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Sustainable Alternatives to Common Building Materials

Activism starts at home. Get your house in order and prepare to join the green initiative with these sustainable alternatives to common building materials.

Environmental consciousness has become an increasingly important concern in recent years, and with good reason. Many people have made big and little lifestyle changes in an effort to live more sustainable and eco-friendly lives. Because activism often starts at home, one of the most common changes people adopt when seeking greener lives is renovating their houses to become eco-friendlier and more energy-efficient. Many different home renovations can make your home environmentally friendlier, from major remodels to minor product swaps. You can replace even the most basic building blocks in your house to feature eco-friendlier materials. Explore several sustainable alternatives to common building materials with this brief guide.

Metal roofing

Eco-friendly building materials are often much easier to come by than many people realize, and they can make the interior and the exterior of your home far more energy-efficient and sustainable. Metal roofing is one such material that has become increasingly popular in many residential homes. Metal roofing offers many eco-friendly benefits that can help you live a more sustainable life. Metal roofs last far longer than other roofing materials, including wood, tile, or asphalt shingles, and they’re completely recyclable at the end of their long lives. This significantly reduces the amount of waste that goes into landfills each year. Metal roofing also lowers your home’s energy consumption, thereby reducing your carbon footprint and impact on the environment.

Reclaimed wood, metal, and plastic

Reclaimed recycled cut slabs of wood in a woodowrking factory.
Reclaimed recycled cut slabs of wood in a woodowrking factory.

One of the most sustainable alternatives to common building materials is recycled goods. Recycled building materials are available in a variety of forms, including reclaimed wood, metal, and recycled plastic. You can use these items in many different ways throughout your home. You can use reclaimed wood as an alternative to traditional flooring options or to craft one-of-a-kind furniture. You can also use reclaimed metal in flooring or countertops to add a lovely touch in homes with industrial design styles. Recycled plastic can even be used to create lush carpeting and other textiles throughout your home.


Sleeping dog on bamboo hardwood floors next to fireplace inside home. RLTheis
Sleeping dog on bamboo hardwood floors next to fireplace inside home. RLTheis

Bamboo is an extremely popular alternative to traditional hardwood floors for several reasons. Contrary to popular belief, bamboo is not technically wood—it’s actually part of the grass family. As such, it grows far faster than most wood, and it’s much more sustainable. Some bamboo species can even grow up to three feet in 24 hours. Bamboo is also extremely lightweight. This means that not as much energy is needed to manufacture, transport, or install bamboo. Excessive energy consumption is a major contributing factor to climate change, but using bamboo as an alternate building material limits this consumption. You can use bamboo as an alternate flooring option or in cabinetry and furniture.

Precast concrete

You can even swap out the most basic building blocks of your home for more sustainable options. Precast concrete slabs offer a much more sustainable and energy-efficient option than concrete that’s poured on-site. This form of concrete is formed at an offsite manufacturing site and then shipped to the construction site, where it can be cut to size and placed accordingly. Concrete is still rather heavy, but the energy needed to process and create this material is relatively low. The process used to create these concrete slabs is also less likely to produce cracked or damaged concrete, which therefore reduces the chances that the concrete will need to be demolished and recast.


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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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