Trying to change your shopping habits can be an uphill struggle these days with the growing prevalence of ‘greenwashing’ and the already astounding array of products in all markets. Add this problem to the DIY sector and you find an area in which most people know even less about; when was the last time you checked the type of tree your wooden blinds were made from?
The following is a list of the most common home building green materials, i.e. materials that are exclusively harvested and brought to you in a green way, or that carry certification of sorts to back this up.
Despite its relative omnipotence (abaca is commonly used in clothes, rugs, tea bags and even dollar bills), not many people know about abaca. It’s found in certain banana trees, and can be found in the Phillipines, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
Because the entire plant is used during the harvest of abaca crops, it’s seen as an ecologically friendly material. The actual material is tough and flexible, is widely used in industry, and is known informally as Manila hemp. Look out for it!
Bamboo is a much more well-known for various reasons, not least is affiliation with pandas, but also the fact that it can be used to produce pretty much anything; the technology that makes it possible to make bamboo cloth for instance is now available. The dexterity of bamboo combined with its fast growth rate – rendering the use of fertilisers and pesticide unnecessary – means the material is both green and competitive, the magic blend that eco-conscious entrepreneurs are constantly looking for.
A fairly strange material that is now being used to make anything from rugs to wicker work, sea grass is by is very nature stain-resistant, and strong and durable to boot (making it a good alternative to actual wicker).
Sea grass currently has two green attributes: the crop has only recently began to be harvested in significant quantities, meaning conservationists have been monitoring is development from the very early stages of its use, secondly, side-effects of its production includes the creation of ecosystems, stabilisation of sea beds and protection against the erosion of coastlines.
Given its mention earlier on, hemp was bound to be mentioned at some point. Famously part of the cannabis family, hemp is often used to make things like rope and netting but can also be used to create bricks and fuel. It also grows fast like abaca and bamboo, and can be used as a mop crop, which means that contaminants from soils can be soaked up by it.
A staple of human development for thousands of years, the ever-useful wood is unfortunately the material on this list that is to be exploited – and this exploitation carries through to the people and animals that share their environments with forests. Illegal logging leads to deforestation, and their relatively slow growth means that the impact on oxygen supplies, clean water and bio sustainability are some of the biggest problems we currently face.
Having said this, ethically sourced wood that is FSC approved makes sure that trees are replaced, and biodiversity is sustained. Wood manufacture also uses fewer chemicals than most of the materials on the list, and is renowned for its strength in building everything from houses to paper.