Sustainable Materials

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This is a guide for choosing sustainable materials for your design. Many of these tips came from designer Justin Horst.

Building Materials

Tips:

  • Use clay, adobe, or terra cotta instead of concrete

Local Sources of Building Materials:

Fabrics

Tips:

  • Use natural fibers such as hemp, cotton, or wool instead of synthetic fabrics (synthetic fibers contribute to microplastics pollution)
  • Use scraps from old clothing for projects instead of purchasing new fabric

Local Suppliers:

Finish

Tips:

  • Use bio-based finishes instead of petroleum-based finishes
  • Look for low-VOC products

Further reading:

Foam

Tips:

  • Plant-based or fungi-based foam instead of plastic-based

Sources of bio-based foam:

Metal

Tips:

  • Use recycled metal, especially aluminum
  • Unused nails, screws, and other materials can be frequently be found at the Ithaca Reuse Center

Local sources of upcycle-able scrap metal:

Paper

Tips:

  • Used recycled paper, instead of fresh paper
  • Use paper that has already been used on one side

Fun Projects:

  • [Make a homemade notebook] (with paper that has already been used on one side)

Plastics

Tips:

  • Use plant-based plastic (PLA) instead of petroleum-based plastics - this includes for 3D printing filament
  • Use recyclable plastics (#1, 2, and 5), not non-recyclable plastics (#3, 4, 6, 7)

3D Printing:

Fun Projects:

Resin/Epoxy

Tips:

  • Use plant-based resin/epoxy instead of petroleum-based resin/epoxy.
  • Look for low-VOC products

Products:

Wood

Tips:

  • Use bamboo composites instead of other wood composites, because bamboo is rapidly renewable
  • Use local wood species instead of exotic wood species. These are more likely to come from sustainably managed forests and will have a lower carbon footprint from transportation.
  • If using exotic wood species, make sure they are FSC or PEFC certified.
  • Use reclaimed wood instead of new wood. Reclaimed wood sometimes comes from old growth trees, which makes it stronger. It can also come from interesting species that are currently protected by CITES and unavailable for purchase.

Sources of Local Wood: List of local wood suppliers

Certifications of Sustainable Lumber: