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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Green Living: 10 Eco-Friendly Materials For Your Home

sustainable materials eco-friendly wicker bamboo banana leaf abaca bamboo jute rattan

Living green is more than just a passing fad and there’s no better way to truly embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle than at the most basic foundation of our society. Yes, sustainability should start at home!
Here are a few eco-materials you can incorporate into your home:
1. Abaca: Fiber Strength
Similar to bamboo, abaca is grown widely in many tropical countries. It is one of the many species of banana native to the Philippines, and it is also extensively grown in Borneo and Sumatra.  The strong fiber is also known as “Manila hemp” and is used to make currency bills, twines, ropes and clothing.
A home can enjoy this eco-friendly material in the form of woven cloth, place mats and curtains to small furniture such as center and side tables.
2. Bamboo: The Versatile Grass
Strong, resilient, beautiful, abundant and affordable, this humble grass is one of the best materials that one can explore when it comes to achieving sustainability at home. From its roots to its infamous stalk, bamboo has plenty to offer. It is one of the best eco-friendly materials, not only because it is renewable and biodegradable, but also because bamboo helps its surrounding habitats, as their roots hold soil and water, preventing erosions or landslides. Further, Bamboo groves have been found to release 30%-40% more oxygen, compared to hardwood forests with the same volume.
Bamboo shoots or the young bamboo can be made into condiments or pickles and its stalk are extensively used in construction, furniture-making and even clothing. Bamboo can be made into virtually anything, from bathroom mats to blinds, window shades, wall and floor panels.
3. Banana Leaves: A Delectable Choice
Bananas are abundant in Southeast Asia and South America and are typically grown in large plantations. The leaves are used for decoration and also to serve and prepare food in countries like India, Malaysia, Philippines and even in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Mexico. Excess dried banana leaves removed from plantations are unfortunately either made into fertilizers or burned, when they can be put to other practical uses.
Dried, weaved banana leaves make beautiful baskets, candle holders, magazine racks, trays, mirror and picture frames and a lot more.
4. Coconut Products: A Cool Alternative
Grown in tropical and subtropical countries, coconut is another great source of eco-friendly materials. Almost every part of the palm can be used, from its leaves down to its roots. The materials can be used to create household items, such as curtains, wall decors, bowls, ladles and baskets. The Coconut coir fibers are great for making door mats, carpets and rugs.
5. Cogon Grass: The Japanese Bloodgrass
Also known as Japanese bloodgrass, kunai grass in the U.S. or blady grass in Australia, the cogon grass is a weed that damages crops.  Farmers typically spend a lot of time, labor and money clearing the invasive plant, usually burning them or using herbicides.
There are many ingenious ways of utilizing Cogon grass that can help minimize the use of harmful herbicides and reduce the damage to local crops at the same time. Cogon grass can be used to create place mats, carpets, magazine holders and other useful items. Although the production of cogon grass as furniture and décor is still in its earliest stage, it may have a potential global market, as the demand for sustainable materials grows.
6. Corn: More than Just a Meal
Infamous corn has nearly an unlimited number of uses and is widely cultivated throughout the world. Although everyone uses numerous food products that are made of corn or include it as an ingredient, very few people are aware of the dangers that the crop actually brings. Corn produces a tremendous volume of  farm waste with every harvest, which is often left in the field to emit CO2 as it decomposes.
Discarded corn husks can be incorporated into furniture and as home décor, which can be equally beautiful and durable as bamboo, seagrass and other natural materials. A company called Corn Board Manufacturing, Inc has gone even further by developing a proprietary corn-based composite board that can be used instead of particle board, plywood or fiberboard for furniture and home construction!
7. Jute: The Golden Fiber
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.
8. Seagrass: Uniquely Beautiful
Known to be ecosystem engineers, seagrasses are a crucial food source for many marine organisms. Seagrass furniture is now making waves in homes as well as interiors of various establishments. This is because furniture made from seagrass has continuously proven its strength, opulence and durability, three qualities that every homeowner would always be delighted to have in their furniture pieces. Probably the best feature of seagrass furniture is that it is stain resistant, simply because the fibers of the flowering plant are not able to absorb any type of liquid. This is a huge advantage, since furniture are prone to liquid stains.
Beautifully crafted living rooms sets, cabinets, beds, baskets and other types of furniture are available in the market today. They are inexpensive, biodegradable, exquisite and are a must in every green home.
9. Utilizing the Willow Tree
Probably the most well known of the 400 species of the willow is the weeping willow, which can be seen planted along parks, river banks and borders of streams. These trees were supposedly planted to control and protect banks from the strong action of water, but are now regarded as an invasive weed. The roots of the weeping willow tree are known to clog drainage and sewer lines, particularly in Australia.
Aside from replacing native trees along banks, willows have been used to make furniture and decorative items. Surprisingly, willow furniture has been around since the early 1900’s, in the form of chairs, sofas, tables, plant stands and beds. The twigs of the willow tree can be made into durable and beautiful woven baskets, magazine racks, vases and frames.
10. Rattan and Wicker
An abundance of rattan and wicker in forest areas provides a viable source of income to local people and could help curb logging in certain regions. Rattan and wicker grows faster than forest trees and harvesting and transport of rattan canes and wickers are much easier compared to logging, making it an economically and environmentally sensible choice.
Rattan and wicker can be used for a range of household furniture, from couches, dining sets and beds to magazine racks, side tables, lamps, vases and a lot more.

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