Material Sources

The products we interact with every day are made from a wide range of material resources. Some are relatively rare and non-renewable, such as the gold used to make a wedding ring. The amount available in the long term is limited by the finite amount that can be mined from the earth’s crust or recovered and recycled from previous use. Other material resources are renewable in that they can be replaced by the normal cycles of nature. Plant materials are an example of this in principle.

Things to consider

  • Different materials can do similar jobs. For example, a table can be made from timber (recycled or virgin), chipboard, glass, metal or plastic with varying environmental consequences. There is a vast difference between a recycled timber desk and one made from rainforest timbers from questionable sources. This may have an impact on biodiversity.
  • Pollutants - A table made from wood composite might emit high levels of solvent and lead to poor indoor air quality. Some materials are more polluting in their production than others.
  • Think about the sustainable use of materials when looking at products. You can reduce environmental impacts by buying durable, long-lasting products made from materials with reduced environmental impact in their manufacture.
  • Choose products that have good disposal options at the end of their life, and/or that are made from renewable materials.