Eco Insights: A Handy Guide Of The Most Eco-Friendly Home Building Materials Part 1

3 Mins Read

There is really no excuse not to source eco friendly materials when it comes to furniture and other home furnishings. There are so many sustainable options to choose from. Below we give you the 411 on three plants to consider when updating your home décor. Remember to reuse where possible and recycle what you no longer need!



What is it?

Rattan plants are part of the palm species. They have long thin stems and leaves that are like vines.

What is used for?

Rattan is mostly used for furniture because it is very flexible and easy to bend into any desired shape. Rattan is also one of the fibers used to make wicker.

Where is it from?

Over 70% of the world’s rattan comes from Indonesia; the rest is cultivated in Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.


Most conventional rattan harvesting is harmful to its native environment- in some areas the plant is in danger of being over-exploited. Rattan production can be highly polluting. It is often processed with harsh chemicals that poison soil and waterways.



What is it?

Abaca is a species of the banana plant family with wide, large leaves. It is extremely similar to the original wild banana plants from thousands of years ago that birthed the bananas we know today.

What is used for?

Much like bamboo (see below) and hemp (will be covered in Part 2), abaca has dozens of use from beauty products to shipping materials (ropes) to fabrics to furniture. Recently its pulp has become highly sought-after as a way to make paper products.

Where is it from?

Most of the world’s abaca comes from the Philippines with Indonesia producing the bulk of the remainder.



What is it?

Bamboo is an evergreen member of the grass family and grows in long, thin reeds. It is one of the fastest growing plants in the world.

What is used for?

There is very little that bamboo cannot be used for! In Asian countries, young bamboo shoots are eaten as vegetables and made into pickles. They are famous as the panda bear’s favourite food. The plant can be made into a very eco-friendly fabric, its fibre used for furniture and furnishings, made into bedding and pillows, as a raw material in the construction industry…bamboo is even used in Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.

Where is it from?

Bamboo species (of which there are many) are found in almost all of the planet’s continents: across East and South-East Asia, in North and South America, in Australia and in sub-Saharan Africa. Only Europe and Antarctica are exempt!


Why Are These Materials Eco Friendly?

  • -They grow extremely quickly.
  • -They are biodegradable.
  • -They remove large amounts of CO2 from the air.
  • -They are multi-use plants- from the building industry to beauty products to consumer goods to fabrics, there is no end to their functionality. 
  • -They are usually grown in countries where tree felling is a major problem and their cultivation as an in-demand crop is financially attractive for the local population, thereby protecting the land from deforestation.
  • -When ethically sourced, they are grown and harvested with respect for the local land, people and culture.

Join us next week for Eco Insights: A Handy Guide Of The Most Eco Friendly Home Building Materials Part 2 where we cover hemp, rubber and jute. 


photo credit: AlmaGamil_Philippines via photopin cc


  • Sonalie Figueiras

    Serial social entrepreneur Sonalie Figueiras is the founder & editor-in-chief of Green Queen, an award-winning impact media platform advocating for social & environmental change in Hong Kong with a mission to shift consumer behaviour through inspiring & empowering original content. She is also the founder & CEO of SourceGreenPackaging,com, the global wholesale eCom marketplace for sustainable packaging products, Ekowarehouse, the global sourcing platform for certified organic products, with a mission to make safe, quality food accessible & affordable for the whole planet. With over a decade of experience in publishing, digital marketing, organic trade and health & sustainability, she is an eco wellness industry veteran with a keen eye for market trends and a sought-after international speaker and moderator, sharing her expertise on stages across Asia and beyond, including TEDx and Harvard Business School.

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