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The toll of home-building materials on the environment and green construction alternatives

Purchasing a home that promises to be energy-efficient doesn’t mean that your home’s carbon footprint or overall environmental impact is any lower in the grand scheme of things.

Building materials that are likely to be in your home, like drywall and wood, take a major toll on the environment. While there are obvious environmental hazards associated with wood (related to the lack of sustainability in clear-cutting), drywall is as guilty of environmental degradation. It uses up a great deal of water and its production generates CO2. One fourth of wood in the world is used for construction, along with one third of the world’s water.

But progress is being made in the availability of eco-friendly building materials, and with a little bit of knowledge and understanding, we can evaluate the choices we make and look longer and harder at those things now taken for granted.

Options currently on the market include materials made from recycled products, concrete production that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, alternatives to Drywall (EcoRock for example) and flooring made from bamboo wood, which is one of the most sustainable materials on the planet.

And there’s another building material as well that’s sure to blow your mind, and it’s an alternative to clay bricks. This new alternative is one you might not want to think too hard about if you choose to use it in your home’s construction — because it’s made of poop: cow dung to be exact.

Clay mining degrades local environments around the world, and the production process of clay bricks pollutes the atmosphere with CO2. The cow dung bricks, better known as EcoFaeBricks, are 20 percent lighter than clay bricks, 20 percent stronger, more economical, have a decreased environmental impact and, yes, they’re made of poop. Poop has proven to have environmental benefits in the past, with the methane from chicken poop also being used as a source of energy in countries like China.

When you look at the numbers, EcoFaeBricks are definitely a more eco-friendly alternative. The company promises that the bricks can reduce CO2 levels released into the atmosphere by 1,692 tons per year if they became standard over clay bricks. By using processed cattle waste as the primary medium for the bricks, the company also claims that it can preserve 52 hectares of land that can be reserved for agricultural projects that benefit the environment.

The potential environmental benefits of EcoFaeBricks can’t be argued — but can you get over the fact that they’re made of poop?

(Photo courtesy EcoFaeBricks)

http://www.globalpost.com/notebook/global-green/091110/taking-closer-look-at-eco-friendly-building-materials