5 great Green Materials for home improvement and Interior design
There are times when it seems that everyone is offering the greenest most environmentally friendly product ever.
It’s worth approaching any claim with a bit of scepticism and when it comes to our homes that scepticism is particularly vital.
For any product that claims to be green ideally you would be able to look at every stage of its lifecycle, harvesting, transport, processing, delivery, use and disposal.
While the materials below all have good records you should also research any suppliers you use to make sure the first stages are as green as possible.
Both terms refer to fibres from the same plant, a type of banana palm from the Philippines. These fibres are mainly used for speciality papers but are also used as an eco-friendly substitute for glass fibres in plastic compounds. The best thing about Abaca is that it grows fast without the need for pesticides making it a rapidly renewable resource. It is normally produced by small farms in the Philippines helping to support their local communities, though some comes from Ecuador which uses larger farms and increased mechanisation.
Bamboo is probably the most famous green material out there. It can be used for everything from construction to clothing. Bamboo’s green credentials come from the fact that like abaca it grows incredibly fast and doesn’t need pesticides or fertilisers. The density of bamboo plantations also mean that a far bigger yield can be produced out of a smaller area, meaning more land for food or conservation.
The second most famous green material, and also the second most famous member of the cannabis family. Fortunately the level of THC in hemp is so low that it is impossible to get high of it. What you can do with it is use it in a huge range of products from food, to textiles and fuel. Hemp’s biggest green point is that it can be used as a ‘mop crop’ to removes pollution from soil and waste water. It is even being grown in Chernobyl to help lower radiation levels.
Seagrass is often used to make rattan furniture and rugs; because it grows underwater it is both tough and stain resistant. There are two common sources of seagrass. The first is marine cultivation which helps to stabilise the sea bed, preventing coastal erosion and establishing new ecosystems. The second is in rice paddy fields between the rows of rice. This type of farming has little ecological impact as it uses water that would be used anyway by the rice cultivation.
Both green and usually available from locally grown trees, wood can be a surprisingly green choice. The biggest benefit of wood is that it can sequester carbon for hundreds or even thousands of years. It can also be reused and recycled extensively. When using wooden products the greenest option is to use reclaimed wood. Not only does this prevent more trees being felled, but the reclaimed wood is often stronger and more stable than fresh cut lumber due to being exposed to more changes in temperature and moisture. If reclaimed wood isn’t available then FSC approved wood will ensure that it is harvested in a sustainable fashion.
Daniel Frank is a blogger and writer who is particularly interested in green issues, particularly corporate responsibility. He is currently writing on behalf of Wooden Blinds Direct.
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