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Bamboo a big tool for greenwashing, says noted designer

Some bamboo is grown in a sustainable way. Other people treat it with formaldehyde. Kelly LaPlante has other green remodeling tips too.

Bamboo buyer beware, says Kelly LaPlante.

"This is one of the biggest areas for greenwashing," she told me during a tour of a suite she redesigned on behalf of Lexus at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel. (As part of a marketing campaign, Lexus is sprucing up hotel suites in San Francisco and Washington, D.C, The Fairmont one costs $869 a night, but you get to use a Lexus hybrid V8 while you're there.)

A coffee table from Lexus Michael Kanellos/CNET Networks

A lot of companies offer bamboo flooring and panel so they can sell a green product, but many of them also use toxic adhesives and other chemicals that take away the advantages of using bamboo. Bamboo grows fast and needs little fertilizer, making it a relatively green building product.

Some also grow it in distant places and truck it in, eliminating further environmental advantages. You've got to dig into the suppliers to figure out if you're buying green. Later this year, she will set up a site that rates various building suppliers on how green they really are. It should be good reading.

Other remodeling tips from LaPlante:

• Recycle as much as possible. She recently remodeled three cottages in Venice, Calif. They reused drywall and so much material that they didn't even need a dumpster out front. The less stuff that ends up in the land fill, the better.

"When you demolish something, are you demolishing or carefully removing," she said.

That footstool/table you see in the picture is an example of recycling. It's made out of leather found in old Lexuses.

• Green is not necessarily a statement. You can consciously pick green materials, but it doesn't have to be a theme. In fact, self-conscious green will likely look dated in the future.

"We try to make things that don't look like green design," she said.