Later this summer, building professionals and consumers will be able to buy bamboo flooring and bamboo plywood products that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) as having been harvested in a sustainable and responsible manner.

The first manufacturer to obtain the certification is San Francisco-based Smith & Fong Co. , which makes the Plyboo brand of plywood and flooring.

“We are pleased that Smith & Fong has expanded the North American marketplace for certified products by offering bamboo plywood and flooring with the FSC label,” says Corey Brinkema, president of the Forest Stewardship Council –U.S. (The international organization is based in Bonn, Germany.)  “Whether a product is made of a traditional wood species, or a less traditional non-timber forest resource like bamboo, it is important for consumers to know that the forest is being managed to high social and environmental standards.”

Dan Smith, founder and president of Smith & Fong, is happy to see the FSC broaden its approach.  “This is the first time that FSC has recognized that there are other forests besides wood forests,” he says. “The reaction by the market will be good.”

After all, bamboo has been one of the most buzz-worthy building products in recent years, thanks to its versatility and rapidly renewability. Bamboo, literally a fast-growing grass, can be harvested in as little as three years, making it the darling of green building professionals, architects, and builders. But they have been going it alone; the FSC never gave its imprimatur on the material, preferring instead to certify wood forests.

But that has changed, and Smith & Fong’s certified products will qualify for the “FSC Pure” label. This means these designated bamboo products are made from 100 percent FSC material from an FSC-certified forest and have been sold and processed by an FSC chain-of-custody-certified company. Smith & Fong says its forest sources use no irrigation, pesticides, or fertilizers in growing their bamboo.

Bamboo’s new FSC certification option will not end the debate on the material’s ultimate green status. Even those bamboo fans who like its sustainable features are conflicted by one issue in particular: its overseas origins. Green building principles stress using local sources for supplies, but most bamboo products are shipped from China, which burns fossil fuels and contributes to global warming.

Nigel Maynard is a senior editor at BUILDER magazine.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Francisco, CA.