Beyond sustainability: adopt low-carbon and regenerative materials

Regenerative materials

Beyond sustainability: adopt low-carbon and regenerative materials

Low-carbon and regenerative materials have emerged as critical components in addressing the challenges posed by climate change and the escalating waste epidemic. The waste epidemic is a global problem contributing to climate change and other environmental problems. For example, greenhouse gas emissions from material production increased by 120% from 5 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 1995 to 11 Gt in 2015.

Every year, we produce billions of tons of waste, much of which ends up in landfills or incinerators. This waste produces greenhouse gases, pollutes the environment, and takes up valuable land. Plastic is a typical example of this exacerbating problem. According to OECD, 6.1 Mt of plastic waste leaked into rivers, lakes, and the ocean in 2019.

22 million tonnes of plastic leaked into the environment in 2019, and this number is expected to double by 2060 (Source)22 million tonnes of plastic leaked into the environment in 2019, and this number is expected to double by 2060 (Source)

Thus, the need for low-carbon and regenerative materials is closely linked to the waste epidemic. These materials can help to reduce our reliance on virgin materials, which are often extracted from the Earth and produce greenhouse gases during their production. They can also help to reduce the amount of waste that we produce, as they can be recycled or composted.

Low-carbon materials as a new frontier

Low-carbon materials are those materials that contribute less to carbon emissions throughout their entire life cycle, from extraction or manufacturing to disposal. They aim to minimize the emissions of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), that contribute to climate change. These materials play a crucial role in transitioning to a low-carbon economy and mitigating the adverse effects of global warming.

  • Sustainable construction materials like low-carbon concrete and recycled concrete have a lower carbon footprint. Low-carbon concrete incorporates alternative materials like fly ash, slag, or silica fume, which can partially replace cement. Cement production is energy-intensive and emits substantial amounts of CO2. Holcim’s ECOPact low-carbon concrete is a good example of the use of low-carbon materials in construction. It offers at least 30% lower CO2 emissions compared to standard (CEM I) concrete. Recycled concrete is recognized on the LEED Green Building Rating System.
  • Lightweight composites, such as carbon fiber-reinforced polymers, offer higher strength and weight savings than traditional materials like steel. Using lightweight materials in transportation sectors, such as automotive or aerospace, leads to fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions.
  • Recycled polyester is made from plastic bottles that have been recycled. It has a lower embodied carbon footprint than virgin polyester, and it can help reduce waste in the fashion industry. Patagonia and Everlane are two popular clothing brands that use recycled polyester.

Recycled polyesterRecycled polyester

Beyond sustainability: regenerative materials

Regenerative materials are materials that play an active role in restoring and regenerating natural resources, ecosystems, and biodiversity.

These materials not only reduce environmental harm but also have properties that promote ecological balance, support sustainable resource management, and foster environmental restoration. From natural fibers to sustainable wood and timber, regenerative materials come in several forms.

  • Cover crops, compost, and organic fertilizers are examples of agro-based regenerative materials. Cover crops, such as legumes or grasses, are planted between main crop cycles. They help prevent soil erosion, improve soil fertility, and enhance nutrient cycling. For example, Organic Basics, in collaboration with WWF, supports farmers in Turkey to transition conventional cotton fields into regenerative cotton fields. The project promotes the planting of cover crops without deep tilling.
  • Natural fibers, such as hemp, jute, bamboo, and organic cotton, are renewable resources with regenerative properties. They are cultivated using sustainable land management practices and contribute to biodiversity conservation. Natural fibers offer alternatives to synthetic fibers, reducing environmental impact and supporting ecosystem restoration.
  • Responsibly sourced wood and timber from sustainably managed forests is another example of regenerative materials. They support the restoration and conservation of forest ecosystems. Forests provide habitats for biodiversity, help mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration, and support water and soil conservation.
  • Bio-based plastics are made from renewable resources, such as plants or algae. Compostable packaging is made from materials that can be broken down into compost. This means that it can be disposed of in a way that does not harm the environment. Check out our selection of top suppliers for bioplastics and bio-based plastics here.

The emergent conversation around low-carbon and regenerative materials

Low-carbon and regenerative materials play a vital role in addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and global climate agreements by contributing to multiple areas of sustainability and climate action. Here's how they align with these frameworks:

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 global goals established by the United Nations in 2015. Low carbon and regenerative materials are important to many of these goals. Here are some of them.

  • Climate action (SDG 13): Low-carbon and regenerative materials directly support SDG 13 by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change. They contribute to the transition towards a low-carbon economy, which is essential for achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.
  • Responsible consumption and production (SDG 12): Low-carbon materials promote sustainable production and consumption patterns by minimizing resource use, waste generation, and environmental impact. Regenerative materials align with SDG 12 by supporting sustainable resource management and reducing ecological footprints.
  • Life on land (SDG 15): SDG 15 harps on the need to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems. Regenerative materials, such as those derived from responsible forestry or sustainable agriculture, contribute to the conservation and restoration of terrestrial ecosystems. They help protect biodiversity, restore degraded lands, and promote sustainable land use practices.

Global Climate Agreements

The use of regenerative and low-carbon materials is important to the success of climate agreements across the globe. The Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius, can’t be successful without a shift towards regenerative and low-carbon materials.

In addition, low-carbon and regenerative materials are key components of the circular economy, which emphasizes reducing, reusing, and recycling materials to minimize waste generation and promote resource efficiency. The circular economy principles align with global climate agreements by reducing the need for new material production and associated carbon emissions


Low-carbon and regenerative materials are becoming increasingly important in the fight against climate change and in creating a more sustainable future. These materials are pivotal in mitigating climate change, reducing carbon emissions, restoring ecosystems, and promoting responsible resource management.

By adopting these materials across industries, we can drive the transition towards a low-carbon economy, conserve natural resources, protect biodiversity, and foster a more resilient and sustainable world for generations to come.

💡Check out tocco’s marketplace to source for more than 1000 low-carbon and regenerative materials here!


ECOPact. (2023). Sustainable Construction & Building Company | Holcim.

GOAL 12: Sustainable consumption and production. (n.d.). UNEP - UN Environment Programme.

GOAL 13: Climate action. (n.d.). UNEP - UN Environment Programme.

Goal 15 | Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (n.d.).

Hertwich, E. G. (2021). Increased carbon footprint of materials production driven by rise in investments. Nature Geoscience, 14(3), 151–155.

LEED rating system | U.S. Green Building Council. (n.d.).

Natural fibers as a low-carbon material: exciting possibilities | tocco. (n.d.).

Patel, M., Pardhi, B., Chopara, S., & Pal, M. (2018). Lightweight Composite Materials for Automotive -A Review. ResearchGate.

Regenerative agriculture | Organic Basics. (n.d.). Organic Basics.

The Paris Agreement | UNFCCC. (n.d.).

What is carbon sequestration? | U.S. Geological Survey. (2022, February 1).

Written by Anh N. on 07/08/2023

Stay Informed

Never miss out on the latest sustainable & regenerative materials!

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Let's talk!

We collaborate with brands, entrepreneurs, innovative suppliers and legends