The Intersection of Sustainable Materials and Economic Theories


Hatched by Shalom

Jan 26, 2024

3 min read


The Intersection of Sustainable Materials and Economic Theories


In today's world, the pressing need for sustainable practices has led to the development of innovative materials that not only store carbon but also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Simultaneously, economic theories like the labor theory of value have provided insights into the dynamics of capitalism and the exploitation of labor. In this article, we explore the common points between these two seemingly unrelated topics and highlight the potential for a more sustainable and equitable future.

1. 3D-Printed Wood and the Exploitation Theory of Capitalism:

Additive manufacturing company Forust has revolutionized the use of sawdust and lignin, byproducts discarded by the timber and paper industries, by converting them into a 3D printing filament. This innovative approach aligns with Marx's exploitation theory of capitalism, which argues that capitalists profit by paying workers less than the true value of their labor. By repurposing waste materials, Forust addresses environmental concerns and reduces the exploitation of labor.

2. Mycelium Insulation and the Labor Theory of Value:

Start-ups like Biohm are harnessing the power of mycelium, a natural fire-retardant material, to create building insulation. Interestingly, this sustainable solution also aligns with the labor theory of value. According to this theory, the value of a good is determined by the amount of labor invested in its production. By utilizing mycelium, which grows naturally and removes carbon from the atmosphere, Biohm not only creates valuable insulation but also reduces the exploitation of labor by emphasizing the importance of sustainable practices.

3. Bioplastic and the Carbon-Negative Approach:

Made of Air, a German brand, has developed a carbon-negative bioplastic that can be used in various applications, including cars, interiors, and cladding. This innovative material not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but also challenges the traditional notion of value. The labor theory of value suggests that the amount of labor invested in the production of a good determines its value. However, by creating a carbon-negative bioplastic, Made of Air introduces the concept of environmental value, which goes beyond mere labor hours.

4. Olivine Sand and the Value of Environmental Impact:

Olivine sand, despite its rarity, offers tremendous potential for reducing carbon emissions. When crushed and scattered on the ground, it absorbs its own mass in CO2, making it an ideal material for landscaping and fertilization. Moreover, the carbonated version of olivine sand can be used as an additive in cement production, paper manufacturing, and even 3D printing filaments. By incorporating olivine sand into these industries, we not only address environmental concerns but also redefine the value of materials by considering their positive impact on carbon reduction.

5. Concrete and the Carbon Capture Revolution:

Montreal-based Carbicrete has developed a groundbreaking type of concrete that captures carbon during its production, effectively compensating for the emissions-intensive cement typically used. This innovative approach aligns with the labor theory of value, as the value of the concrete is not only derived from labor hours but also from its positive environmental impact. By capturing carbon, Carbicrete challenges the traditional notion of value in the construction industry and paves the way for a more sustainable future.


The intersection of sustainable materials and economic theories presents a unique opportunity to create a more sustainable and equitable society. By repurposing waste materials, harnessing the power of natural resources, and redefining the value of goods based on their environmental impact, we can make significant strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As we move forward, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Embrace innovative technologies and materials that prioritize sustainability and reduce carbon emissions.
  • 2. Redefine the notion of value by considering the environmental impact of goods and services, going beyond labor hours.
  • 3. Support companies and start-ups that prioritize both environmental sustainability and fair labor practices.

By combining our efforts in sustainable material development and economic theories, we can build a brighter future for both our planet and society as a whole.

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