I came across an interesting article at www.bbc.com that outlines several intriguing alternatives to materials that have toxic consequences.
“Stone wool” comes from igneous rock and slag which are melted together and spun into fibers. Unlike fiberglass insulation, or foamed plastic, stone wool can be engineered to be fire resilient, provide good insulation, be water repellent and durability in extreme weather.
Various fungi might replace materials like polystyrene, packaging, insulation, or leather. Extracting the vegetative tissues of mushrooms and solidifying them into new structures, as one might do with rubber or cork, is possible. Mycelium can be used as a bonding agent to hold together wood paneling, or a flame-retardant packaging. Mycelial products are easy to culture and germinate, and can be configured into any shape, forming polymers that adhere like strong glue.
Bricks could be made with leftover brewery grains, like concrete modeled after ancient Roman cement. “Biostone” is a mixture of sand, nutrients, and urea. Microbes are used to metabolise the mixture, bonding the sand molecules together. Biostone produces no greenhouse gases and uses widely available materials. This material would require reinforcement to be as strong as concrete, but it could have many applications
“Uniboard” is made from 100% pre-consumer recycled or recovered wood fiber. It saves trees and avoids landfill, while also generating far fewer greenhouse gases than traditional particleboard, and it contains no toxins. Uniboard uses renewable fibers like corn stalks and hops, and there is no added formaldehyde.