Recycled Content

Nature rarely wastes resources.  Instead it works in cycles.  The leaves fall from the trees, break down on the forest floor, and become the foodstock for future growth.  Contrast that with our production system where the vast majority of products are on a one way trip to a hole in the ground.  On a finite world it is imperative that we learn from nature and think of resource cycles. 

This is not a new concept and some manufacturers already included recycled content.  This is a great start, but is only likely to become widespread if financially supported.  

In sustainable house literature passive solar design usually gets the lions share of the discussion, with a chapter on materials sometimes coming at the end of the book.  This however is to really downplay the importance of materials choice when building with the environment in mind.  When we build homes we are literally sending hundreds of thousands of dollars out into the economy.  Where we direct that cash flow does have an impact.  

When choosing materials try to include ones with recycled content, or better yet, materials that are completely recycled.  Please also consider about how easy it will be to recycle the product you specify at the end of its life.  In general products that are amalgums of different materials will be a lot harder to recycle that products that are single materials, or can be easily de-laminated.

Environmental product databases for the Australian market exist, that can guide you when sorting out the green from the greenwash.  See "Sustainable Products Directory" in our Useful Resources for Building Sustainably.

It is important that all the building industry start moving in this direction.  By incoorporating one or two new products on each build, you soon compile a list of cost effective environmental alternatives for each product in the house, so that new builds not only have a much lower environmental impact, but also have a more far reaching impact by supporting green initiatives in the economy more broadly.



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