big challenges, overcome obstacles and grow personally. Again, I can think of nothing more rewarding.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

My skill has been to find team members who have the skills I don’t possess. There are always people smarter than ourselves. It is useful to know that and seek those people out.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The Autobiography of a Yogi has guided my life. The books of Svami Purna inspire me as to what we are capable of as human beings and the opportunity for self-realization.

The Law of Attraction has taught me to manage my thoughts and feelings. The podcasts of Michael Beckwith, Tony Robbins, and Benjamin Hardy among others, have all encouraged me to be grateful for what is, be inspired by possibilities, implement through goal setting and directed action, and understand the supreme importance of managing myself and my states of mind.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Take the time to discover what you most deeply care about and learn what inspires you most. Develop a personal mission, set goals related to that mission, and take action on those goals. Be willing to take what comes and persevere knowing how important the mission is to you. Make the best decision you can at each juncture and recognize that you will make mistakes. When you do make mistakes, correct them, learn from them and move on.

Recognize that ultimately your growth is the only thing you take with you.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are always looking to grow our teams for both Bamboo Living and RIZOME.

Where can we go to learn more?

Website and Rizome.

David Sands, Founder of Bamboo Living
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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