Materials Matter - Ecology Action Centre

By Lillian Hudson,2014-01-11 12:46
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Materials Matter - Ecology Action Centre

    Materials Matter

    The consumption of building materials is one of the primary areas YOU can make an impact in the

    direction of the building industry.

Where did this material come from?

     From the obvious (wood comes from trees) to the obscure (linoleum comes from linseed oil), this question explore the sources of the product. When looking for green materials, try to choose from one of four possible sources:

    ; Reclaimed: Reusing materials salvaged from other uses, reclaimed material offer new life to

    already existing materials...and lessens the load on our waste stream!

    Example: milling barn board to serve as interior trim

    ; Recycled: Unlike reclaimed, recycled materials are put back into the material production

    and re-processed into new materials.

    Example: glass tiles can be made from recycled windshields

    ; Sustainable Harvest: Yielding and harvesting materials without destroying the chance for

    future harvesting and the health of the sight.

    Example: Forest Stewardship Council wood for framing your house; building your cabinets;

    hardwood flooring; etc...

    In addition to helping preserve our resources, these material sources often offer finishes and aesthetics that are

    unique, unusual, and attractive! Working with what materials are available is a fun and accessible way of being

    involved in the personality of your home.

    Local Resources for Reclaimed / Recycled Building Materials

    Maritime Demo: 31 Orion Court; Woodside Industrial Park; Dartmouth NS. (902-830-5471)

     A local, large scale building deconstruction operation. With 4 large warehouses in there current location you can find almost anything if you put the time into looking. Carrying reclaimed hardwood flooring, structural lumber, kitchen sinks, windows, doors, cabinets, counter tops, and more!

    Happy Harry's: 46 Wright Avenue, Dartmouth, NS (902-468-2319)

     A pioneer in the building re-claiming industry, and a strong voice for recycling, Happy Harry's has been around for over 25 years and is now nationwide! You can find:

    ( Recycled used building materials.

    ( Recycled materials manufactured from products that would have ended up in the landfill.

    ( Factory over-runs, excess inventory from manufacturers that would have been destroyed.

    ( A database of unique or hard to find items is also kept, for people, on our web page -- free

    access is given to both source or sell items. These lists are also available at any of our retail


    Habitat for Humanity Re-Store: Unit U-121 Ilsley Avenue, Burnside; Dartmouth (902-405-3755)

     ReStores are building supply stores that accept and resell quality new and used building materials. They generate funds to support Habitat's building programs, while reducing the amount of used materials that are headed for landfills!

    Common Construction Products and What YOU can do

    ;; Concrete From walls to foundation to mortar for your tile floor, concrete is used in nearly every construction project. Concrete is very durable, chemically stable (little off-gassing), produced locally, and reusable / recyclable.

    The main processed ingredient in concrete, Portland Cement, requires immense amounts of energy for it's production, with high GHG emissions, and is the main environmental concern. What you can do: A waste product from coal fired power plants called Fly ash is a suitable displacer of Portland cement in concrete mixes! Between 15%-50% of the Portland cement requirements can be substituted. Request fly ash from your concrete contractor or structural engineer. For more info visit

    ?; Wood Wood is used in most all construction projects in some form or another, whether it be structural framing, cabinets, or bookshelves.

    What you can do: The source of wood is where environmental impact is important. Instead of using wood from destructive sources, support FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) products from here in Nova Scotia. Visit the Nova Scotia Green Sheets and

    ?; Steel The high strength of steel makes it ideal for use in structural beams and foundations. But steel is also used in everything from cabinets to furniture to doorknobs. You find steel everywhere. Steel production requires huge amounts of embodied energy and creates a great deal of negative environmental impacts.

    What you can do: Due to the high cost of steel production, most structural steel contains up to 80% recycled content. Look for the highest recycled content available in your structural steel. Recycling and Reclaimed building supply stores carry wide varieties of hardware and steel parts, Maritime Demo carries a variety of reclaimed structural steel beams and joists.

    ,; Brick - Brick adds a rustic and human scale to a home, and is used as a common finish material, both interior and exterior along with attractive details and walkways.

    What you can do: Reclaimed brick has low embodied energy counts, and can be easily sourced through used building supply stores. Putting effort into protecting bricks during deconstruction enables them to be used time and time again.

    !; Drywall Drywall is one of the most common materials used in construction today, typically finishing 90% of interior wall surfaces. Made up primarily of Gypsum, the negative environmental impacts of drywall are primarily found with the practices of massive gypsum mines. What you can do: Given the impact of gypsum mining, using recycled content drywall is a great idea. Several manufacturers offer recycled-content drywall paper as well. Inquire at your local building supply store, or through your drywall contractor.

    ,; Vinyl Vinyl creeps into a surprising number of construction products. It can be found in everything from pipes, to floor tile, to windows, to siding. Vinyl comes from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and is a plastic polymer made from petroleum. Often referred to as the “poison plastic”,

    vinyl is linked to numerous rare cancers occurring in factory workers and neighborhoods surrounding production plants. Because of it's toxic production, vinyl is only produced globally in a handful of locations, and shipped worldwide - increasing it's already enormous embodied energy count! Vinyl also produces incredibly toxic fumes if and when burned, and is so difficult to recycle most plants will not accept it. If it is recycled, the only product that can be created is more vinyl! Vinyl is bad.

    What you can do: Support PVC free alternatives. For more info and a list of alternatives visit; For a great documentary on vinyl go to

    Trusted Green Certification Programs

    Several wonderful third party certification programs have emerged as well-respected, trusted names.

    The following programs give you some assurance of product claims.

Carpet and Rug Institutes's Green Label and Green Label Plus

     The CRI has created Green Label and Green Label Plus, and independent testing program that identifies carpets and rugs with very low emissions of harmful chemicals, known as Volotile Organic Compounds (VOCs). For more info visit

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

     The FSC seal of approval is something you'll find on wood that has been sustainably harvested, meaning the forests are being managed in a matter to last for future generations. Look for the FSC logo as the greenest choice in purchasing wood products.

    For more info visit


     GREENGUARD is an inependant organization that has developed standards for adgesives, appliances, ceiling, flooring, insulation, paint, and wall-covering products. The GREENGUARD logo indicates interior finishes with low chemical emissions.

    For more info visit

Green Seal

     Green Seal's environmental standards for paints, household cleaners, and window products date back to the mid 1990s, and the products are independently tested to avoid bias. The Green Seal logo indicates the product has gone through rigorous testing standards to certify overall environmental quality.

    For more info visit:

Scientific Certification Systems (SCS)

     SCS has developed a certification program for environmentally preferable products and services, such as adhesives and sealents, cabinetry and casework, carpet, doors, flooring, and wall coverings. The SCS logo certifies the product lives up to its claims of recycled content and amounts of chemical off-gassing.

    For more info visist

Cradle to Cradle (C2C)

     C2C certifies a high standard for “environmentally intelligent” design. C2C examines the entire life cycle of a material to ensure the most environmentally friendly material available. For more info visit:


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