Ford is using kenaf, a tropical plant related to cotton and okra plants, to replace oil-based materials in the doors of the new Ford Escape.

The company claims that use of this eco-friendly material is anticipated to offset 300,000 pounds of oil-based resin annually in North America and that kenaf reduces the weight of the door bolsters by 25 percent.

Kenaf is a tropical plant that Ford describes as looking similar to bamboo and is related to cotton.

"Kenaf and the other renewable materials in the Escape have made the vehicle more environmentally friendly and fuel efficient," said Laura Sinclair, materials engineer for the Escape.

Kenaf oil is used in cosmetics and kenaf fibre is used as an alternative to wood in the production of paper. The upper leaves and shoots of the plant are edible.

The kenaf is combined with polypropylene in a 50-50 mixture inside the door of the Escape. International Automotive Components (IAC) manufactures the door bolsters in Greencastle, Ind.

Ford says that the new Escape, which will be available this spring, features several eco-friendly components in addition to the kenaf inside the doors.

Materials that are recycled, renewable, and that reduce impact on the environment include soy foam in the seats and head restraints; plastic bottles and other post-consumer and post-industrial materials in the carpeting; climate control gaskets made from recycled tyres; and more than 10 pounds of scrap cotton from the making of denim jeans.