Sustainable Materials: with both eyes open

Date: 27 Nov 2013
Speaker(s): Julian Allwood
Venue: University of Leeds


One third of the world’s carbon emissions are emitted by industry. Most industrial emissions relate to producing materials, and steel and cement are by far the most important contributors. The industries that make materials are energy-intensive, so have always been motivated to be efficient, and have now reached a fantastic level of performance.

However, the world’s demand for materials is growing, and likely to double by 2050. So, by default, industrial emissions will also double, unless we do something differently.

This talk set out an agenda for making a big difference to global emissions, by requiring less new material. Based on a five-year project, with eight researchers and a consortium of 20 large industrial partners, evidence has been gathered on six ‘material efficiency’ options, which allows the researchers to provide the same final services (such as housing or transport) with significantly less material.

The talk presented a series of case studies to demonstrate how these strategies can be applied in practice, and explored the actions by government, businesses and consumers that would bring them about.

Chair: John Barrett, Professor of Sustainability Research, University of Leeds