A-Z of sustainable materials

Make positive choices

If you're trying to choose sustainable products wherever possible, there's a growing number of component materials to look out for. Here's a list of some of the most common, used in products available at John Lewis and here on the website.


As the fastest growing woody plant in the world, bamboo is a rapidly replenishing resource. It's a practical alternative to timber, as it's lightweight and incredibly strong. Find it in storage, kitchen, bathroom and table accessories, and even as a component in yarns and clothing.


Stronger and more durable than cotton and flax, coir is a natural by-product of the coconut industry. We use it in floor coverings, mats and mattresses.


Rapid growth means hemp replenishes itself very quickly. It also requires very few pesticides or herbicides so, as a natural resource, it has a low environmental impact compared to other fibres. Currently we use it primarily in mattresses.


Naturally strong, fast-growing, colour and light-fast and highly insulating, jute has a low environmental impact and is a good alternative to plastic fibres. It can also be repeatedly recycled and is biodegradable. Find it as a component in furnishing fabric, in bags and hats, storage pieces and in outdoor furniture.


Needing less water, pesticides and fertilisers than cotton, linen is a soft yet strong material made from the flax plant. It's naturally hardwearing, recyclable, biodegradable and dirt-resistant, too. You'll be familiar with it as a cool component of summer clothing, but we use it for furnishing textiles too, including curtains and bedding.


Made from the pulp of trees grown in managed forests, Lyocell™ is a strong and silky biodegradable material processed using a continuously recycled, non-toxic solvent, saving water and energy. Find it extensively in clothing, and also in furnishing textiles.


Made from a type of nettle, ramie needs less water than cotton yet is up to 8 times stronger. This fast growing natural fibre is easily regenerated and plentiful and so a highly renewable natural resource. You'll see it mainly in clothing and in some furnishing textiles.


A profitable crop in regions of Africa, Asia and Australasia, this fast-growing palm can discourage logging as its production relies on the forest environment being maintained. Most commonly found in storage and outdoor and conservatory furniture, it also lends lovely texture to wall coverings and table lamp bases.


Grown in managed plantations, rubberwood is a plentiful and inexpensive by-product of the latex industry. Using by-product wood makes full use of the tree, and helps preserve virgin forests. It's a favourite for bathroom and children's furniture, as well as dining accessories like salad bowls and trays.

Water hyacinth

This quick-growing plant, capable of doubling in size every two weeks, is a renewable raw material. Harvested regularly, it keeps waterways clear and aquatic environments oxygen rich. Find it primarily in strorage products.


Continually renewable as a sheep is always growing a new fleece! Wool is naturally biodegradable, fire-retardant, reusable and recyclable - and, if sourced organically, it can be chemical-free too. Clothing, carpets and rugs are its traditional wares, but more recently you'll find it filling duvets and pillows too.