Look for ‘green concrete’ materials thatare manufactured using leftovers or waste materials from industry. These require much less energy for production. Avoid traditional concrete as this produces large amounts of CO2 throughout the production process.
Tiles are highly durable and can be recycled. They do not emit harmful gasses through processing. High energy is needed to burn ceramic and stone in a kiln. Terracotta however is fired at a low temperature. Stone has thermal properties and is a natural material.
Producing any virgin plastics is highly undesirable. If plastics are to be used they are recommended to be post-consumer or post-industrial plastic that has been recycled to create new products.
Natural Rubber is produced by tapping rubber plants and is therefore renewable. However rubber supply needs to be managed carefully to avoid deforestation. Look for suppliers that are manufacturing materials using natural rubber or recyled rubber from sustainable supply chains.
Glass is considered a good sustainable material choice. It can be recycled over and over again in a closed loop, and is created from an abundant resource (sand). Glass remains stable when broken down, it’s non-toxic, and isn’t harmful to the land and oceans.
Paint contains Volatile Organic Compounds, compounds that vaporise (become a gas) at room temperature which can be harmful to your health. By specifying finishes and furnishings that have a low or zero VOC content, you can improve indoor air quality. Try to specify water-based paints instead of solvents which include whitewashes, mineral and natural paint that is water-based.
Look for fabrics that do not contain Phthalates. Polyester and cotton are the most common fibres in the world. Look out for carbon neutral and plant-based fibres as synthetic fibres are non-renewable.
Laminates are generally used as a finishing layer to MDF, timber furniture and wall finishes.They are made by pressing together thin layers of flat paper and plastic resins. The top layer is printed with a texture pattern or colour. They are almost always glued with a formaldehyde, which may have a negative impact on health and the environment. GREENGUARD Gold Certified is one scheme to look out for. Leading brand Formica have this standard on some of its products.
This includes decorative wall finishes and acoustic panelling, etc. Look for materials that make use of natural materials or recycled content.
There are many types of different flooring materials. Some are better than others.
The carbon impact of carpet is driven by the extraction and processing of oil and gas into different petrochemicals and into layers. Therefore new carpet can be one of the largest contributors of embodied carbon among interior finishes. Both nylon and natural fibres can use a significant carbon impacts from industrial processing. Try to specify cradle-to-cradle recycled carpet, preferably tiles instead of broadloom and try to avoid plush, high-pile carpet with virgin nylon fibre.
Vinyl is created from a concoction of highly toxic chemicals, it is also non-renewable and its manufacturing process emits harmful pollutants. Vinyl cannot be recycled. PVC is one of the most environmentally hazardous consumer materials produced. Although popular because it is cheap and durable, we should try to use other materials wherever possible.
Wood will keep its carbon emissions stored if it is not burned or decomposing. Therefore, using reclaimed wood is the most efficient option. Fast-growing trees store carbon faster than slow-growing trees, so specify wood from sustainably managed forests that support fast-growing trees. The FSC (the Forest Stewardship Council) is a forestry scheme that manages to harvest trees sustainably. Try to specify wood products that are manufactured using renewable, non-CO2 emitting energy sources.