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Coconuts could be the next sustainable packaging trend

We all know the coconut as a tropical staple. Beautiful palm trees decorate our favorite vacation spots and provide the main ingredient for luscious lotions and tasty cocktails, but new innovations may bring the coconut to some more unlikely places.

Coconuts.jpgThe strength, low water-absorption and durability of the coir, or coconut husk, make it a perfect candidate for eco-friendly packing material, and green businesses like Whole Tree, Inc. are bringing coconuts off the island and into good use.

This readily available resource can be found as far north as Norway, and is already harvested to produce coconut oils and juices. The coir, which would ordinarily be disposed of, can be easily processed to produce materials sturdy enough for packing or building.

These under-utilized husks are strong enough to perform better than most conventional materials in categories such as density, water-absorption and swelling without the addition of chemical binders. No chemical additives mean this rad packing alternative is safe for your compost pile after use.

Whole Tree, a green materials corp founded by researchers at Baylor University, is developing commercially available coconut composites that can be easily applied to a variety of purposes, from restaurant to-go boxes to green moving solutions.

These non-woven composites can contain up to 80 percent coconut fiber and serve as a seamless alternative for petroleum-based synthetic materials, and they have become a hit with packing design companies.

Austin-based packing company Compadre has recently partnered with Whole Tree, and is currently making these coconut composites available to its international corporate customers.

This eco-innovation is not only helpful to the planet; it is also giving a revenue boost to struggling coconut farmers around the globe.

The Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC), an intergovernmental organization representing coconut producers in the region, observed that only 10 percent of the husk is currently being used for fiber extraction around the world, a surprisingly low statistic that is greatly threatening to farmers’ livelihoods.

In response to this surprisingly low demand for coir, APCC is taking steps to raise awareness of its many uses. In addition to green packing, the coir can be used for carpeting, furniture and gardening products.

Just think. Soon enough we may not need to put our leftovers in a petroleum-based container, potentially decreasing global dependency on petroleum by millions of barrels of oil per year. Now that sounds like paradise.

Related articles:
What Makes a Sustainable Farm
Recycling To-Go Plastics
Future Packaging Could Actually Think for Itself

This article was reprinted with permission from Earth911.com.

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