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It has become increasingly clear that humans are negatively affecting the environment, and we have begun turning to new sustainable materials in an effort to curtail this effect. Many of these eco-friendly materials will become central to a global effort to reverse the damage we have done and will become far more common than we see today. We will look at what the term "sustainable material” means and how sustainable materials in buildings and textiles are poised to make an impact. 

The Significance of Sustainable Materials in the Modern World

General understanding of sustainability in materials

The sustainable materials definition broadly refers to any eco-friendly materials used in manufacturing that are more environmentally friendly than traditional alternatives. Their manufacturing or sourcing contributes to a smaller carbon footprint than conventional materials, so sustainable materials meaning include less waste, energy consumption, or depletion of natural resources. Many of these sustainable materials are recyclable or biodegradable to prevent their eventual place in a landfill.

Governments around the world are committed to reducing the carbon footprint of new developments and manufacturing, and a growing global economy’s appetite for sustainable materials will only grow. This more significant adoption of them is an essential step towards a more balanced ecosystem.

Production of sustainable materials must be of top priority, as well as the processes used to manufacture them. Saving energy and reducing gas emissions and raw materials production can make manufacturing practices much more efficient, with minimal waste production and recycling. 

Types of Sustainable Materials

Examples of sustainable materials include those divided according to their origin, unique features, and specifics of their manufacturing processes. So, the main types of these materials are attributed to their characteristics and application outcomes.

Biodegradable Materials

Biodegradable materials can be broken down naturally by the environment into more natural substances like water or carbon dioxide. From a waste management perspective, these products are safe and easy to handle, with no forever chemicals. 

You have probably heard of many biodegradable materials, including paper, cotton, and wool. These products are in many commonplace items and do not contribute to landfills as a result of their natural decomposition. 

Recycled Materials

Recycled materials have been reprocessed from waste or other goods into new products. They do not need unused raw materials, conserving the energy and environmental impact of acquiring raw materials.  

Common sustainable materials that can be recycled are glass, metal, paper, and sometimes plastics. These items are common in landfills and can be removed and given new life. Different industries are aggressively using recycled products, even in building eco-friendly materials. 

Secondary Materials

Secondary materials are products that are part of the waste from a manufacturing process that can be repurposed. 

Examples of secondary materials are the slag from steel production for building roads and ash from power plants used to make cement. Using byproducts in manufacturing is an environmentally friendly approach to preventing waste.

7 of the Most Sustainable Building Materials

The construction section is one of the driving forces of any national economy. Still, the production of most building materials causes much concern about CO2 emissions and other environmental challenges that modern society is facing. So, options considered the most sustainable materials should be favorable in construction. Among them, the most used are the following:


Bamboo is strong, durable, and light, lending itself to many use cases within homes. It grows quickly and is a renewable resource. Not only does bamboo grow quickly without a need for replanting, but it is naturally resistant to insects and diseases, reducing the need for pesticides when it is used. 

Recycled Steel

Old cars and building materials are typically salvaged, and their steel is stripped and melted down to be recycled into new products. Recycled steel can be used in anything and has a much lower impact on carbon emissions than mining for and processing new iron ore. Because it can be reused again and again, it is an excellent material for a continual positive environmental impact. 

Reclaimed Wood

When old wooden structures no longer have any use, the wood they are composed of can often be reclaimed. This wood is refinished and used for flooring, paneling, and many other opportunities. Reclaimed wood has a distinctive look that is currently popular and is often more affordable than new timber. Reducing our need to cut down more trees and the environmental impact of transporting and processing this new wood is significant. 


Cork can be used for flooring and insulation and is a natural product harvested from cork trees. Cork is an eco-friendly material that is renewable, biodegradable, and recyclable. Its natural thermal and acoustic insulation properties make it an eco-friendly building material.

Rammed Earth

Rammed earth is an ancient technique where raw materials like dirt, gravel, chalk, etc, are pressed together to form walls. Rammed earth walls have excellent thermal mass, keeping buildings cool in summer and warm in winter. 

Straw Bales

Straw bales can be used in walls during the construction process. It is renewable and easily biodegradable. It has been an excellent insulator for much of human history and still finds its place amongst modern options. 


Hempcrete is created by adding lime and water to hemp fibers. The resulting compound works great for insulation and non-structural infill. It is profoundly helpful in that it absorbs more carbon than is produced during the mixing process. 

7 Sustainable Materials for Clothing & Accessories

The fashion industry produces a significant amount of goods that end up in landfills as a result of the growth of "fast fashion.” Here is a list of sustainable materials trying to remove clothing from landfills:

Organic Cotton

Organic cotton is a sustainable material as it is grown without any chemicals or pesticides. It is very common in the fashion industry, used in clothes, bags, and hats. Organic farming for cotton uses less water and is one of the softer eco materials. 

Tencel (Lyocell)

Lyocell is an eco material made from wood that is most often referred to by its brand name, Tencel. It is based on wood pulp and has various applications, such as clothing and bedding. Nearly all water and byproducts from the manufacturing process are recycled and biodegradable. It is biodegradable, soft, and wicks moisture, hence its common use in clothing.

Recycled Polyester

Recycled polyester is made from old plastic bottles and is used to make clothes. Recycled polyester reduces dependence on petroleum as a raw material and diverts plastic bottles from landfills. It also consumes less water and energy compared to new polyester.

Bamboo Fabric

Bamboo fabric is made from the pulp of bamboo grass and used in a variety of clothing items, as well as in accessories like scarves. Bamboo fabric is an eco-friendly material with a luxurious natural sheen, similar to silk. It’s also naturally antibacterial, moisture-wicking, and offers UV protection.

Hemp Fabric

Hemp fabric is an eco-friendly material made from the fibers of the hemp plant. It’s used in a range of products, as it is a highly durable and strong fabric. It grows quickly, requires little water, and doesn’t need pesticides, making it an eco-friendly material.

Piñatex (Pineapple Leather)

Pineapple can be processed into the eco-friendly leather alternative Piñatex. It is a relatively new option but is finding a palace in fashion. It is a cruelty-free animal leather alternative and reduces waste as a biodegradable organic plant. It’s lightweight, durable, and has a unique texture as an eco-material.


Wool is an eco-friendly material used in different clothing items and should be taken from ethically raised sheep. Because it is an organic material from sheep, it is biodegradable and a great insular, making it popular in outerwear. Wool can be sourced from cruel farms and bad actors, but this is now a small minority of farms and shrinking. 


Sustainable materials come in many different types, as you can see from the sustainable materials list. They will be utilized faster in industries that have a greater amount of waste or energy consumption first and will trickle into other areas later. 

Sustainable materials are going to grow in importance as time goes on in the battle against climate change, and the eventual lowering of prices will aid them. As these sustainable materials become more common and produced at scale, their prices will come down, making it easier for price-conscious consumers to use them. New technologies and research will lead to more unique and affordable options, as cost is a key factor that drives adoption. 

Sustainable materials are important for more than just environmental reasons. Their focus on efficiency and waste reduction represents a shift in the approach to manufacturing. Sustainable materials examples, like bamboo or Tencel, will massively help shape a healthier environment for the future as they are introduced to more industries.