Building Materials, Fossil Fuels’ Ugly Cousin

We still live in a time when we do plenty things that are very harmful to our planet. It seems we’re all aware that fossil fuels like oil and coal create a considerable portion of our greenhouse gas pollution. But many people don’t understand that we also do a lot of harm to our planet with the materials we use to build and remodel our homes and buildings.

US GHG emissionsIf you examine some our most prominent building materials, it quickly becomes obvious that the way we’re doing things is causing a multitude of harm to our planet. The effects include a short list of things like land destruction from mining, deforestation, and significant greenhouse gas emissions from high energy consuming manufacturing.

Similar to the development of fossil fuel alternatives, the world has been busily developing eco-friendly building materials from recycled, sustainable, and rapidly renewable content. There are hundreds of true green building material alternatives available that are manufactured from eco-friendly materials like bamboo, cork, and recycled content like paper, plastic, and rubber. But much like the void in fossil fuel alternatives, we still need more building materials developed before we can get to where our planet needs us to go. How do we get there?

I hope you didn’t think I actually believe to have the answer to that question. Many experts would tell you that we have a lot of problems to figure out in both fossil fuels and building materials. One thing is clear to me when it comes to green building materials, inventors and entrepreneurs around the world are creating solutions that can actually make a difference.

I guess it’s understandable with all of the harmful things that we do to our planet that it seems like building materials have been flying under the mainstream radar. But I’m highly confident the world’s entrepreneurial green spirit will continue to create eco-friendly building materials using recycled, sustainable, or rapidly renewable content. I believe that, in many ways, we’re closer to solving the environmental consequences of building materials than that of fossil fuels, but time will tell. If the world’s researchers, scientists, product developers, and that guy or gal out in the garage can keep creating eco-friendly or green products and services that are competitive, I like our planet’s chances!


About the Author

is a third generation carpenter, experienced entrepreneur, and eco-friendly building materials expert.  He is also co-founder of Paper Plane Co. (paperplaneco.us) and primary author of the Paper Blog (whyecobuild.blogspot.com). He hopes to influence the use and awareness of green building materials as much as one guy can.
  • Bradley Robinson

    Materials and energy (and entropy) are closely interrelated related and it’s the built environment that consumes directly or indirectly the majority of both resources. Entropy is the inevitable sum waste byproduct of our resource intensive organization of these materials into our built environments. Waste is clearly a potential resource and the premier building material of choice now. shebuild.ca