Is that sustainable material really sustainable?

Is that sustainable material really sustainable?

In a recent seminar provided by Haworth in Puerto Rico, Michael Werner discussed the green/dark world of sustainable materials on which all of us consumers are drawn by suppliers all over the world. As products are being tagged more and more with “sustainable” or “eco-friendly” or “organic” for the worst tag, we blind-fold ourselves by the simple descriptions that just state that the product is organic or contains organic materials.

William McDonough defined sustainability by recognizing nature’s closed cycle (Cradle-to-cradle) instead of Cradle-t0-grave as we usually do with out every day trash; meaning that recycling is good but it isn’t exactly the definition of nature’s closed cycle. Riddle? Possibly, because it is a closed cycle, but in a closed cycle there is no waste,…”all things find another purpose at the end of their useful lives.”

How to know if a material is really sustainable?
Here are the top 10 questions (and a few embedded bonuses) to start with, in order to clear out the drawer and choosing right. Most of these questions might sound too extreme to be thought of, but actually are reasonable important facts:
1 • What is it comprised of? Are its source materials renewable or finite?
2 • How much contamination did its manufacturing process generate?
3 • How much energy, water did the process require? How far did it travel?
4 • Any toxic emissions?
5 • How about VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds)? This one’s tricky, careful with “organic” part.
6 • Does it require excessive transportation means to be produced?
7 • How much maintenance does it require? Replacements?
8 • Where does the material end up when discarded?
9 • How long will it last? (this one has to be proven and it’s complicated when the material is new).
10 • Where is the material being applied? This one is very important as from here, questions about maintenance, durability and reactions are important.



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Mabelle Plasencia

Founder and Editor at INmatteria©
• Architect | LEED AP BD+C, with an intense passion for materiality, innovation, technology and science. • Arquitecta | LEED AP BD+C apasionada por la materialidad, innovación, tecnología y ciencia.