The Concept of Biorefinery

A biorefinery is a facility that integrates biomass conversion processes and equipment to produce fuels, power, and value-added chemicals from biomass. Biorefinery is analogous to today’s petroleum refinery, which produces multiple fuels and products from petroleum. By producing several products, a biorefinery takes advantage of the various components in biomass and their intermediates, therefore maximizing the value derived from the biomass feedstock.

A biorefinery could, for example, produce one or several low-volume, but high-value, chemical products and a low-value, but high-volume liquid transportation fuel such as biodiesel or bioethanol. At the same time, it can generate electricity and process heat, through CHP technology, for its own use and perhaps enough for sale of electricity to the local utility.

The high value products increase profitability, the high-volume fuel helps meet energy needs, and the power production helps to lower energy costs and reduce GHG emissions from traditional power plant facilities.

biorefinery-process

Biorefinery Platforms

There are several biorefinery platforms which can be employed in a biorefinery with the major ones being the sugar platform and the thermochemical platform (also known as syngas platform).

Sugar platform biorefineries breaks down biomass into different types of component sugars for fermentation or other biological processing into various fuels and chemicals. On the other hand, thermochemical biorefineries transform biomass into synthesis gas (hydrogen and carbon monoxide) or pyrolysis oil.

The thermochemical biomass conversion process is complex, and uses components, configurations, and operating conditions that are more typical of petroleum refining. Biomass is converted into syngas, and syngas is converted into an ethanol-rich mixture.

However, syngas created from biomass contains contaminants such as tar and sulphur that interfere with the conversion of the syngas into products. These contaminants can be removed by tar-reforming catalysts and catalytic reforming processes. This not only cleans the syngas, it also creates more of it, improving process economics and ultimately cutting the cost of the resulting ethanol.

Plus Points

Biorefineries can help in utilizing the optimum energy potential of organic wastes and may also resolve the problems of waste management and GHGs emissions. Biomass wastes can be converted, through appropriate enzymatic/chemical treatment, into either gaseous or liquid fuels.

The pre-treatment processes involved in biorefining generate products like paper-pulp, HFCS, solvents, acetate, resins, laminates, adhesives, flavour chemicals, activated carbon, fuel enhancers, undigested sugars etc. which generally remain untapped in the traditional processes. The suitability of this process is further enhanced from the fact that it can utilize a variety of biomass resources, whether plant-derived or animal-derived.

Future Perspectives

The concept of biomass-based refinery is still in early stages at most places in the world. Problems like raw material availability, feasibility in product supply chain, scalability of the model are hampering its development at commercial-scales. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of USA is leading the front in biorefinery research with path-breaking discoveries and inventions. 

Although the technology is still in nascent stages, but it holds the key to the optimum utilization of wastes and natural resources that humans have always tried to achieve. The onus now lies on governments and corporate sector to incentivize or finance the research and development in this highly promising field.

Is Your Commercial Cleaning Service Sustainable?

It’s becoming more evident with time that people who want to ensure any form of financial security in the future need to start their own businesses. You can’t rely on your day to day job anymore to give you that feeling of financial security, and many are starting to realize this. So, people invest their money in all sorts of ventures, but one in particular has much potential for it if you know what you’re doing: commercial cleaning services. It’s probably crossed your mind at one point or another to start one, but there’s a problem stopping you. Is it sustainable? It can be, if you do all the right things.

A huge industry

In case you didn’t know it, the cleaning services industry is a multi-billion dollar one that is growing every year, and it’s a great business to get into if you know what you’re doing. The first thing you should do is identify if you want to get into home cleaning service or commercial cleaning service. The latter naturally takes the bigger chunk of the industry as a whole since companies hire atlanta cleaning service for regularly maintaining their office spaces.

Residential cleaning is also relevant to millions of people calling services to keep their houses clean, but it definitely isn’t as big as its commercial counterpart, and that’s why you probably started your cleaning service in the commercial sector. If you are aiming to make your business sustainable, you need to do a couple of things.

