Naturally net-zero? It isn’t easy knowing where to begin. We have to cut our emissions, but how? Personal responsibility can be daunting.
FLY LESS, DRIVE LESS, BUY DIFFERENT FOOD, WEAR DIFFERENT CLOTHES, AND CHANGE TO RENEWABLE ENERGY!
This bombardment creates confusion. People are wondering where they can make the most significant impact. However, it is due of this awareness that demand for sustainable development exists. Yet, our abilities are hampered by, among other things, poor guidance, regulations and cost. For net-zero protocol to succeed, individuals should not be so anxiety-ridden. A frenzied approach does not bode well for an efficient transition to sustainability.
The Ugly, the Bad
Construction is central, amounting to 38% of global carbon emissions. Natural materials are the way forward. However, a (2022) government report says progress is ‘stubbornly slow’ in the UK. Perhaps the French route should be considered? From 2022, all public buildings will be built using 50% natural materials. Professor Michael Ramage, University of Cambridge, suggests this as a potential aid (p.50). Until now, concrete and other harsh, carbon-emitting materials are still in use.
People are also led astray by labels, such as ‘Green Concrete’. However, this is a weak improvement when greener natural materials are available. Greencrete and cement reduced alternatives do not optimise on benefits to:
- Health – Construction and living
- Biospheres on and around extraction/processing sites
- Long-term economic improvement
- Attitudes towards our environment
And the Good
Natural materials are the solution. Natural materials can improve safety on construction sites. Also, they allow for more offsite production. Indoor spaces are more breathable and regulate temperatures efficiently. Subsequently and importantly, these materials help us beyond our homes.
The use of materials like hemp and timber can engage us with farming practices. In turn, sustainable agriculture can flourish. A greater focus on hemp and wood will rejuvenate local biospheres and enable more carbon capture; these are significant points for natural materials. Without them, a net-zero home works alone. Natural buildings are instead part of a chain. Straw in construction is also making a comeback. This revival reduces farm waste and burning excess straw, which pollutes. Natural materials can more easily be grown locally, reducing transport costs and pollution. In addition, local communities can benefit from producers selling to local builders. By making a few significant steps, natural construction will increase rapidly.
If these words of Sir Winston Churchill are correct, natural green building has the potential to improve life beyond construction.
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