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13 Green Natural Resources for Bio-based Products and Textiles

Updated on October 1, 2013
Bamboo | Source

Copyright 2012 - Kris Heeter, Ph.D.

Increasing concerns over the environment and the sustainability of many of our natural resources has prompted scientists and companies alike to explore the possibilities of new and different resources for bio-based products and biofuels.

Thirteen interesting natural products or by-products are either now being used or explored as green solutions. Some of these might surprise you!

Exploring bio-based textiles and fiber products

One of the hottest and fastest growing areas in the green revolution is the exploration of new fibers that can be used for making paper, textiles and building products.

Over logging and destruction of rainforests has led to shortages of wood fiber, the leading raw ingredient for paper and building materials.

And while organic cotton has become increasingly popular for making environmentally kind clothing, industrial grown hemp is making a comeback. It was once a very popular textile in the early 20th century and during WWII and is making a comeback.

Cotton requires the use of more land and water over hemp (although some argue that hemp requires more energy to convert into usable textiles and products). Hemp is now being used again in the U.S. for making textiles (like clothing), paper and building materials. It is being utilized more and advertised as a greener alternative to petroleum-based fibers.

Coconut Coir Fiber
Coconut Coir Fiber | Source

Eco friendly fiber for textiles

Here are four notable plants used to create eco friendly fiber for the textile industry:

  • Bamboo

Bamboo is a readily available and an easily renewing resource. Banana fiber is being used for building materials, paper making, fabric, and clothes.

  • Coconut

Coconut fiber (a.k.a."coir") is the natural protective husk of the coconut. It is one of the thickest and strongest of all natural fibers being used for industrial and commercial purposes. It is ideal for a number of building material applications.

  • Abaca

Abaca is grown in the Philippines and Ecuador and is being used for teabag and other filter papers.

  • Flax

Flax fiber has been used to make linen. Flax straw is now being utilized in high-end paper making. In addition, research suggests flax fiber can replace synthetic fibers in disposable products.


Green waste recovery and recycling

Agricultural waste is proving to be a good green source for recycling:

  • Corn

The leaves and stalks of corn left over from harvest is one of the largest sources of agricultural waste in the United States. Research indicates that corn fiber is well suited for paper making and patents have been submitted for methods of pulp production from corn plant waste.

  • Sugar cane

A fibrous residue results after sugar is squeezed from sugarcane. This residue, called bagasse, is being currently used for making paper.

  • Rice and Wheat Straw

Rice straw and wheat straw are two of the largest sources of fibrous agricultural by-product in the world. Both can also be processed in to paper and rice straw is being used in building materials.

  • Elephant Dung (Poo)

Elephants are completely vegetarian and their waste product is basically indigestible cellulose. In some parts of the world, the dung is being used now to produce a number of paper products. On average an elephant produces about 500 lbs of dung a day. Several companies and utilizing this natural resource and creating 100% recycled paper poo products.

Banana tree
Banana tree | Source

4 New resources explored and utilized for bio-based products

These "new" sources have been around for awhile and utilized in some green textile companies already but these plants are also being researched for producing new fiber-based products as well.

  • Banana

Banana fiber is already being used to make yarn and fabric. Some small groups and companies are starting to use it for making paper.

  • Palm

Palm fiber is starting to be used for paper making

  • Arundo

Arundo is perennial grass. It grows fast and can also be used for making paper.

  • Kenaf

Kenaf has a high crop yield and kenaf fiber is similar to that of hemp. It can be used for making paper, building products like insulation and to create sound proofing material.

Microscopic Green Algae
Microscopic Green Algae | Source

Eco green companies

There are many eco green companies emerging across the globe – all with the same goal in mind: preserving our limited natural resources, working towards environmental sustainability, and reducing waste.

