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)
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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GOAL 13: Climate action. (n.d.). UNEP - UN Environment Programme. https://www.unep.org/explore-topics/sustainable-development-goals/why-do-sustainable-development-goals-matter/goal-13
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LEED rating system | U.S. Green Building Council. (n.d.). https://www.usgbc.org/leed
Natural fibers as a low-carbon material: exciting possibilities | tocco. (n.d.). https://tocco.earth/article/natural-fibers-low-carbon-materials/
Patel, M., Pardhi, B., Chopara, S., & Pal, M. (2018). Lightweight Composite Materials for Automotive -A Review. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340646173_Lightweight_Composite_Materials_for_Automotive_-A_Review
Regenerative agriculture | Organic Basics. (n.d.). Organic Basics. https://regenerative.organicbasics.com/
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What is carbon sequestration? | U.S. Geological Survey. (2022, February 1). https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-carbon-sequestration
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