Eco Insights: A Handy Guide Of The Most Eco-Friendly Home Building Materials Part 2

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In last week’s post, we gave you some useful information about three important eco friendly home building materials: bamboo, abaca and rattan. Today we continue our foray into the natural furnishings world with three more all-stars: hemp, natural rubber and jute. 

 

Hemp

 

What is it?

Hemp is a tall leafy plant that is part of the Cannabis family. There are hundreds of species of Cannabis and only a small percentage of the plants contain significant amounts of THC, the compound that enables usage for psychotropic/recreational purposes. Hemp has been produced for thousands of years; it is one of the oldest plants to be domesticated.

 

What is used for?

Hemp fiber is used to make textiles for clothing and furnishings, . It can also be used to make ropes, sacks, packaging, furniture, paper products, resin and wax. In the last decade hemp has also become well known and heavily used for its nutritional value. Its seeds provide a concentrated (and relatively cheap) source of vegetable protein. Its virgin oil is used as a nutritional supplement as it contains significant amounts of omega 3- a substance usually harvested from fish.

 

Where is it from?

Most of the global supply of hemp comes from China. It is also produced in Chile, Europe and interestingly, North Korea.

 

 

Natural Rubber (Caoutchouc)  

 

What is it?

Natural rubber –also knows as Indian rubber and caoutchouc- is a latex substance collected from certain tree species much in the same way that maple syrup sap is. Most natural rubber is harvested from the Para tree species. It is highly prized due to some very useful characteristics: it is waterproof, it is very durable and it is extremely flexible.

 

What is used for?

Natural rubber is present in thousands of products especially in industry. It makes up many types of building materials, is used by the paper industry, the tubing industry, the shipping industry,   the toy industry, the adhesive industry- the list goes on and on. It is also used for making textile blends as well as protective clothing.

 

Where is it from?

Para trees are through to have originated in Brazil but during the colonization of South America, seedlings were sent all over the world but today the three largest exporters are Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

 

Jute 

 

What is it?

Jute is a golden yellow, long vegetable fiber plant. Jute is only second to cotton as the most heavily harvested vegetable fiber on the planet! Unlike cotton, it requires very few pesticides and little fertilizer. It is completely biodegradable.

 

What is used for?

An incredibly versatile material, jute has historically been used to make all types of textiles, clothing, carpets, nets, sacks and ropes. Today its popularity as a material for furniture is growing. It is also now being used for bedding materials.

 

Where is it from?

Most of the world’s jute comes from India and Bangladesh. As the second most consumed and produced vegetable fiber after cotton, jute has now taken a spotlight in sustainable interior designs. Beautifully made jute rugs, curtains, sacks, rugs, chair upholstery and even linoleum backing are just a few of the many options that one can have at home. Jute fiber is labeled as the golden fiber because of its golden to silky shine hue. It’s 100% biodegradable making it another great option for your home.

  

Once again, here are the important characteristics of all the materials we are mentioning in this series that make them friendly to our planet’s environment:

 

  • -They grow extremely quickly.
  • -They are biodegradable.
  • -They remove large amounts of CO2 from the air.
  • -They are multi-use plants- used to build things and
  • -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.

 

When making decisions about new furniture or home furnishings, make sure to try one of the six durable, eco-friendly and sustainable materials featured in this series. Vote green for the planet, and your family’s health!

 

photo credit: ophiuchus1 via photopin cc

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