Helping raise the sustainability index of its new 2013 Escape, Ford has turned to a well-proven organic alternative: the kenaf plant. This relative of cotton and okra is being used in the production of door-panel bolsters normally made using oil-based materials. In addition to helping offset the use of some 300,000 pounds of oil-based resin annually in North America alone, Ford says the kenaf-based end product also is 25 percent lighter than its conventional counterpart. Manufactured by International Automotive Components (IAC) in Greencastle, Indiana, Ford says these more eco-friendly bolsters are made from a 50/50 mix of kenaf and polypropylene.
While not particularly well known to the general public, the kenaf plant -- which bears a strong resemblance to bamboo -- is a common ingredient in a number of products. Kenaf oil is used in the production of cosmetics and its fiber can be substituted for wood pulp in making paper. No word on whether it's found in any of your favorite snack foods yet, but the upper leaves and shoots of this versatile vegetable also are edible.