Stick to your niche

So, you started a commercial cleaning service, and there’s a lot of money in it. But that doesn’t mean you should get greedy and try to get into residential services as well. Spreading yourself too thin could be the end of your business, and you don’t really need to do it because the commercial cleaning industry is more than capable of sustaining your company.

Even if you hit a dry spell, don’t think about abandoning your specialty for the sake of another; instead, wait it out and things will get better for your company.

Cost VS quality balance

One of the most important things you need to do to keep Madison cleaning service running is maintaining a balance between keeping the cost low and yet giving your customers excellent quality.

You need to understand that there are dozens of others like you out there, so if your business sees a dip in quality, you’ll lose all your clients. Instead, you can cut costs by not having a large office space, for instance, or opting for older cleaning technologies, while still maintaining quality.

Invest in your people

For Wimbledon cleaning services, the most important asset is their personnel! All of the cleaning technicians are professionals who’ve gone through thorough training, allowing them to handle the great variety of cleaning solutions and to ensure the safety and satisfaction of the customers! They must always maintain professional conduct, so expect nothing but perfect results!

These are the most important points you need to tackle in order for your commercial cleaning service to be sustainable. If you can do that, the sky’s the limit for your business.

Biorefinery Prospects in India

India has a tremendous biomass potential which could easily be relied upon to fulfil most of our energy needs. An estimated 50 MMT (million metric tonnes) of liquid fuels are consumed annually in India, but with the actual biomass potential and its full utilization, India is capable of generating almost double that amount per annum. These biomass estimates only constitute the crop residues available in the country and essentially the second-generation fuels since the use of first-generation crop bases fuels in such food-starved nations is a criminal thought.

Biomass-India

Existing Technologies

Currently, there are various technologies available to process such crop residues and generate value products from them. However, essentially, they all revolve around two main kinds of processes, either biochemical or thermal.

The biochemical process involves application of aerobic/anaerobic digestion for the production of biogas; or fermentation, which results in the generation of ethanol. Both these products could be subsequently treated chemically and through trans-esterification process, leading to production of biodiesel.

Alternatively, the thermochemical processes involve either the combustion, gasification or pyrolysis techniques, which produces heat, energy-rich gas and liquid fuels respectively. These products can be used as such, or could be further processed to generate high quality biofuels or chemicals.

The Need

The estimated organized energy breakup for India is 40 percent each for domestic and transport sectors and 20 percent for the industrial sectors. The current share of crude oil and gases is nearly 90 percent for the primary and transport sectors and the remaining 10 percent for the generation of industrial chemicals.

The fluctuating prices of crude oil in the international market and the resulting concern over energy security, has lead developing nations to explore alternative and cheap sources of energy to meet the growing energy demand. One of the promising solution for agrarian economies is Biorefinery.

The Concept

Biorefinery is analogous to the traditional petroleum refineries employing fractional distillation process for obtaining different fractions or components from the same raw material, i.e. the crude oil. Biorefinery involve the integration of different biomass treatment and processing methods into one system, which results in the production of different components from the same biomass.  This makes the entire chain more viable economically and also reduces the waste generated.

Typical Model of a Biorefinery

The outcome ranges from high-volume, low-energy content liquid fuels, which could serve the transportation industry needs, to the low-volume but high-value chemicals, which could add to the feasibility of such a project.

Steam and heat generated in the process could be utilized for meeting process heat requirements. By-products like chemicals, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, polymers etc are also obtained which provide additional revenue streams.

Benefits

Biorefineries can help in utilizing the optimum energy potential of organic wastes and may also resolve the problems of waste management and GHGs emissions. Wastes can be converted, through appropriate enzymatic/chemical treatment, into either gaseous or liquid fuels.

The pre-treatment processes involved in biorefining generate products like paper-pulp, HFCS, solvents, acetate, resins, laminates, adhesives, flavour chemicals, activated carbon, fuel enhancers, undigested sugars etc. which generally remain untapped in the traditional processes. The suitability of this process is further enhanced from the fact that it can utilize a variety of biomass resources, whether plant-derived or animal-derived.

