Building materials that are labeled as “green” should be sustainable, recyclable and non-toxic. Many so called “green products” don’t conform to this belief. While it is not possible to have all three of these with many building materials, it doesn’t hurt to try. It’s just too bad more building materials aren’t green.

Close to 15 percent of landfill waste is construction debris in areas where new homes where built in the last 10 years. And even more in high density construction areas like Florida, California and Arizona. This waste has got to stop sometime, not only for our planets sake, but it’s just bad business practice. That’s why this list is so important; to help average homeowners make an informed decision about sustainable building materials and true green products.

Forest Wood

Managed forest wood is probably some of the most sustainable species of hardwood available on the planet that doesn’t cut rainforest materials. By planting trees, harvesting select sizes and carefully leaving largely undisturbed old growth areas, managed forests are a perfect way to harvest what we can versus what we need and still maintain the status quo.

DIY Tip: Check the tag at the end of the lumber. You just might find you don’t have American lumber. America leads the way in sustainable forestry.


Composites are superior in some ways to conventional materials, in some ways they are not. Composites consist of wood particles and strands aligned in specific overlapping patterns to create strength. Glue is added and the materials are super compressed until a solid piece can form. Composites can be easily recycled.

DIY Tip: What is superior about this method is large structural materials can be created from quick growing timber. The downside is the glues used for bonding the substrates can be toxic.


Bamboo is starting to gain popularity as a sustainable building material because of its quick growth. This material has the strength and look of wood, it is a grass. Some species of bamboo can grow up to 2″ a day. Bamboo flooring is making a strong showing as well as paneling and composites. You can even buy composite bamboo in larger pieces and structural applications.

DIY Tip: Although this material can be planted and replaced quickly, many third world countries are destroying natural forests to plant this profitable plant. Check your materials before you buy.