When it comes to saving the planet, there are some materials that everyone gravitates toward to get the job done.
Bamboo, cork, and recycled wood are the most common choices when you’re looking for environment-friendly materials, but what about those that don’t get as much praise?
What are the environment friendly materials that the world doesn’t know about?
Materials like plant-based foam, mycelium, wastewater, and jesmonite are just a few examples that you might not have heard of before.
These newly discovered materials are changing the way we look at an environmentally friendly building and manufacturing, and their unknown status makes them even more exciting.
We’re going to dive deeper into each of these unique materials to see what makes them special, how they’re sourced, and what exactly they do to be classed as environmentally friendly.
You could get some inspiration on an upcoming project or just expand your knowledge on the most eco-friendly way to get things done, and some insight into what we can expect in the future.
If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of the environment-friendly materials, we got you covered:
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Water is one of our most valued resources, but until now we weren’t sure what could be done with it once it’d flushed down the toilet or drain.
Thanks to a plastics company in the Netherlands, it’s been discovered that wastewater can be used to create a sustainable type of plastic. The fully biodegradable plastic is made from sludge and when it breaks down returns to its natural state.
Although pilot testing is still underway and improvements are being made, this is just one of the exciting ways that we can rid ourselves of harmful plastics in the future and make a switch to environment-friendly materials in everyday items.
The slimy, slippery green stuff found in the ocean is about to have its moment in the eco-friendly spotlight, thanks to recent discoveries.
Scientists have found that farming algae is a sustainable way to produce material for a range of products, but most importantly as a plastic substitute.
When algae breaks down it returns to its natural state and is totally safe for the oceans, which is where single-use plastic seems to be causing most of the harm.
Although algae are green on arrival, it can be dyed to any color you want, so it’s sure to become one of the most popular natural materials for clothing design and packaging.
Jesmonite is a lesser-known cast concrete substitute and one that has amazing eco-friendly properties, especially in terms of building homes and large scale furniture.
Developed in 1984, this material is continuously being improved, but already has many uses in design, art, and construction. It’s an alternative to resin-based products and more environmentally friendly than concrete, so would suit many applications.
The original composition featured gypsum, known as a greener alternative to fiberglass, but since its early days, it has undergone many changes and become even more sustainable, affordable, and green.
Mycelium wins points for being one of the most unique and environmentally friendly materials we’ve found, coming from the humble mushroom.
This vegetative part of the mushroom features many thin, branching hyphae, which turn out to be pretty structurally sound when put into the right environment.
Some designers have been using mycelium to create smaller items like furniture or larger structures like pavilions, so we’re only seeing the beginning stages of its capabilities.
As of yet, it’s not readily available for public consumption, but shows promising signs of being a popular eco-friendly material in the future.
#5 Plant-Based Foam
Plant-based polyurethane rigid foam is quite a mouthful, but it’s also the way of the future for eco-friendly materials. This foam is similar to what a surfboard is made of, but a lot better for the environment.
Made out of plant-based materials like hemp, bamboo, and kelp, it’s super strong, immovable, and has natural properties that protect against pests and mold.
As an added bonus, it’s an amazing insulator against sound and heat, so one of the products to watch if you’re planning n making your home a little greener.
#6 Sheep’s Wool
You might not think of sheep if you’re trying to come up with eco-friendly materials, but their wool is one of the most powerful natural resources we have.
We’ve known for centuries that sheep’s wool is great at keeping us warm, as evident with countless wool socks, scarves, and jumpers, but did you know it could be used to build a house as well?
Sheep’s wool is a natural insulator and can be used in walls, attics, and ceilings, and because it grows back quickly once sheared, it’s a readily available and energy-efficient material.
#7 Straw Bale
Straw bale can be used as an environmentally friendly insulator and has been taking off in the construction world for homes that want a greener approach.
These bales, usually made with different types of straw mixed together, are put into attics, walls, and ceilings just as you would with fiberglass and other synthetic forms of insulation.
Straw is easily harvested and can be re-planted, and to create the bails requires very little energy. Beware though, as straw is known to attract rodents, so you’ll need to apply a natural render to the top to keep them away.
#8 Recycled Steel
Steel is the last thing that comes to mind when you’re talking environmentally friendly materials, but thanks to the power of recycling, it doesn’t have to be.
Recycled steel uses products already in existence and turns them into building materials, like beams, poles, and other structural parts, saving the earth from all that forging and smelting.
Just six unwanted junk cars have enough steel to create a 2,000 square foot home, so it’s an excellent way to reuse and recycle. By recycling steel instead of making it new, you can save around 75 percent of the energy which is pretty impressive.
We can learn a thing or two from other cultures about using natural resources in an eco-friendly way, and building homes with natural earth is one of them.
In parts of China and South America, earth homes are common, and they may be growing in popularity here in the US soon. Earth homes are made with a mixture of soil, gravel, and cement, and they’re natural insulators, sound absorbers, and fire proofers.
If you plan on building an earth home you’ll want to make sure you don’t like in an unseasonably wet area and that you have approval from the local council to use it.
#10 Precast Concrete
Concrete in itself isn’t the first choice that comes to mind when you’re thinking of environmentally friendly materials, but making the switch to precast concrete can help with this.
As concrete is a natural material and one that’s also recyclable, many people choose it to make their eco-friendly homes.
To make it even greener, you can choose pre-cast concrete that has been poured into molds and then cured, normally done on the building site.
This process saves a lot of energy and waste in the process and is the smartest way to use it for buildings if you want to take an eco-friendly approach.
Finding ways to create and build while using eco-friendly materials is a great way to do your part for the environment, and get some benefits for yourself as well.
If you’re thinking of building a house or starting a project and want to know more about choosing the right materials, we’ve got the answers to some commonly asked questions.
Which Wood Is Eco Friendly?
Most types of wood come from trees that aren’t as sustainable or environmentally friendly as other materials.
However, if you’d prefer to use wood for a project choosing something like bamboo, cork or teak will give you the greenest choice. Alternatively, recycling and repurposing old pieces of wood is a smart eco-friendly option.
Is Cotton Environment Friendly?
In terms of making clothing, cotton is one of the best choices for the environment. The cotton plant is easy to grow without relying on too many natural resources, and it’s sustainable, biodegradable, and renewable.
Cotton products tend to last longer when made with care, so if you’re looking for clothing or bedding choices that are environmentally friendly, it’s one of the best.
Is Silicone Better Than Plastic for the Environment?
Many reusable and eco-friendly products these days are made from plastic due to its durability and environmentally friendly properties.
It’s ideal for hot and cold use, and when burned, it will revert to its original state of harmless ingredients including water vapor and carbon dioxide.