Applicability

The concept of biorefinery is still in early stages at most places in the world. Problems like raw material availability, feasibility in product supply chain, scalability of the model are hampering its development at commercial-scales. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of USA is leading the front in biorefinery research with path-breaking discoveries and inventions.

Although the technology is still in nascent stages, but it holds the key to the optimum utilization of wastes and natural resources that humans have always tried to achieve. The onus now lies on governments and corporate to incentivize or finance the research and development in this field.

How The Cleaning Industry Can Be More Sustainable

In over 90% of the CPG categories, sustainability-marketed products grew faster than their conventional counterparts. According to Harvard Business Review, products that had a sustainability claim accounted for 16.6% of the market in 2018 and delivered nearly $114 billion in sales. After all, cleanliness is one of the most essential aspects of our lives – the very reason Green Cleaning existed.

For the longest time, we have learned how poor indoor environmental quality has had a significant effect on our health and the economy. Thus, the choices we make in cleaning products, can either save the planet or wreak havoc on future generations. Here’s how the cleaning industry can be more sustainable.

green-cleaning

What is Green Cleaning?

According to Stephen P. Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group; Green Cleaning is simply defined as “cleaning to protect health without harming the environment.” This means using cleaning tools, chemicals, and equipment that have a positive impact on the environment. Green cleaning requires more than using products that are more environmentally friendly through the use of goods that help to promote sustainability.

This starts with the product utilizing natural and renewable resources to where it is packed through the use of recycled materials. Not to mention, sustainable product and packaging help reduce the amount of paper and plastic used as well as the fuel used for transport.

More Companies Adapting To Green Cleaning

In terms of economic growth, several companies are implementing effective green cleaning strategies because they believe that sustainable action has a triple bottom line effect. John Elkington proposed that a green, sustainable company or facility should concentrate on the “three Ps”: profits, people, and the planet.

office-cleaning

Studies also show that cost-effective savings are possible when sustainable operations are in place. In 2001, Kimberly-Clark Professional, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of washroom products launched Reduce Today, Respect Tomorrow. This program reflects the company’s philosophy of reducing the use of natural resources throughout the life cycle of its products. Products are manufactured with a source-reduction in mind and designed in such a way that users consume less, either by improved efficiency, more reliable dispensing methods, or both.

With the current global economic and environmental crisis, there are so many reasons for green and sustainable initiatives to be taken. More and more businesses are going green, and more consumers are noticing the value of using eco-friendly, non-toxic products, and preventing harm to nature.

The cleaning industry is one field that needs to be green, as the heavy use of chemicals and other products contribute a great deal to pollution and household safety.

How To Stay Green With Your Office Cleaning

Businesses are incorporating sustainability into their daily practices in an effort to do their part in creating a more eco-friendly future.  If you’re among the businesses that are adopting eco-friendly business practices such as conserving resources and reducing waste, you’re probably always looking for additional ways to go green.

An area that some businesses overlook is their cleaning practices. Many conventional cleaning products contain chemicals that have a negative impact on people, animals, and the environment. Chemicals in cleaning products can cause health problems such as asthma, cancer, and birth defects. After the products are used, they typically get washed down the drain. Water treatment facilities can get rid of some of the contaminants but not all. These contaminants then get washed into our rivers and lakes, where it can have a negative impact on wildlife.

This is why more and more businesses are incorporating green cleaning into their business practices. If you’re looking for additional ways to stay green, it’s time to look at your cleaning practices.

What is green cleaning?

Green cleaning is when you use cleaning methods and procedures that are designed to preserve human health and the environment. Typically, this means using products that contain environmentally friendly ingredients. Most green products are also manufactured in an environmentally friendly way and are biodegradable.

office-cleaning

Most green cleaning products contain a label on their packaging that indicates the company has met certain environmental and labor standards. However, it’s important to remember that some companies can get this label just by donating to environmental causes or using recycled packaging while their products still contain harmful chemicals. You should always check to see what ingredients are in the product to ensure that it is environmentally friendly. Avoid products that use phosphates, chlorine, artificial fragrances, and artificial colors.