One organization assisting companies and farmers to explore many of these new options is Fiber Futures. One of their main goals is to help companies and farmers reduce and rethink the 250 million tons of agriculture residue that the U.S. produces annually. Agricultural residues that are burned add to the pollution problem and increased greenhouse effects. Agricultural waste can be used in new and innovative ways rather than being burned.

In addition to bio-based textiles and fiber products, companies are exploring a variety of plants as alternative biofuels. As recently reviewed in Wired magazine, everything from grass to algae is being tested by companies an alternative biofuel source.

And finally, service and retail companies are starting up daily, providing green services or green products. There is now a greater demand for cleaner, greener, eco friendly products!


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    • profile image

      Felix 5 years ago

      The coconut tree is the most amazing tree in the world.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 5 years ago from United States

      I have been noticing many things made with bamboo lately. Great information in this hub. I like all these knew products.

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @rajan - I'm so glad to hear some of these resources are being utilized in your country!

      @bravewarrior -I'm with you. In our century-long quest to make things easier, and mass produce food, we've doing ourselves in. I love your phrase "puking on our land"!

      @Keri Summers - I was pleasantly surprised at the number of alternative sources being explored and the fact that agricultural residues are now being put to use rather than burned. I agree, it give some hope for the future!

    • Keri Summers profile image

      Keri Summers 5 years ago from West of England

      This is a really encouraging Hub, Kris, it's assuring to know that there is so much exploration of alternative sources before our prime forests are gone altogether. To turn fibrous "waste" from agriculture etc into a commodity for paper and other uses solves two problems at once and gives me great hope for the future.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Thanx for the info Kris. I'd not heard of kenaf fiber until reading your article. Thanx for the link. I'll do some research. I hope your article sparks a huge discussion line, as I think it's imperative we go back to the way things were done long ago and stop puking on our land. After all, it's key to the air we breathe and the health and longevity (not if we keep this up!) of Mother Earth!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Kris, a very informative hub. Bamboo and coconut husk and other parts of the trees, find a variety of uses in our country.

      Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @bravewarrior - excellent questions! Many of these do replenish themselves. The agricultural fiber waste, for example, will always be there.

      But you are right, there could be a danger in depleting some of the other natural resources mentioned if care is not taken. I think the key on the long term will be to not deplete the soil these crops are grown in which means the world in general, and especially the US, needs more serious about organic farming and crop rotation as well as diversifying farms. Using a variety of resources rather than replying on just one for any given product will help - using different plant pulps for making paper is a good example (which seems to now finally happening).

      Kenaf fiber is now being used to make insulation - that might interest your company. In my research, I ran across this website that you might find useful:

      And I wouldn't be surprised if rice fiber materials eventually become more popular - I believe the rice plant has a natural silca compound in it. And, I ran across some published academic research looking at the best way to extract and utilized the fiber for such products.

      Thanks again for your input - it definitely adds to and creates some discussion which I love!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Nice hub, Kris! As you know, I too lean towards green living. I do have a question, tho. Do the materials you list above replenish themselves? I know for a fact bamboo does (no matter how hard I try, I can't keep them from reproducing close to my house!) Are these products that will be depleted if we use them for sustainable resources? In other words, are they renewable? We aren't in danger of depleting the planet of natural resources if we use them for alternative means?

      This article particularly interests me (in addition to having been acclaimed within my network of friends and co-workers as Mrs. Greenjeans!) as I work for a construction company who is building more and more "alternative energy" type buildings. I'm particularly interested in the fibers you mention to be used for building materials.

      Very interesting information. I guess, if you think about it, anything organic by nature should and would have many purposes. We just have to be open, use our imaginations and put it to the test!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @Natashalh - thanks for that added information! I was surprised at the number of different fiber sources that are starting to be used for paper.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I love stuff with bamboo and sugarcane because they are both really efficient biomass converters. In other words, they make an enormous amount of plant material from sun, water, etc. when compared to other plants. One of my roommates is currently using printer paper made from bamboo! Voted up and interesting.