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Green consumers

How do you decide which building material or product to buy?


How do you decide what to buy?

How do you decide what to buy?


In deciding which building product or material to buy, at least four environmental aspects should be considered.

  • The origin of the material used to manufacture the product requires some thought.  If the product was manufactured from recycled material or by using the by-products from other material, then it is preferable to products manufactured from virgin resources.  A further consideration is the impact of transportation on the environment.  What did it take to get the material or product to you?  Was it transported by plane, rail or road, and from how far away?  Is there a local alternative instead of importing something from overseas, or even a further away province?
  • Secondly, the environmental impact of the material or product while you use it, is also very important.  How much water and electricity will it use?  Can you offset some of these consequences through using renewable energy (e.g. solar energy) or rain water or grey water?  What kind of waste, pollution or emissions will using the product generate?  Will the use of the material or product result in the production of greenhouse gasses?  As a longer term consideration: how will you discard the material or product at the end of its life?  Can you recycle it?  Or can it be re-used or re-purposed? 
  • The degree to which a product or material is durable should also play a role in deciding what to buy.  Could maintenance be detrimental to the environment, and where will the product or material end its life: as rubbish on a landfill site, or can it be recycled, re-used or re-purposed? 
  • At the end of the day, which building material or product you buy should not only be a financial consideration.  It should not only be about what you pay, but also about the cost to the environment.  


Green consumers

Home owners, commercial developers and building professionals (e.g. architects, builders, painting contractors, project managers, draftsmen etc.) could be powerful green consumers who have a direct positive impact on the environment. 


Green consumers

Green consumers


What makes for an informed, aware green consumer?

  • Maximize the detrimental aspects of building, maintenance, renovation or painting that you can take out of the environment by trying to give preference to products and materials that are manufactured from recycled materials that would otherwise end up as rubbish on landfill sites, or products manufactured from by-products.  
  • At the same time, minimize the negative environmental impact as a result of using building products and materials.  How do you do that?  By giving preference to products and materials that use minimal water and energy, that require minimum maintenance, that are local, have the minimum negative long-term consequences, and that produces the minimum waste, pollution or emissions through its usage. 
  • Finally, minimize the detrimental aspects of building, maintenance, renovation or painting that the material or product leaves behind when it is no longer in use.  Try to give preference to products and materials that can be re-used, re-purposed or recycled - instead of ending up as rubbish on the landfill site.