The right green cleaning products smell more natural and will still clean your business just as well as conventional cleaning supplies.

How do I switch to green products?

If you would like to practice green cleaning, the first thing you’ll need to do is to find out what you’re currently cleaning with. If your business does its own cleaning, go around your business and make a list of all your products. If you’re using a cleaning company, ask them to provide you with a list.

After you have your list of products, go through and see if any of them are green products. You can do this by seeing if any of them have an ecolabel or checking to see if they are EWG verified.  If any of them are, great! You’re already using green products.

If they don’t, you’ll want to see if the vendor you buy your supplies from offers a green product line. If you’re using an outside cleaning company, see if they’re willing to use green products. Most companies will already have alternative products on hand. Some companies, such as Executive Cleaning Services, LLC, will also let you provide your own green cleaning products while still doing the cleaning for you!

Aren’t green products more expensive?

No, not necessarily. Depending on where you buy your products, you can get them for around the same price as conventional products.

There are a number of ways to make green cleaning affordable. If you’re a small business, you can consider making your own cleaners out of natural ingredients. If you purchase your products from a vendor, see if you can buy in bulk or buy concentrated products. You’ll spend more money upfront, but the products will last longer.

You should also eliminate unnecessary products to help reduce costs. There are many all-purpose cleaners out there that can be used on multiple surfaces.

What other ways can I stay green with my cleaning?

Switching to green cleaning products is the best way! If you’re not using green products, then you’re not practicing green cleaning. However, it’s also important that your entire team is on board. If your employees go out and buy conventional cleaning products to clean their own cubicle with, it defeats the purpose of your company using green products. Engage your employees in the process of switching to new supplies so that they have a say.

Some might even start practicing green cleaning at home! If you use a cleaning service, make sure you choose someone who also adopts green cleaning practices. An example of someone who does this is Ideal Cleaning – they only use environmentally cleaning products as they understand how much safer they are to use.

In conclusion

If you’re already practicing sustainable business practices, make sure to add green cleaning to your list of practices. Or, if you’re trying to find ways to start being sustainable, green cleaning is a great first step! It’ll take some time to review your current cleaning products, but once you identify new green cleaning products, you’ll be good to go.

Dealing with Household Hazardous Wastes

Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) are leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients such as paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, pesticides etc. HHW contain potentially hazardous ingredients and require special care and safe disposal. 

household-hazardous-wastes

A typical home can contain a vast array of household hazardous wastes used for cleaning, painting, beautifying, lubricating and disinfecting the house, yard, workshop and garage. The chemical-based household products from a single home may seem insignificant; but, when millions of homes use similar products, handling, storing and disposing them improperly may have the combined impact and becomes a major problem.

The health and safety of our families, neighborhoods and environment is threatened when household hazardous waste is stored or disposed of improperly. These products should not be put in the garbage bins or disposed in the storm drains or burned, as they pose a threat to human health and the environment. Thousands of consumer products are hazardous. The general categories are:

  • Automotive products: Gasoline, motor oil, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, car wax and cleaners, lead-acid batteries, brake fluid, transmission fluid etc.
  • Home improvement products: Paint, varnish, stain, paint thinner, paint stripper, caulk, adhesives etc.
  • Pesticides: Insecticide and insect repellent, weed killer, rat and mouse poison, pet spray and dip, wood preservative etc.
  • Household cleaners: Furniture polish and wax, drain opener, oven cleaner, tub and tile cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, spot remover, bleach, ammonia etc.
  • Other: Household batteries, cosmetics, pool chemicals, shoe polish, lighter fluid, prescription medicines etc.

