We live in interesting times – that’s for sure. Today, governments and societies are beginning to finally take notice of the upcoming (or already here) environmental crises and the need behind fundamentally re-evaluating how we consume. While there is still a long way to go in this journey, in recent years, new sustainable solutions have popped up across the globe in the form of key materials and technologies.
Today, we want to specifically focus on a few eco-friendly materials which have taken retail by storm and are seen as impactful sustainable alternatives to traditional options, such as plastics. To be fair, some of these materials have been around for hundreds of years, but what excites us is the overwhelming attention they’ve recently received from both small and major retailers, as they begin to gain a common place in our homes.
We’ll also make sure to just more generally cover exciting new sustainable technologies in the future as well, so make sure to keep an eye on Zero Waste Hero blogs!
This one is a no-brainer on the list. In case you’re not familiar, you might be asking: “what’s the big deal about bamboo? Isn’t it just similar to wood?” While that would be a fair assumption, it’s far from the truth. bamboo is truly a sustainability super material, and here is why. Bamboo:
- Does not require fertilizers or pesticides for cultivation
- Grows more than 4 feet in one day
- Sinks 2 times more carbon than regular trees
- Has natural antimicrobial properties, making it easier to keep clean
- Is less energy-intensive to process than wood, cotton, and many other materials it displaces
All of this goes to say that bamboo has an unbelievably small footprint! Of course, to be fair, this isn’t anything new per se, as bamboo use dates back to as early as the 16th century BC in ancient China. However, it’s only recently that bamboo has begun to see a massive uptake for its environmental benefits, with usage increasing by 5% per year!
Another great feature of bamboo is that its lightweight, extremely strong, and can be woven into a fabric, making it an incredibly versatile material. This makes it perfect for all kinds of items, like our bamboo face cloth, toothbrush, utensil set, and many more product available at Zero Waste Hero!
Hemp use to be a marketing disaster case study. While the material is incredibly sustainable and high-quality, it previously suffered from an intertwined reputation with cannabis. However, with the rise of more educated consumers that can recognize the vast difference between these two byproducts and the changing attitude towards cannabis (especially in Canada), hemp is starting to get another shot.
More hemp is better for all of us, as this amazing material is an eco-friendly and higher quality alternative to products like cotton. Here are just a few facts to bring you up to speed. Hemp is:
- Hypoallergenic and non-irritating to the skin
- Highly resistant and does not require pesticides or herbicides
- Requires very little water to grow (50% less than cotton)
- Requires little land to cultivate
- Ages well and becomes softer overtime
As with bamboo, hemp has an incredibly old history and was a staple fabric across multiple ancient civilizations, including Rome, Greece, China, Mesopotamia, and much more. However, today it’s seeing another incredible rise, with hemp usage expected to increase by 35% per year. Today, hemp is often combined with other fabrics in items ranging from clothing to cleaning equipment. For example, at Zero Waste Hero, we carry Natural Non-Scratch Scour Pads and are excited to continue adding other hemp products to our lineup in the future.
Now, this is where we get into the really exciting futuristic materials. Bioplastic doesn’t refer to a single material but rather a family of plastics that are produced from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, recycled food waste, and so on. Bioplastics hold a number of key sustainability advantages over traditional petroleum-based plastics. For example, bioplastics:
- Produce significantly fewer greenhouse gases across their lifecycle
- Are biodegradable (however, still often require industrial composting systems)
- Can provide a use for food waste
- Are safer for marine environments
Bioplastics were technically discovered as early as 1926, but the material really started to gain traction in recent years as an alternative to traditional plastics is required. Today, bioplastics usage is expected to grow by more than 16% per year, representing the opportunity for a massive win for sustainability.
Of course, bioplastics aren’t perfect and still come with their own limitations. For example, they can be expensive and require high-temperature processing to biodegrade. However, it’s fair to expect bioplastics to only grow as a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional plastics over time as the technology improves and gains more traction.
It’s hard to look at all of these great new alternative materials and not get excited! However, remember that we still have a long way to go. Sustainable materials are only a part of the solution, and, even as they begin to take commonplace in our homes, we need to continue to emphasize conscious consumption. After all, the best way to reduce our footprint will always be to take a second look at what we buy and avoid unnecessary purchases altogether wherever possible.
About Zero Waste Hero
Hey again! Welcome to Zero Waste Hero. If you’re not familiar with us, we’re a Canadian-owned one-stop shop for sustainable and ethically sourced home and beauty products. Our mission is to make the transition to minimal impact living as easy as possible. Naturally, a big part of this involves educating our consumers, so we’ve begun regularly posting blogs aimed at covering the latest news in the world of sustainability, sharing eco-friendly lifestyle ideas, and so much more.
If you enjoyed this read, sign up for the newsletter and keep an eye out, as we’ll continue to regularly release other informative pieces like this. Also, make sure to follow us on social media and visit zerowastehero.ca for a collection of the best eco-friendly products out there!