Dear EarthTalk: What is “kenaf” paper? From what I've heard, it’s good for the environment. But what exactly are its benefits and where can I obtain some? -- Tiffany Mikamo, via e-mail
Kenaf, a fast-growing, non-invasive annual hibiscus plant related to cotton, okra and hemp, makes ideal paper fiber as well as great source material for burlap, clothing, canvas, particleboard and rope. Its primary use around the world today is for animal forage, but humans enjoy its high-protein seed oil to add a nutritious and flavorful kick to a wide range of foods. In fact, kenaf has been grown for centuries in Africa, China and elsewhere for these and other purposes, but environmentalists see its future in replacing slower-growing trees as our primary source for paper.