Each year, thousands of people are injured by exposure or accident involving hazardous household products.  Because of the dangers they pose. These products require special awareness, handling, and disposal.  In order to protect health and environment, every consumer should know how to properly use, store, and dispose of hazardous household products. 

Many common household products contain hazardous chemicals.  Once released into the environment, these substances may pose a serious threat to living organisms.  Small quantities of hazardous substances can accumulate over time to reach dangerous levels and contaminate the air, water, and soil. 

Here are some basic guidelines for managing household hazardous wastes:

  • Select the least toxic item and buying only the minimum quantity as required.
  • Read the entire label carefully for health warnings and use good judgment when choosing any product.
  • Store the product at a safe place and away from the children reach.
  • Avoid aerosol products.
  • Always use hazardous products in a well-ventilated area.
  • Never leave containers open.  Many products are volatile, evaporating quickly into the air. 
  • Always seal containers tightly after use.
  • Never mix chemicals and hazardous products. 
  • Do not use spent chemical containers for other purposes.
  • Wear protective clothing such as gloves and a mask when dealing with any hazardous material. 
  • Wash clothing exposed to hazardous materials separately from other clothes.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while using hazardous products.
  • Clean up the place after using hazardous products. Carefully seal products and properly refasten all caps.
  • Never put hazardous products in food or beverage containers.
  • Keep products away from sources of heat, spark, flame or ignition.
  • Know where flammable materials are located in your home and how to extinguish them.
  • Keep a multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguisher in your home.

Everything You Should Know About An Algae Biorefinery

High oil prices, competing demands between foods and other biofuel sources, and the world food crisis, have ignited interest in algaculture (farming of algae) for making vegetable oil, biodiesel, bioethanol, biogasoline, biomethanol, biobutanol and other biofuels. Algae can be efficiently grown on land that is not suitable for agriculture and hold huge potential to provide a non-food, high-yield source of biodiesel, ethanol and hydrogen fuels.

algae-biorefinery

Several recent studies have pointed out that biofuel from microalgae has the potential to become a renewable, cost-effective alternative for fossil fuel with reduced impact on the environment and the world supply of staple foods, such as wheat, maize and sugar.

What are Algae?

Algae are unicellular microorganisms, capable of photosynthesis. They are one of the world’s oldest forms of life, and it is strongly believed that fossil oil was largely formed by ancient microalgae. Microalgae (or microscopic algae) are considered as a potential oleo-feedstock, as they produce lipids through photosynthesis, i.e. using only carbon, water, sunlight, phosphates, nitrates and other (oligo) elements that can be found in residual waters.

Oils produced by diverse algae strains range in composition. For the most part are like vegetable oils, though some are chemically similar to the hydrocarbons in petroleum.

Advantages of Algae

Apart from lipids, algae also produce proteins, isoprenoids and polysaccharides. Some strains of algae ferment sugars to produce alcohols, under the right growing conditions. Their biomass can be processed to different sorts of chemicals and polymers (Polysaccharides, enzymes, pigments and minerals), biofuels (e.g. biodiesel, alkanes and alcohols), food and animal feed (PUFA, vitamins, etc.) as well as bioactive compounds (antibiotics, antioxidant and metabolites) through down-processing technology such as transesterification, pyrolysis and continuous catalysis using microspheres.

Algae can be grown on non-arable land (including deserts), most of them do not require fresh water, and their nutritional value is high. Extensive R&D is underway on algae as raw material worldwide, especially in North America and Europe with a high number of start-up companies developing different options.

Most scientific literature suggests an oil production potential of around 25-50 ton per hectare per year for relevant algae species. Microalgae contain, amongst other biochemical, neutral lipids (tri-, di-, monoglycerides free fatty acids), polar lipids (glycolipids, phospholipids), wax esters, sterols and pigments. The total lipid content in microalgae varies from 1 to 90 % of dry weight, depending on species, strain and growth conditions.

What is Algae Biorefinery

In order to develop a more sustainable and economically feasible process, all biomass components (e.g. proteins, lipids, carbohydrates) should be used and therefore biorefining of microalgae is very important for the selective separation and use of the functional biomass components.

