Home and garden maintenance isn’t always sustainable. From plastic planters and chemical lawn treatments, to material waste in construction and home renovations, the way we manage our homes can have a significant impact in our local environments.
The good news is, home upgrades can be made sustainably, and may even improve your home’s efficiency. Here are some eco-friendly and affordable building materials and projects you can use in your home.
Cob is a mixture of natural clay, straw, sand, and water that creates a multipurpose material you can use in construction and a variety of other projects. Since cob is easily made of natural materials, it doesn’t create any greenhouse gas emissions through production or transport. It’s also eco-friendly and won’t contribute to local pollution or landfill waste if you dispose of it.
Cob is durable and has been used for centuries in home construction. The straw provides the structure and stability so your building can weather seasonal elements. In fact, the oldest cob building is over 10,000 years old.
Cob structures also have a high thermal mass, so they can regulate internal temperatures well to keep you comfortable year-round.
If you’re interested in building with cob, a garden shed is a great place to start and learn the basics of cob construction. You can combine cob with other materials like stone and lumber as you like, so the structure is highly-customizable to your needs.
Cob walls are sturdy and weather-proof, so they’re perfect for lining your yard or garden. Create a beautiful and natural perimeter for your home that can be as tall or long as you like. You can get creative with the shape of your fence and decorate it with mosaic designs of stone or repurposed glass bottles to let in colored light.
Since cob is moldable like clay, you can also create your own planters or pots out of cob. Start small with a few indoor plant pots, and once you get the hang of shaping cob you can create all kinds of planters.
You can even use cob to create your own raised garden bed. The walls are sturdy enough to hold the heavy soil and the flexibility of cob allows you to make your garden as large or tall as you need.
Sustainable Material: Bamboo
Bamboo is a lumber alternative that grows much more quickly than trees, so it’s easier to produce and more sustainable. There are hundreds of varieties of bamboo available and not all are fit for construction, so you’ll want to do your research before gathering bamboo for your next project.
A living fence is a great way to add greenery to your landscaping while creating some privacy, too. Plant bamboo around your yard or patio for a natural fence that fits with your yard design. Of course, you can also build a fence with harvested bamboo instead of waiting for your plants to grow.
Bamboo is highly versatile and you can use it to make just about anything you can think of. If you’re crafty, bamboo is great for home decor. Use bamboo to create a trickling fountain in your garden or wind chimes for your porch.
Large bamboo stalks are easy to hollow and convert into pots, or you can tie stalks together to create a garden trellis for your vining plants. You can make birdhouses, candle holders, and so much more – the biggest limitation is your creativity.
Interior designers are also loving bamboo as an alternative to wood floors and paneling. Bamboo is more affordable than hardwood floors and offers a variety of colors, textures, and grains for your decor.
Bamboo building isn’t limited to floors and panels, either. Whole homes can be built with bamboo. Consider adding to your property with a bamboo sunroom or backyard shed.
Sustainable Material: Eco Bricks
Eco bricks aren’t just a sustainable building material – they’re a means to actually reduce global plastic waste. Eco bricks are created by trimming plastic waste that can’t be recycled and stuffing that waste into a plastic bottle until entirely compact. The plastic bottle becomes a durable brick for crafts and construction.
Eco bricks are assembled into modules, which are specific shapes to create stability. There are a few modules to choose from, and the best module for your project depends on if you’re building vertically or horizontally.
Eco bricks are great for a variety of projects, including building sustainable furniture. You can build tables, benches, and even chairs out of eco bricks. Assemble your bottles into the modular shape of your choice, and combine modules to shape your project.
While you can assemble eco bricks into a permanent structure with certain modules and clay, you can also continue to reuse eco bricks for play. Teach your kids the fundamentals of building with eco bricks, then let their imagination run wild! They’re great for outdoor play and children can build forts to play in while flexing their engineering skills.
Eco bricks are just as good at building homes, walls, and other structures as they are at building your smaller projects. The key to building outdoor structures with eco bricks is ensuring you combine the bricks with cob or other sustainable building materials.
Since eco bricks are made of plastic, exposure to UV rays from the sun can deteriorate the plastic – reducing its stability and potentially releasing harmful chemicals and microplastics into the environment. If you enjoy building with eco bricks, be sure you understand the principles of responsible eco brick construction first so you don’t end up causing more harm than good.
Whether you want to build your dream home off-grid, or you just want to add some structure to your garden, sustainable building materials are an affordable and eco-friendly way to improve your home. Check out these other sustainable materials and tech toys making construction healthier and more Earth-friendly.