Green Alternatives to Common Building Materials

Green Alternatives to Common Building Materials

Green Alternatives to Common Building Materials

Introduction

As I strive to make my home and lifestyle more environmentally friendly, I’ve been researching green alternatives to the building materials I commonly use. Reducing my environmental impact is important to me, so I want to share what I’ve learned about eco-friendly options for construction and remodeling. There are many ways we can make greener choices when it comes to the materials that go into building our homes and workplaces.

Natural and Recycled Materials

Using materials made from renewable or recycled sources is an excellent way to lower the environmental footprint of construction. Here are some great options I’ve discovered:

Bamboo

Bamboo is an incredibly renewable resource that can be used to make flooring, cabinets, furniture and more. Bamboo is fast-growing and reaches maturity in just 5-7 years, compared to 10-15 years for most woods. Bamboo flooring has a stylish look and is durable like hardwoods. It’s a fantastic eco-friendly choice.

Recycled metals

Many metals can be recycled repeatedly. Choosing products made from recycled steel and aluminum like beams, siding, roofing and more significantly reduces mining demands. Recycled copper is also a green option for wiring, pipes and architectural accents.

Reclaimed wood

Using reclaimed lumber salvaged from old barns, factories or homes gives new life to materials that would otherwise go to waste. Reclaimed wood makes charming flooring, furniture and decorative accents. Sources like demolition companies or specialty resellers offer unique, eco-friendly wood products.

Natural linoleum

Unlike vinyl flooring which contains petroleum-based PVC, natural linoleum is made from renewable materials like solidified linseed oil, cork dust, tree resins, recycled wood flour and limestone. This classic flooring alternative is durable, easy to repair and stylish.

Sustainable Concrete Options

Concrete is a very common building material, so choosing eco-friendly options for concrete elements like foundations, floors and countertops is impactful. Here are a few ways to green up your concrete:

Fly ash concrete

Substituting fly ash for some of the cement used in concrete reduces the overall carbon footprint. Fly ash is a byproduct from coal burning and gives concrete good compression strength. Up to 40% of the cement can be replaced with fly ash.

Recycled aggregate

Crushed concrete from old demolition projects can be used as the aggregate in new concrete mixes. This recycled material replaces the need to use newly mined and processed aggregate like gravel.

Green concrete certifications

Look for concrete products that hold third-party certifications related to sustainability like Greenguard and EcoLogo. These verify greener concrete manufacturing processes.

Healthier Insulation Options

Proper insulation is essential for energy efficiency. Here are some great eco-friendly options that are also health-conscious choices:

Cellulose

Cellulose insulation made from recycled newspaper is a fantastic green option. Cellulose contains high amounts of recycled content, helps air seal, and creates no fiberglass-related health concerns. Adding cellulose to wall cavities is an easy DIY project.

Hemp

Hemp insulation offers similar benefits as traditional fiberglass but contains no toxic formaldehyde binders. It’s a natural, renewable choice made from fast-growing hemp. Hemp insulation has good fire resistance too.

Wool

Sheep’s wool is a surprising insulation material that’s naturally fire and mold resistant. Reusing this abundant natural material keeps waste out of landfills. Wool insulates well and helps with moisture control. Look for brands using sustainable wool sources.

Eco-Friendly Siding and Roofing

The outer surfaces of our homes provide ample opportunity to go green. Here are my top picks for eco-friendly siding and roofing:

Recycled metal roofing

Metal roofing made from recycled content has incredible longevity – beyond 50 years! Look for products with a high recycled percentage like steel shingles containing 95% recycled content.

Fiber cement siding

Fiber cement is a composite of natural materials including wood fibers, sand and cement. It has a similar look as wood siding but is fireproof, pest resistant and durable. Many fiber cement products contain recycled fly ash too.

Solar roof shingles

An exciting development is solar roof shingles that integrate photovoltaic technology into individual shingles. This allows the entire roof surface to generate renewable energy! Solar roofs are still a specialty product but have enormous green potential.

Final Thoughts

Implementing green building materials takes a bit more research and effort, but the environmental rewards are well worth it. With so many eco-friendly options now available for all facets of construction, it’s truly possible to build sustainably from the ground up. I’m excited to incorporate these planet-friendly alternatives into my next remodeling project!