The term algae biorefinery was coined to describe the production of a wide range of chemicals and biofuels from algal biomass by the integration of bio-processing and appropriate low environmental impact chemical technologies in a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable.

If biorefining of microalgae is applied, lipids should be fractionated into lipids for biodiesel, lipids as a feedstock for the chemical industry and essential fatty acids, proteins and carbohydrates for food, feed and bulk chemicals, and the oxygen produced can be recovered as well.

The potential for commercial algae production, also known as algaculture, is expected to come from growth in translucent tubes or containers called photo bioreactors or in open systems (e.g. raceways) particularly for industrial mass cultivation or more recently through a hybrid approach combining closed-system pre-cultivation with a subsequent open-system.

Advantages of Algae Biorefinery

The major advantages of an algae biorefinery include:

  • Use of industrial refusals as inputs ( CO2,wastewater and desalination plant rejects)
  • Large product basket with energy-derived (biodiesel, methane, ethanol and hydrogen) and non-energy derived (nutraceutical, fertilizers, animal feed and other bulk chemicals) products.
  • Not competing with food production (non-arable land and no freshwater requirements)
  • Better growth yield and lipid content than crops.

Indeed, after oil extraction the resulting algal biomass can be processed into ethanol, methane, livestock feed, used as organic fertilizer due to its high N:P ratio, or simply burned for energy cogeneration (electricity and heat). If, in addition, production of algae is done on residual nutrient feedstock and CO2, and production of microalgae is done on large scale in order to lower production costs, production of bulk chemicals and fuels from microalgae will become economically, environmentally and ethically extremely attractive.

Biofuels from MSW – An Introduction

Nowadays, biofuels are in high demand for transportation, industrial heating and electricity generation. Different technologies are being tested for using MSW as feedstock for producing biofuels. This article will provide brief description of biochemical and thermochemical conversion routes for the production of biofuels from municipal solid wastes.

drop-in-biofuels

Biochemical conversion

The waste is collected and milled, particles are shredded to reduce the size of 0.2-1.22 mm. MSW is pretreated to improve the accessibility of enzymes and make use of the enzymes in the bacteria for biological degradation on solid waste. The mixture of biomass is mixed with sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide and autoclaved. After steam treatment, the mixture is filtered and washed with deionized water. The pre-treated mixture is then dried and drained overnight. The pre-treatment process improves the formation of sugars by enzymatic hydrolysis, avoids the loss of carbohydrate and avoids the formation of by-products inhibitory.

After pre-treatment (pre-hydrolysis), the mixture undergoes enzymatic hydrolysis for conversion of polysaccharides into monomer sugars, such as glucose and xylose. The common enzymes used for starch-based substrates are amylase, pullulanase, isomylase and glucoamylase. Whereas for lignocellulose based substrates cellulases and glucosidases.

Finally, the mixture is fermented; sugars are converted to ethanol by using microorganisms such as, bacteria, yeast or fungi. The cellulosic and starch hydrolysates ethanolic fermentation were fermented by M. indicus at 37 °C for 72 h. The fungus uses the hexoses and pentoses sugars with a high concentration of inhibitors (i.e. furfural, hydroxymethyl furfural, and acetic acid).

The composition of MSW feedstock effects the yield of the subsequent processes. A high composition of food and vegetable waste is more desirable, as these wastes are easily degradable and result in high yields compared to paper and cardboard.

Thermochemical conversion

Gasification process is carried out by treating carbon-based material with either oxygen or steam to produce a gaseous fuel which requires high temperature and pressure. It can be described as partial oxidation of the waste. At first waste is reduced in size and dried to reduce the amount of energy used in the gasifier.

Biomass_Gasification_Process

Layout of a Typical Biomass Gasification Plant

 

The carbonaceous material oxidizes (combines with oxygen) to produce syngas (carbon monoxide and hydrogen) along with carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, char, slag, and trace gases (depending on the composition of the feedstock). The syngas is then cleaned to remove any sulfur or acid gases and trace metals (depending on the composition of the feedstock).

