Sustainability is no longer a mere ‘buzzword’ – with increasing awareness of the environment, people all over the world have realised the need to be more sensitive towards nature. The world has truly embraced sustainability with consumers now more aware of the impact of their buying choices. There’s greater effort and time invested by people in selecting products with minimal carbon emissions so as to affirm their sustainable values and adopt a more responsible way of life.

There has been a rise in sustainable or green products across several industries including construction. Claims are often made about how certain products are sustainable without any evidence to substantiate them. Using creative marketing tools to imply that products or services are green is known as ‘greenwashing’ – a term coined by New York environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986 to describe the practices of a hotel, which encouraged guests to reuse their towels but was simultaneously adding more built properties to the site.

According to Westerveld, the reduced frequency of towel washing would make little difference to the company’s carbon emission output since they were expanding, although such a practice created a sense of environmental care. “It all comes out in the greenwash,” he wrote in the essay, which is still widely referenced today.

Greenwashing is widely prevalent today, and since it does not make a product green, it’s important to do more research about any product to confirm its green credentials.

Looking beyond the green labels

A product labelled ‘green’ may have different meanings; therefore, it’s essential to look beyond the tag and understand the realities of the label, rather than taking it at face value. For example, some timber varieties will be labelled green because of the way they are grown, cut or transported, but their manufacturing processes might not reduce incidents of logging.

When choosing materials to build with, it’s essential to consider the product’s whole lifecycle – from material sourcing and manufacturing to end-of-life. The material itself might be natural, but was land cleared to grow it? Does it become waste that can’t decompose at the end of its life?

A truly green product

Durra Panel, for instance, is manufactured from agricultural waste that would have been otherwise burnt. Made from wheat and rice straw, Durra Panel is an example of effective repurposing of an agricultural waste by-product while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions.

Durra Panel is manufactured using heat at pressure to compact the waste material and form a solid panel. The only additional materials are water based PVA glue and a recycled Kraft liner paper, which make it one of the most sustainable materials in the market. Durra Panels are completely natural and extremely strong, with the dense packing of the straw enabling the panel to store carbon, in turn, making it heat- and fire-proof.

From a recycled waste product to sustainable production to its application in building and after, Durra Panel’s journey throughout its lifecycle is environment-friendly. In the event the building is demolished, the Durra Panel becomes completely recyclable, completing its life as garden mulch or fertiliser.

To build a three-bedroom home with Durra Panel, approximately seven acres of straw are required – straw that will be available again within a year or less at the next harvest. When building a standard plaster wall house, 44 trees will need to be cut, equivalent to approximately half an acre of forest trees that will need to be cleared and will take another three decades to grow again.

We encourage you to consider your materials carefully as we continue to battle climate change in the construction industry. It is possible to build a green property using materials that are sustainably sourced and produced, and later recycled if required. Hopefully, the use of such materials becomes the industry standard very soon.