Climate Change, carbon emissions, and greenhouse gasses continue to plague our planet to an astonishing degree despite our efforts to the contrary. Although we are beginning to implement more effective legislation to aid us in our battle to heal Earth, we still face tremendous obstacles in our everyday lives. Although the negative effects of things like petroleum oil extraction and traditional piston engines are widely documented and well-known, there are still many other neglected items that contribute to the carbon emissions which are suffocating our atmosphere. Case in point: concrete.
Concrete production results in the extensive and toxic release of carbon dioxide into our ozone layer on a daily basis, further poisoning our fragile world. This said, there are a number of renewable materials we can utilize in order to combat the said pollution. It is for this reason that I have elected to put together a concise but comprehensive list of sustainable concrete substitutes:
A traditional construction material, straw bales has existed throughout history as a sustainable and viable component of eco-friendly homes. Used within the interior to insulate a building’s frame, it is a legitimate alternative to not only concrete, but wood, gypsum, plaster, fiberglass, and/or stone. When used correctly, it provides a high level of insulation for both hot and cool climates and is incredibly affordable.
As the name might imply, grasscrete is actually a combination of both grass and concrete. By laying down foundation, sidewalks, walkways, and driveways so that grass and flowers can flourish, builders are reducing overall concrete usage, thus benefitting the environment. Not to mention, it improves stormwater absorption in addition to general drainage.
Trendy and effective, bamboo is a more than viable choice to replace concrete. As a locally-source building material, it boasts nearly unparalleled tensile strength, is lightweight, and is fast-growing in nature (and by extension, renewable). It has been used successfully in framing buildings and shelters, and can be even more effective than concrete when it comes to rebuilding post-catastrophe, low-income regions of the world.
Probably the most obvious choice on this list, simple wood poses a fantastic alternative to concrete. For one, trees absorb CO2. So when builders use wood, they are using much less energy-intensive methods to process it. Just as well, despite the rampant deforestation prevalent throughout the world, if a forest is properly managed, it is possible to ensure its renewability while providing for a biodiverse habitat simultaneously.
With so many options to replace concrete, it’s clear that we need to act in the best interest of our planet.