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A contractor looking over blueprints.

Whether you’re doing a major remodel or building a new home from the ground up, going green can be both good for your wallet and the planet. Consider that Americans waste one million pounds of materials per person each year, doing what we can to recycle or reuse these materials will certainly help.

To put it another way, using sustainable building materials can help to reduce over 3.5 billion pounds of carpet landfilled and nearly 3.7 trillion pounds of construction debris.

Leaning toward sustainability in your home can help you save on costs and could even increase the value of your home. A study conducted by the Institute for Market Transformation found that people were willing to pay 3.46% more for a home that has green features compared to a home that does not.

The good thing is that these materials don’t have to cost a ton either.

What’s the Difference Between Eco-Friendly and Sustainable

The terms eco-friendly and sustainable tend to be used interchangeably but they have subtle differences, though both terms refer to reducing environmental impact.

Eco-friendly building materials refer to ones that have less of an impact on the environment. Think bamboo, where the material can be used for a wide range of purposes —  everywhere from cutting boards to floors — and can be easily grown back and last a long time, reducing the need to be replaced as often.

Cork is considered to be another eco-friendly material because it’s also a fast-growing resource like bamboo. It can be harvested easily from a living tree and it’ll reproduce more cork. This material is also fairly resistant to wear and tear.

Now, you may think that sustainable materials are the same as eco-friendly materials like bamboo. However, sustainable building materials also includes materials based on waste and ones that don’t require a lot of maintenance, therefore reducing the amount of materials to replace or fix something.

The idea with sustainable materials is that it minimizes the impact on the planet in how materials are used in its overall lifecycle. The idea is that the construction process is being considered, not just the materials. That means these materials aren’t necessarily newly manufactured —  like cork and bamboo need to be constantly harvested —  but take what already exists and repurposes it.

Now that you know the difference between eco-friendly and sustainable building materials, let’s take a look at five that you can use for your next remodel.

Sheep’s Wool

Yes, you read that right, sheep’s wool. It makes total sense though —  sheep live in some of the world’s coldest areas, so their body needs to adapt to some of the most extreme conditions. When farmers harvest wool not only will it grow back, but you’re not really harming the sheep in the process as well.

Recently, builders have started using sheep’s wool as insulation for the home. Compressing the wool fibers forms millions of tiny air pockets that trap air —  keeping homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It also absorbs moisture from the air that generates heat, which could help cut down on energy costs.

Scientists are also experimenting with creating wool bricks, which can reduce the amount of traditional fired bricks used, hence using less energy in the manufacturing process.


This material, made from 96% ground glass and other types of recycled materials, helps to divert water in large paved areas. It’s as strong as standard paving surfaces while allowing water to trickle through. Don’t worry, just because it’s made of glass doesn’t mean it’ll be hard on your bare feet or tires. It comes in different colors and is also frugal-friendly.

Recycled Paper

Paper doesn’t sound like the most durable material, but whoever is the genius behind this idea is onto something. Manufacturers have combined resin with recycled paper to create a very durable material. Some even used an eco-friendly product, a cashew-based liquid, to create countertops. Builders can even use it to mimic wood as well as manufacture it in a wide variety of shapes and colors. They’re also really easy to install, which could cut down on installation costs.

Recycled paper is also found in insulation, known as cellulose insulation. It combines shredded newsprint with a borate additive that makes it fire retardant. It’s typically used for attic and wall insulation because it’s not water resistant enough for damp basement conditions.

Self-Healing Concrete

Concrete isn’t known as environmentally friendly – the cement industry is responsible for releasing tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As much as we want to ignore this material, it’s one of the more popular ones out there.

Scientists have come up with some pretty interesting ways to solve this issue, starting with self-healing concrete. This material incorporates self-activating limestone producing bacteria into concrete so that it lessens the amount that needs to be produced. It also can help to lower maintenance and repair costs.


This material is made from “agricultural waste fiber” or straw and grass. Instead of chucking it away, scientists have used this – which includes other materials such as sugar cane, elephant grass and rice straw – to create boards that are fire resistant. It’s typically used for roofs and walls. Basically, where you’d typically use wood paneling.

Of course, the above materials are just the beginning of what’s to come. When planning your next project, talking to a contractor about the type of eco-friendly or sustainable materials available will help ensure you’re doing your part to save the planet.

What green features are you most interested in having in your home? Let us know in the comments below!

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