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Types of Sustainable Materials

General, Going Green, Inspiration | January 10th, 2010 No comments

In the whole idea of ecology, few words and terms cause a lot of confusion than the description of resources, objects, or practices as truly ‘sustainable’. On the one hand, some people think of sustainable materials as those things that are renewable. For example, some crops can be termed as renewable as they can be harvested and repeatedly replanted again and again. On the other hand, sustainable materials are viewed as those materials which can continually be reused by way of recycling. Even though there is no collectively agreed-upon definition of sustainability, many definitions so far portray the concept that the material in question can be used at a rate that will enable future generations access the same profusion of resources without creating any harm or danger to the ecology.

A great example of unsustainable resource is fossil fuels. Even though fossil fuel is produced naturally as part of organic material breakdown, the pace at which fossil fuels are consumed means that the quantity is repeatedly diminishing. Further. As the burning of the fossil fuels pollutes the land, sea, and air, using these materials cannot be viewed as having no effect on the environment.

Of great importance to note is that renewable materials can be sustainable materials, but are not always. Take a good example of growing corn, this can be harvested and the seeds replanted again. Hypothetically, the cycle can progress endlessly, especially if a good sustainability assessment is done and green practices effected to offset any damage caused to the surrounding ecosystem. On the other hand, if the same corn is made into ethanol, the end product can be renewable yes, but it will not be sustainable, because of the environmental pollution the refining process will cause.

Recyclable materials, according to some people, are sustainable materials, but on condition that the material is biodegradable. In sustainable fashion for example, cotton cloth can be used continually until biodegradation occurs and the material rots into an organic compound without causing any negative effect on the environment. However, plastic can be recyclable, but is not normally thought to be sustainable as it takes ages to degrade and what is worse, depending on the chemical component of the plastic, it can harm the environment when the chemicals from the material seep to the earth.

As per the latest sustainability assessment, it is very hard to find a perfectly sustainable material because it is quite rare that starting from the growth, modification, lifecycle, and decay of any material can take place with no effect on the earth. A lot of what determines sustainability has to do with the rate at which the materials are consumed. If you wish to lead an environmentally-friendly life, it would be wise to investigate every claim of sustainability with a lot of care. More often than not, materials thought to be sustainable are actually recyclable or renewable, but not sustainable.

Whether you are looking into sustainable fashion, sustainable building materials, or sustainable foods, ensure you use materials that guarantee a safe turnover of the environment.

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