What is a Sustainable Resource?
Not all sustainable materials have low environmental impact. Production of some sustainable naturally grown materials may require high water usage, high energy expenditure, or expansion of agricultural lands, thus causing further deforestation of the planet. On the other hand, sustainable materials may result in the depletion of resources that can be affecting other spheres of human existence.
Paints, lacquers and varnishes are among the chemical everyday products that have a particularly distinct effect on our environment and health. Solvents, monomers, softening agents, and biocides are only some of the components of these products that present the potential for serious ecological and toxicological risks during their production, manufacture, application, use, and ultimate disposal.
Metals are the second most used raw material in the world. 7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions come from the production of these 7 metals – aluminum, copper, iron, lead, magnesium, nickel, and zinc. The extraction and production of the metals have major environmental impacts: acidification of the land, deregulation of land and water habitats, heavy metal pollution of soil and water sources, and depletion of the ozone layer. Soon the cost of recycling metal will rival the cost of extraction.
More than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood. Preserving forests is critical as they are invaluable sources of food, water, medicine and biodiversity. They also play a fundamental role in carbon absorption and are estimated to reduce global CO2 emissions by 20%.
More than 15 million tons of used textile waste is generated each year in the United States, and the amount has doubled over the last 20 years. In 2014, over 16 million tons of textile waste was generated, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The United States textile recycling industry removes approximately 2.5 billion pounds of post-consumer textiles each year from the waste stream, and the industry creates more than 17,000 jobs.
Virtually every product you own is held together with one adhesive or another, and every adhesive leaves a mark on the environment. Air quality is negatively impacted by the VOC emissions of solvent-based adhesives. 3% of all solvent based emissions is from the bonding of adhesives. Furthermore, breathing emissions from solvent based adhesive can lead to serious health complications such as asthma, lung disease, and respiratory infections.
Minerals & Glass
Non-metallic minerals include a large number of materials that are essential to all industries. Sand, gravel, limestone, and clay are essential to manufacture glass and various building materials (cement, concrete, etc.). Minerals also include many other rocks, such as marble, granite, and graphite, and all are non-renewable resources. Non-metallic mineral usage is only second to water. Extracting minerals has a significant negative environmental and social impact, permanently altering ecosystems through erosion and acidification, destroying natural habitats of endangered species, such as dolphins and crocodiles.
The overwhelming majority of people on earth are completely dependent on plastic. Since it was widely adopted back in the 1930’s Plastic has become a dominant force on our planet. Because of our high dependence on plastics we have generated an astounding amount of waste – over 9 BILLION TONS of plastic waste. Unfortunately only a small fraction of our annual plastic waste is recycled, with approximately 79% of plastic waste winding up in landfills or out in the environment, like the ocean.
The life cycle of paper has an environmental impact from start to finish: it starts with the cutting of the tree and ends with it being burned, resulting in CO2 emissions. Paper production accounts for 40% of the world’s commercial wood production. As a result, it is one of the main causes of deforestation and of the extinction of endangered species. Paper production requires an extensive amount of water and energy. The paper industry is the 5th largest consumer of energy in the world, with one sheet of A4 paper costing as much as 10 liters of water.