The main uses of syngas are direct burning on site to provide heat or energy (by using boilers, gas turbines or steam driven engines) and refined to liquid fuels such as gasoline or ethanol.

Syngas can then be converted into biofuels and chemicals via catalytic processes such as the Fischer-Tropsch process. The Fischer-Tropsch process is a series of catalytic chemical reactions that convert syngas into liquid hydrocarbons by applying heat and pressure. Hydrocracking, hydro-treating, and hydro-isomerization can also be part of the “upgrading” process to maximize quantities of different products.

Common Household Items Containing Harmful Chemicals: What You Didn’t Know

Due to research and the increased efforts to reduce toxins and live more sustainably, many of our everyday products are a lot safer than they were 50 years ago. However, there are still some common products that contain substances that are toxic to the human body. Here are some common household items that you probably use every day but they may contain potentially harmful chemicals and some alternatives to those products.

Personal Care Products

1. Lotion

Some lotions may contain binders and preservatives derived from chemicals. Acrylamide is a binder thought to be a cause of breast cancer, while parabens (including propylparaben and methylparaben) are a type of preservative known to be a hormone disruptor. Avoid lotions and other personal care products with these ingredients as often as you can.

household items containing toxic chemicals

2. Sunscreen

Some sunscreens contain Ultraviolet (UV) filters such as benzophenone, homosalate, and octinoxate, which are also endocrine (hormone) disruptors. A safer alternative to these ingredients is mineral sunscreens that use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide in forms that aren’t inhaled. Mineral sunscreens sit on top of the skin and reflect UV rays, while chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays.

Household Cleaners

1. Antibacterial Hand Soap

Studies have shown that antibacterial soaps don’t actually make us cleaner than non-antibacterial soaps. In fact, the main ingredient in antibacterial soap (triclosan) increases the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. It has also been found that triclosan has contributed to toxic algae in water sources.  Bottom line, soaps and other cleaners labeled “antibacterial” are potentially doing more harm than good.

2. Multipurpose Cleaners

Many household cleaners, including window cleaners, contain an ingredient called 2-butoxyethanol. The EPA has found that this toxin can contribute to liver and kidney damage. While companies are not required to list this ingredient on their labels, you can avoid this by sticking to simple cleaning compounds, such as baking soda. Not only is this better for your health, but it’s also better for the environment.

household-hazardous-wastes

Food Items

1. Sodium Nitrate

This is found in processed meats. While it prevents the growth of bacteria, it also has some potential health issues. When sodium nitrate is heated at high temperatures, it can increase the risk of stomach cancer. Of course, this is more probable when consumed at higher rates, so it’s best to limit the amount of red meat you eat.

2. Glyphosate

Glyphosate is the main ingredient found in most weed killers that have been linked to certain cancers. Unfortunately, this ingredient has been found in several foods as well. Oat-based breakfasts (including oatmeal, granola, and cereal) have been shown to have high levels of glyphosate. This is likely due to the use of pesticides and herbicides in food production.

Other Tips to Remember

Not all “natural” is good.

While we are looking for natural alternatives, remember that not everything labeled natural is good. Products can be labeled as being 100% natural, but harmful substances can be classified as natural. Also, not all synthetic ingredients are bad. Always read labels, and if you don’t recognize an ingredient, you can always look it up.

Fragrance

Who doesn’t love scented products? Companies are not required to list the ingredients that go into creating their fragrances, but they do have to list “fragrance” or “parfum” among the ingredients. Unfortunately, that “fragrance” can be a mixture of anything. Whenever you can, choose “fragrance-free” products. It sounds boring, but an alternative would be to purchase essential oils to add your own fragrance to products.

It’s important to note here that essential oils should always be used as directed. Though they are natural and generally harmless, they are not to be ingested unless stated otherwise. They should also be used in small amounts and diluted with water or a carrier oil.

