As a self-employed contractor or the owner of a small construction business, you may wonder how you can reduce your impact on the world around you. Many companies are now share the public’s environmental concerns and doing their best to help. 

You may want to leave a better planet for future generations or appeal to the modern customer with your marketing. But for building, you still want to produce work that will stand the test of time. So it would help if you explored some of the different options when it comes to eco-friendly materials.

This guide will cover a few environmentally friendly materials, including:

  • Bamboo
  • Sheep’s wool
  • Straw bales
  • Plant-based polyurethane
  • Soil
  • Reclaimed wood
  • Recycled steel
  • Precast concrete

For more information about being a contractor, see: What is the best health insurance for contractors?


Trees and plants are crucial for absorbing carbon dioxide from the air, which reduces the emissions that contribute to the greenhouse effect – gases trapped in the earth’s atmosphere which stop the heat from the sun from returning to space, raising global temperature. Planting more trees to take in carbon could slow damaging climate change effects (melting of ice caps and rising sea levels which lead to flooding).

One plant that can grow in almost any environment is bamboo. While it’s sprouting up, it stores as much carbon as trees, but it grows and spreads quicker, like grass. Because of this, it’s more sustainable to use as a building material. For centuries, the material has provided scaffolding and structural support in Asia, Africa, and South America. It’s lightweight and robust, which makes it comparable to using steel in buildings.

Sheep’s wool

There are many sheep in the UK, and when their wool gets too long, they can get hot. Farmers regularly need to shear them to keep that from happening, but the market for sheep’s wool is struggling with low demand. According to the BBC, many farmers say the price they get for it is so low, that it’s starting to become ‘not worth selling.’

Much of the energy we use to heat our homes often requires burning fossil fuels. In order to use less energy, insulation can keep buildings warmer so is often seen as a way of making homes more eco-friendly. Sheep’s wool is a sustainable material for insulation and, in addition, is more flame resistant than glass wool.

Straw bales

Another natural material you can use for insulation is straw, which is a byproduct of harvesting barley, oats, rye or wheat and it’s grown in fields. It is eco- friendly as it’s constantly gathered anyway when producing grain foods. You can stack it into ceilings and walls by putting it into bales, used best in wooden homes. Straw insulation may be less flame-resistant or effective than wool, but it’s sustainable.

Plant-based polyurethane

Some customers may not like the sound of using a very basic natural material like straw. So perhaps they would prefer a modern solution for sustainable insulation. Plant-based polyurethane rigid foam is an outcome of producing bamboo, hemp and kelp together. It’s an excellent insulator and also offers other benefits. For example, it protects from mould and pests getting into your walls or roof.

For future construction projects, how you can heat a building efficiently may become more of a concern. By having a variety of renewable materials to choose from, you can keep homes warm and the planet cool.


Some of the adverse effects of different building materials can include their ability to be recycled. If they can’t be then, they will add to waste after use. Another effect is the energy consumption needed to produce materials, with much of the UK’s energy coming from burning fossil fuels which produces carbon.

One material that is fully recyclable and requires no energy to produce is earth. Rammed soil or mud are forms of dirt that many ancient buildings use. Built with mud-brick in the 13th century, The Great Mosque of Djenne still stands in Mali. Earth is always available to source locally, and by mixing it with water, you can create a durable material.

Reclaimed wood

Deforestation leads to the loss of wildlife by destroying animal habitats and increasing carbon with fewer trees to consume it. But cutting down trees is the only way to produce the popular building material, wood. You can use it for everything from furniture to homes. In recent years a new process has become popular, making wood less harmful to the planet. Recycled and reclaimed wood repurposes the material from other things. 

Many people have started to choose this option as it can often look more visually appealing than new wood. But with high demand and repurposing process costs, it is more expensive. Despite its benefit for the environment of reducing waste and avoiding more deforestation, its price is often on the higher end of materials.

Recycled steel

Another popular recyclable material is steel. The initial production of steel requires lots of energy, and its process causes pollution to enter the air. Steelworks are known for the dark clouds of smoke produced from their furnaces. 

Although, if the steel is already in circulation, recycling scrap uses far less energy to turn it into something else. You can reuse metals many times before they lose any of their properties. Steel is usually used to support structures for building because of its strength.

Precast concrete

Another material that’s been developed to make it more eco-friendly is precast concrete – made by producing concrete from a reusable mould. It can build walls and use less waste than traditional concrete. Other benefits include better quality and lower production cost.

Build an efficient business using Countingup

Aside from using environmentally friendly materials, there are other ways your business can have a better impact. By setting up a business account with built-in accounting software from Countingup, you can simplify the finance process. Replace all the paperwork typically needed to keep business finances by using one handy app.

With Countingup’s invoicing feature, you can create and send client’s their bills fully electronically. You can also make sure to take on renewable projects by keeping on top of costs. The expense categorisation tool allows you to sort all of your spendings using HMRC labels. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Start your three-month free trial today. 

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