The materials you choose during your home’s construction will have a lasting impact on the environment. Knowing how to incorporate environmentally friendly options into your materials list will help you to reduce your ecological footprint by using less nonrenewable resources, contributing less to landfills, and consuming less energy in the process.
Here are 5 eco-friendly home building materials to use in your environmentally-friendly home:
According to the U.S. EPA, construction activities account for almost 60 percent of the raw materials consumed in this country, other than food and fuel. The construction industry also contributes 170 million tons of waste to landfills each year. The most environmentally friendly materials will always be those that have been spared from a trip to the landfill.
Reclaimed materials do not consume any new products and do not contribute to waste disposal pollution such as groundwater contamination or greenhouse gas emissions. Some materials that are commonly found include structural lumber, flooring, bricks, metal work, and cabinetry. Some materials are highly sought after such as marble, antique doors and trim, some types of lumber, and antique fixtures. More and more demolition companies are using deconstruction techniques to salvage materials rather than going straight for the bulldozer making reclaimed materials easier to find.
If you are unable to source reclaimed materials for your home, the next best thing is to use materials that are grown and harvested sustainably. Wood is still the most common home-building material; therefore it is essential to source new wood from responsible manufacturers.
Most hardwoods take decades to reach maturity and high demand can cause them to be cut faster than they can be replaced. The Forest Stewardship Council is an international organization charged with the sustainable management of forests and woodlands. Their logo on a product means that the product meets international growing and harvesting standards and that the product manufacturer has concern for the environmental impacts of their activities.
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Speaking of sustainably harvested materials, have you considered using bamboo for your flooring instead of wood? According to Bamboozle, “bamboo grows incredibly quickly (up to 1 foot per day) and the plant still continues to grow after being harvested.” So, by using bamboo flooring in your home, you are impacting the environment much less than you would with hardwood flooring, even if that hardwood is sustainably harvested. On top of that, bamboo’s installation is faster, easier, and cleaner than hardwood or even carpet. They are also easier to clean and even more durable.
Although having a stylish roof is always a plus, “cool roofing” is an industry term that describes roofing materials that are heat-reflective. Almost all conventional roofing materials can be made “cool”: asphalt, metal, slate and tile. The difference is in the additives or coatings to make them lighter in color and give reflective properties. The EPA reports that cool roofs do deflect some heat gain that might be desired in the winter, but for most climates the energy savings from reduced cooling still results in overall energy savings.
Traditional concrete relies heavily on energy and nonrenewable resources. However, newer compilations significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions and make use of industrial waste from coal burning and iron production. Concrete can also be mixed with recycled materials including glass, granulated plastics, old tires, and other discarded materials instead of new sand and gravel. One concrete application that is making a comeback is insulating concrete forms. Concrete is poured between two layers of insulation to form walls and other structural pieces in a building. Because it is unseen it can contain any number of recycled materials.
There are many opportunities to include environmentally friendly materials in the home building process. From the foundation to the roof, and everything in between, reclaimed and recycled materials can be used in all areas of the home and new materials can be sourced from manufacturers that use sustainable methods. Once the home is built, be sure to refocus your environmentally friendly efforts on the interior: paint, appliances, utilities, and more.