Science doesn’t change, but as new studies and information come out, we may have a better understanding of certain ingredients. For now, it’s important to research questionable ingredients and learn if they are okay at lower levels, or if we should just avoid them altogether.

Top 5 Environmentally Friendly Construction Materials

Whether you are a custom home builder, or you are designing your own custom home, it’s worth your while to know about eco-friendly construction materials. Eco-friendly construction materials are becoming increasingly more important as more and more people are realizing the importance of creating a more sustainable world.

Eco-friendly construction materials are a great way to minimize the negative environmental impact that building a home may have. Additionally, homes that are constructed with sustainable building materials are increasing in popularity because of the vast amount of benefits that they have to offer.

An expert from a custom home builder in New Jersey pointed out, “There are a variety of benefits of using sustainable materials when building a home; the most notable is that green materials ultimately save the homeowner money down the line; in addition to the amount of waste that they [green materials] eliminate.”

Sustainable construction materials save homeowners money because they typically keep a house more insulated; cutting down on the use of heating and air conditioning systems, therefore using less electricity, gas, and oil. Below are some environmentally friendly construction materials to consider including in a custom home design.

Top Eco-Friendly Construction Materials

Eco-friendly construction materials should not only be sustainable, but they should also not cause any negative effects on the environment. Typical construction materials are detrimental to the environment because of the harsh chemicals they produce; directly causing air pollution. Or, they are detrimental because they use resources that are limited. Here are some safe alternatives to typical construction materials:

1. Hemp Concrete

Hemp concrete is a biocomposite material which is made up of hemp and a lime-based binder. Hemp concrete is a great alternative to regular concrete because it’s biodegradable and more sustainable.

Not only does hemp concrete act as an insulator and moisture regulator, but it is also extremely durable and will last just as long as regular concrete. Hemp concrete is a great sustainable material to include in your custom home design and will keep both cool and warm air, reducing the need to run heating and cooling systems, therefore also conserving energy.

2. Sheep’s Wool

Sheep’s wool is a great construction material because it can be regrown quickly and the sheep are not harmed in the process. Sheep’s wool can be used for its insulating benefits in ceilings, attics, and walls. In fact, sheep’s wool is a great insulator for both thermal and acoustic insulation purposes.

Though sheep’s wool is slightly more expensive than other insulation options, the longevity of this insulator is much longer and will reduce electricity bills significantly by keeping cool and warm air in.

3. Recycled Steel

Rather than using new steel during construction-which uses natural resources during production – consider using recycled steel. Recycled steel will produce less amount of waste in the environment, and will prevent the use of resources that are necessary to create steel.

Steel is relevant in the construction process, especially for beams that will hold up the house, therefore it’s practical to choose steel that is kind to the environment.

4. Bamboo

Bamboo is an eco-friendly building material that can be used for a number of different things. Some of the main benefits that bamboo has to offer include:

  • A durable surface
  • Strength to support other materials upon construction
  • It grows quickly, so is a very sustainable option

Bamboo can be used for both flooring and walls of a home and has a long lifespan, meaning, walls and floors that are designed with bamboo will not have to be replaced often, creating less waste in the environment.

5. Cork

Similar to bamboo, cork is a fast-growing material and is harvested from a living tree, so no trees need to be cut down in order to produce this material. Cork is most commonly used for flooring because of its resilience and durability. However, cork is another insulation option too because it is impermeable, meaning water will not make its way into it; it’s also soundproof.

Cork, if left uncoated, is naturally fire-resistant so it will not produce toxins if it is burned after replacing it with new cork later down the road.

Make Environmentally Informed Choices in Your Home

If you are a home builder or if you are simply a homeowner that wants to assist in the building process, it’s’ important to know how to make environmentally informed choices when it comes to custom home building. These eco-friendly building materials will not only benefit the environment, but they will also positively impact the homeowner. Keep these sustainable and green building materials in mind as you begin your custom home design.