9 Eco-Friendly Materials You Might Not Know Are Eco-Friendly

eco-friendly options in construction

If you were ever asked what sustainable materials you have or use at home — can you answer? Most people are aware of the 3Rs — reduce, reuse and recycle. These methodologies can be applied to several aspects of your life. 

Several products exist that are good for the planet and are ideal substitutes for unsustainable alternatives. Explore unconventional eco-friendly options in construction, fashion and packaging to be a proponent for the environment.

1. Mycelium

While not a key player in building materials, mycelium offers lightweight and robust home construction qualities. It’s made from an intricate web of fungal threads or hyphae growing underground or attached to rotten trees. 

These vegetative white or cream-colored structures may not be what you expect to find on your walls or floors. Still, they can be harnessed as industrial material with various applications in homebuilding, such as panels, bricks and blocks. They’re cultivated and mixed with organic nutrient-rich substrate matter to harden. The bricks function well as sustainable cladding, reducing the released carbon footprint from buildings. 

2. Asphalt

A common paving material, asphalt is 100% recyclable and can last 18 to 20 years if well-maintained. It’s already used on railway tracks, ports, airport runways and roads. You can utilize it in your driveway for a smooth, quiet ride. It provides superior skid resistance, boosting road safety and easy vehicle maneuvering. If you plan to use it for a renovation, such as in paving, ensure the material it’s made from and the work is of high quality so it endures. 

3. Hempcrete

Hemp-based concrete is a game-changer in sustainable construction because of its carbonation power, allowing it to offset the carbon footprint of other materials. Industrial hemp was a staple during Roman times, but it eventually fell out of favor due to its psychoactive effect.

It’s taking center stage after hemp production was legalized in some states due to its carbon-capture feature, making it more efficient than trees at sequestering polluted gas. On the downside, it’s not perfect. It lacks the mechanical strength needed to replace standard concrete — but it works great for roofing tiles, floor slabs and insulation. It’s nontoxic, environmentally friendly and helps negate carbon footprint. 

4. Bamboo

Bamboo is a popular green building material in Asia and is used in flooring, roofing and structural components in many native houses. However, its application might be limited in the U.S. because it’s considered a foreign material. The lack of familiarity with its performance and safety and the fact that it’s likely uncertifiable for insurance purposes make it a least preferred building component. 

There is insufficient data on building codes regarding bamboo. However, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D5456 has recognized laminated veneer bamboo as a structural product and is treated equally as other foundational composite lumber materials. 

In Western homes, it’s mainly treated as decorative and is used for wall coverings, fencing, furniture and landscaping elements. Hopefully, industrial experts can discover more ways to expand its use to construct environmentally friendly dwellings. 

5. Recycled Glass

Recycled glass can lead to significant savings and has many environmental merits. However, it’s a new player in the industry, so its applications are limited. Experts continue to explore other ways to utilize it.

Studies have found that glass sand — or waste glass powdered to look like sand — can replace up to 20% of natural sand in concrete mixtures. It shares the same strength and durability of concrete created out of raw sand. Experts plan to commercialize it in structural concrete at full scale. Waste glass can also be crushed and mixed with binders to create countertops or melted and molded into tiles.

6. Cork

It’s hard to believe how a material used to cap wine or champagne can be used to build a home — but it’s possible and even better since it’s eco-friendly. Cork is biodegradable and doesn’t release toxins once it’s broken down. Plus, it’s elastic, moisture-resistant and light — the qualities of an exceptional building material. Since using it is a new concept, many may be unaware it can be an eco-friendly alternative. 

Thanks to its versatility and durability, cork can be used to add insulation to the ceiling to retain heat during winter and keep the area cool in summer. It can also be used as flooring or as wall coverings. Ask an expert if you’re unsure whether it applies to your home upgrade project. They know the best materials to suit your needs and preferences.

7. Orange Peel Textiles

Juicing industries generate loads of peels that cause environmental concerns since only a portion goes into a compost pile. Meanwhile, the waste-producing textile industry seeks sustainable fashion. The marriage of two results in orange peel textiles — a recent ecological innovation.

Orange peels are already used as natural dye colors, but one brand takes it to another level. Its founders spearhead sustainable solutions for fruit waste through patented technology that separates the cellulose from the peels and turns it into yarn. It’s mixed with other materials to form a filament and weaved to create lace silk, satin and viscose. It’s something textile companies can explore to strengthen their commitment to sustainability. 

8. Piñatex or Pineapple Leather

Pineapple is another fruit in the sustainable line-up. If you’re up-to-date with fashion happenings, you’ve probably heard about this tropical plant stealing the sustainable spotlight.  

Pineapple leather is made from the leaves, which are discarded after harvesting the fruit. The membranes are extracted, washed, dried and bound into fibers to produce nonwoven textiles. 

The texture and appearance are perfected to arrive at the final product, which is vegan leather. If you’re big on this material, do your research on the company where you get your supplies. You’ll feel better supporting companies that don’t have to kill crocodiles, camels and other animals to make your loved bags or clothes.

9. Seaweed

Ocean cleanup volunteers often find traces of plastic bags in deep waters, leading experts to give seaweed a second look. Right now, it stands out as a natural substitute to curtail the world’s perpetual plastic problem.  

A packaging company in London is taking a massive step in the ecological shift by deploying seaweed-based materials in its products, from cartons and cardboard trays to paper wrappers. It intends to apply a circular economy in its processes by closing the loop of production and waste through seaweed. It can become a powerhouse of packaging in the future. 

Sustainability Awareness Is on a Roll

Thanks to social media and the internet, more people are aware of the significance of caring for the planet. The next step is to take action because that will determine your tangible impact on the world. Thankfully, many options exist to help you do that.

Support businesses that work hard to deliver sustainable goods without compromising quality. These organizations do their best — even disrupt their processes — to show their commitment to solving climate change. Buying these products shows your support for the cause and helps make the world a better place.

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