Scoop: Mount Vernon's Boo-Shoot Gardens
It’s not just for pandas anymore—bamboo’s popularity among humans is spreading like, well, bamboo. Having been pegged as a sustainable resource, groves of the tall, leafy stalks are readily converted into everything from flooring to dishware to textiles. But while bamboo has a rep for proliferation, the current craze for the woody grass is swiftly outpacing its ability to replenish itself—bamboo deforestation is on the rise. And because bamboo only flowers every 100 years or so, it’s impractical (if not impossible) to propagate it from seeds. Enter Seattle native Jackie Heinricher and her Mount Vernon–based biotech lab, Boo-Shoot Gardens (booshoot.com).
A former fisheries biologist, Heinricher founded her company in 1998, and in 2004 she and scientist Randy Burr finally “cracked the code” for cloning bamboo (via tissue culturing; the only people to do so, ever!). After successfully growing bamboo starts in test tubes, Boo-Shoot produced 2,000 bamboo plants in 2004. Since then, that number has shot up to 2 million little green clones per year, and the company recently reconfigured its greenhouses to better handle an anticipated doubling in production.
Heinricher believes in bamboo not just because it can be turned into soft towels and sturdy lumber—she argues it can actually reverse the negative impact of climate change. (Bamboo takes in and “scrubs” four times the amount of CO2 as a similarly sized stand of hardwood trees, and releases 35 percent more oxygen.) She hopes to increase bamboo agri-forestry in the United States and, consequently, reduce fuel spent on importing it from Asia, breathe new life into our nation’s farm industry and do our part in cleaning up our polluted planet. We’d call that a bamboo coup.