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Sustainable Materials Industries Should Utilize More

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A huge portion of greenhouses gases released from the earth come from industrial operations. From the supply chain to the consumer’s doorstep, products leave an environmental impact. This was increased tenfold when plastics came to be.

And we have been paying the price for many years now. Our oceans are polluted, threatening marine life. Other bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes, and streams, are highly contaminated. Forests are depleting, and abnormally strong hurricanes are occurring more often.

Still, many industries haven’t learned their lesson. Our collective carbon footprint will only decrease if they partake in sustainability movements, too. They can start off by banning plastics and other non-biodegradable materials.

Such materials won’t be a loss anyway. These sustainable materials can replace them, and they boast versatile purposes in different industries:

1. Rubber

Natural rubber is a sustainable material as it is extracted from a tree. The sap that comes from it, called latex, is what most surgical gloves, rubber bands, rubber household gloves, and condoms are made from. However, the cultivation of rubber can have economic, social, and environmental impacts. Since the material is extracted from a tree, plantations are required. This could risk remote lands where small communities live.

In addition, companies would need laborers to produce latex. Some companies who want to save costs and get under the law’s radar would go as far as to use child labor. They can also resort to forced labor or give their workers insufficient wages.

Thankfully, it’s possible to cultivate rubber sustainably. A project called “Sustainable Cultivation of Natural Rubber”, which ran from 2017 through 2019, encouraged consumers and companies to create sustainable supply chains of rubber. Thus, industries and consumers should choose ethical rubber product manufacturers. It would support the natural life cycle of rubber without risking vulnerable lands and communities.

2. Sustainable Hardwoods

Surprisingly, not all types of wood are sustainable. Trees that cannot be replenished fast contribute to the depletion of more forests. But as the demand for hardwood grows, companies have no choice but to cut down more trees. Billions of hardwood are harvested every year, resulting in devastating effects on our forests and their surrounding environments.

Luckily, some types of hardwood used in home improvements and woodworking projects can be grown and harvested sustainably. They’re composed of five trees, namely white ash, black cherry, mahogany, maple, and oak.

White ash is known for making sports equipment including baseball bats because of their shock-resisting quality. It can also make furniture, especially curved ones because of its lesser density compared to oak.

Black cherry is also a popular furniture material. Traditional kitchen cabinets are often made of it. Characterized by its pink to reddish hues, black cherry is still popular in making modern cabinets, but they’re gaining favor as a flooring, door, and trim material as well.

Mahogany is likewise a traditional furniture material. It’s commonly used in outdoor amenities, like decks and pool areas, because it’s tough enough to withstand the elements. Their surface is also smooth enough to prevent bare feet from sustaining splinters.

Maple comes in hard and soft varieties. Sugar maple is a hardwood, making it a good material for flooring, furniture, cabinets, paneling, doors, and stair treads. The softwood variety is used in flooring applications, too.

Finally, oak is a signature indoor and outdoor flooring material, thanks to its durability, strength, and resilience. White oak is particularly popular because of its cleaner look. Red oak, on the other hand, is more finicky so it’s not recommended for outdoor use.

3. Bamboo
bamboo laid out in a wood board

Bamboo has been used in homes for many years now. But it’s just gaining popularity because of sustainability movements. Bamboo is sustainable because it’s easy to grow. Cutting them down won’t lead to massive environmental damage, as long as they’re going to be replenished immediately. Also, bamboo self-regenerates from its roots, so they can grow even in shallow, rocky soils.

Despite is thin and light appearance, bamboo is in fact stronger than steel. Its tensile strength reaches 28,000 lbs per square inch. In comparison, steel’s tensile strength is only 23,000 lbs per square inch. As such, bamboo can create durable flooring, fences, irrigation systems, bridges, and musical instruments.

Bamboo has also been replacing plastic straws and utensils. Suffice to say, it is the most sustainable material in this list.

If all industries can replace their unsustainable materials with these three, we wouldn’t be dealing with as much toxic waste anymore. In the future, we might also see fewer deadly hurricanes, floods, and other climate problems. Consumers should do their part as well. By purchasing products made from these eco-friendly materials, they also can reduce their individual carbon footprints.

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