20 Inexpensive & Eco-Friendly Concrete Alternatives

Concrete alternatives
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / antmoreton

Concrete alternatives are becoming increasingly necessary, as concrete is highly damaging to the environment. Thankfully, there are eco-friendly concrete alternatives.

Due to its strength, durability and longevity, concrete is widely used in construction for buildings, pipes, pillars, pavements and floor slabs.

However, the concrete industry is one of the planet’s principal producers of carbon dioxide. As a whole, the industry produces around 8 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, the concrete industry could continue to pollute the environment with over 4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. 

The promising news is that more sustainable concrete alternatives exist, and their use in construction and small-scale DIY projects is growing. Read on to learn about eco-friendly concrete alternatives and which are best to use for your next garden, household DIY or home renovation projects. 

1. Bamboo

Bamboo is a strong and lightweight concrete alternative that is better for the environment.
Bamboo is a strong and lightweight concrete alternative that is better for the environment.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / suyuan333)

Bamboo is one effective concrete alternative. It is surprisingly robust, lightweight, and structurally sound. It is also environmentally friendly, as it is a renewable material source and grows quickly. Bamboo can also replace concrete altogether in the construction of some smaller-scale buildings and shelters. 

2. Wood

Wood is a building material that has been around for centuries — and for good reason. Wood is strong and much lighter than concrete, making wood’s carbon footprint much lower than concrete in terms of vehicle and tool use. It can also be recycled or sourced from recycled materials. 

3. Ferrock

Ferrock is composed of steel waste dust and ground silica glass. It absorbs carbon dioxide during its manufacturing process, making it a carbon neutral alternative to concrete. Ferrock is also flexible, making it a good building material for construction, as it can bend easily without breaking from compression. 

4. Rammed Earth

Rammed earth is a natural and less carbon-intensive alternative to concrete.
Rammed earth is a natural and less carbon-intensive alternative to concrete.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Dimhou)

Rammed earth is made by collecting dampened subsoil and compacting it tightly, creating robust and durable building material resistant to the elements. In addition, subsoil is readily available on most construction sites, so producing rammed earth is more carbon neutral than concrete and far cheaper. 

5. Straw Bales

Straw bales are renewable and have strong insulative properties and are renewable.
Straw bales are renewable and have strong insulative properties and are renewable.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / moniquayle)

When compacted tightly for construction, straw bales are tough and sturdy concrete alternatives. Straw bales have strong insulative properties, making them a practical building material for all kinds of climates. Straw bales are more affordable than concrete and comprise more eco-friendly, sustainable and renewable materials.

6. Hempcrete

Hempcrete is made from the waste produced from processing hemp into fiber, which is then mixed with lime and sand to create a sturdy building material that is lighter than concrete and has an equally impressive lifespan. Hempcrete, therefore, is a more sustainable alternative, as the lightweight fibers require less effort and energy for transportation and construction. Hemp also stores lots of carbon dioxide when grown, making it a carbon-negative concrete alternative. On top of all that, hemp is a renewable source material and grows very fast. 

7. Grasscrete

Grasscrete is a sustainable alternative to concrete.
Grasscrete is a sustainable alternative to concrete.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / rkit)

Grasscrete works by creating gaps between concrete slabs to allow for grass to grow. Using grasscrete reduces the amount of concrete needed and promotes the growth of more grass and plants. In turn, these plants absorb more carbon dioxide from the air. So grasscrete is a much more sustainable option.

8. Steel

Steel can be separated into its raw materials for recycling, making it a sustainable concrete alternative.
Steel can be separated into its raw materials for recycling, making it a sustainable concrete alternative.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / donterase)

Steel is cheaper and easier to use in construction than concrete. Steel is also easily recycled, as it can be separated into raw materials for reuse. 

9. Ashcrete

Ashcrete is made from fly ash, the byproduct of burning coal, and can be easily recycled. This makes ashcrete a more environmentally sustainable and renewable concrete alternative. 

10. Timbercrete

Timbercrete is created by mixing concrete with sawdust waste. The result is a building material that is lighter than concrete and doesn’t emit as much carbon dioxide during the production process. Timbercrete can be shaped into blocks and used as bricks or paving stones for pathways, driveways and garage floors.

11. Sand

Sand is a great alternative to concrete for small-scale DIY projects.
Sand is a great alternative to concrete for small-scale DIY projects.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / PublicDomainPictures)

Sand works well as a concrete alternative, in particular for creating pathways. Sand can mimic the look and function of concrete in many DIY home projects. Furthermore, sand is a natural material and so is a less expensive, more sustainable choice.

12. Papercrete

Papercrete is another sustainable alternative to concrete. It is made by recycling paper waste and adding it to a cement mixture to make concrete. Although papercrete is not totally eco-friendly (as it still uses cement), it reduces the amount of it required, thereby reducing carbon emissions. 

13. Gravel

Gravel can replace concrete on driveways and pathways.
Gravel can replace concrete on driveways and pathways.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / EM80)

Gravel is inexpensive, easy to use, and is a typically reliable option for driveways or pathways. All types of gravel work and are readily available at local home improvement stores. 

14. Concrete Debris

While concrete debris does technically use concrete, it reduces concrete production by reusing scraps leftover from use and production. This eco-friendly concrete alternative limits the need for additional raw material consumption and saves on landscape space, too. 

15. Asphalt

Asphalt uses tar, not cement, and so is less carbon-intensive than concrete.
Asphalt uses tar, not cement, and so is less carbon-intensive than concrete.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / JoshuaWoroniecki)

Asphalt uses tar as its main material, not concrete, making it less carbon-intensive than concrete. Asphalt is also cheaper to produce and use, making it an attractive replacement. 

16. Aircrete

Aircrete, or concrete with bubbles, is an inexpensive and long-lasting alternative option for driveways, flooring and walls. 

17. Mycelium

Mycelium is a natural and lightweight and renewable material for construction.
Mycelium is a natural and lightweight and renewable material for construction.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / simonproulx)

Mycelium has the structure of mushrooms and fungi and is totally natural. It can be grown in molds to mimic the shape of blocks and can be added to other natural materials, like straw, where it grows around the other substance to make it stronger. Mycelium is a sustainable alternative to concrete as the building blocks are extremely lightweight and renewable. 

18. Blast Furnace Slag

Blast furnace slag is a by-product of molten iron slag from furnaces. Once transformed into water or steam, the waste product is granular and glassy in structure and can be molded into building blocks for construction. The recycling process of iron slag makes this an environmentally-friendly choice.

19. Micro Silica

Micro silica is a by-product of silicon and ferrosilicon production. It is a fine powder that can replace a portain of cement. Micro silica increases the durability of concrete and reduces the volume of cement needed to make it, thus minimizing carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere . 

20. Plastic Waste

Plastic waste can be made into pellets for building blocks.
Plastic waste can be made into pellets for building blocks.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Hans)

Plastic waste is everywhere. While it is not, it can be made into pellets for building blocks, reducing the need for concrete and repurposing plastic that would otherwise pollute landfills. Plastic waste is not as strong or durable as concrete but is suitable for smaller-scale construction projects.

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