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Navigating the Eco-Friendly Maze: A Carpenter's Perspective

Posted by Jay Wanty, Guest Contributor

Jun 16, 2015 5:50:55 PM

What the heck is eco-friendly and what's not?  In today's consumer markets there are many companies claiming eco-friendly products. But are they really not harmful to our planet?  That's the maze!  

Eco this. Eco that.ecofriendly

When we first started Paper Plane Co. we set two steadfast guidelines that we wanted our business to maintain as an eco-friendly building materials supplier.  First, Paper Plane Co. is only providing what we know to be truly eco-friendly building materials for the kitchen, bathroom, and home.   Second, we're keeping our message positive, focusing on educating consumers and not attacking any false advertisers or otherwise misguided. The last guideline is going to make writing this blog a bit difficult, but we'll see if we can get it through without naming any names!
 
So what's eco-friendly?  Well, it's probably a little easier to think about what's not eco-friendly...  
The first thing to consider is the manufacturing process for the good in question.  Understanding how much energy is required to manufacture the good can help determine whether or not it's really eco-friendly.  For example, some of the delusional claim concrete to be an eco-friendly building material. The reality is that a key component of concrete, cement or Portland cement, is produced via one of the most destructive manufacturing processes to our planet, because it requires so much energy.  
Glass products, also, require loads of energy. Just know ovens and kilns are bad!  If the product requires a gas or coal fired oven during it's manufacturing process, it cannot be considered eco-friendly. These ovens burn at temperatures over 2,500 degrees and release significant pollutants into the atmosphere.
For example, glass manufacturing utilizes kilns to melt and form the glass. Even if the glass being manufactured had been previously recycled, this still could not be considered eco-friendly.  The environmental damage of the oven counteracts any benefit of using a recycled input.  
Keep in mind also that toxins are never ok!  Anything made with toxic components cannot be considered eco-friendly. For example, bamboo is considered rapidly renewable and highly eco-friendly.  But when foreign manufactures utilize toxic glues to make bamboo flooring or plywood, it's no longer eco-friendly.  These materials will likely end up in a U.S. landfill someday and the toxins in that glue will be there for years to come.
Finally, mining is seriously painful to our planetbecause of deforestation, the use of noxious chemicals and an aftermath of dangerous exposure and leakage.   Anything that was mined could never be considered eco-friendly.
 
I hope this snapshot of info helps green friendly consumers in this topsy-turvy eco-friendly world.  When in doubt, it's probably best to just use common sense.  If it doesn't seem like it's eco-friendly than it's probably not!  In addition, organizations like the FSC and the EPA are consistently providing information on what's eco-friendly and what is not.  For more information on eco-friendly building materials used in kitchen remodeling, bathroom remodeling and other home remodeling please visit our site paperplaneco.us, thanks for reading!

Jay is a third generation carpenter, experienced entrepreneur, and eco-friendly building materials expert.  Author of the Paper Blog, Jay hopes to expand the awareness and use of eco-friendly building materials.
 
Editor's Note: While we agree with much of Jay's analysis here of which products are NOT eco-friendly, in many cases the lifespan of the product can tip the material toward the positive, at least when compared with alternatives. For example, glass windows can last hundreds of years, barring mishap, and certain other materials, such as concrete, IF they are properly protected from water, can also last for centuries. In this case, they could be described as more eco-friendly than shorter-lived materials. For example, wood siding that needs regular repainting may sometimes be less eco-friendly (over its life cycle) than other types of synthetic siding. The devil is in the details--Matt Power, Editor
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