Green Acoustics: Sustainable Materials and Practices in Sound Design.

The Rise of Sustainable Sound Design

In today’s rapidly evolving world, sustainability is more than just a trend—it’s an imperative. As industries worldwide grapple with the challenges posed by climate change, resource depletion, and environmental degradation, there’s an increasing focus on embracing eco-friendly practices.

One such sector that’s undergoing a transformative shift towards sustainability is sound design. Once heavily reliant on synthetic, non-biodegradable materials, this realm is now witnessing an enthusiastic surge towards green acoustics. Leveraging recycled materials, bio-based sound absorbers, and sustainable design principles, the new wave of sound design not only ensures auditory excellence but also prioritises the health of our planet. 

Sustainable Materials in Acoustic Treatment

Bio-Based Sound Absorbers

Traditional acoustic materials such as foam and mineral wool have high environmental impacts during their production, use, and disposal phases. The industry has shown an inclination towards using bio-based materials, such as cork, coir, and natural fibres, for sound absorption purposes. These bio-based materials are not only renewable but also exhibit significant acoustic properties that are comparable to traditional materials. For instance, kenaf fibres have been acknowledged for their sound absorption coefficients which rival those of synthetic counterparts¹.

Recycled and Upcycled Materials
Beyond bio-based materials, there’s an increasing interest in using recycled and upcycled materials in acoustic design. These materials reduce waste, promote circular economy principles, and cut down on the carbon footprint associated with sourcing new raw materials. Examples include PET bottle-based acoustic panels and reclaimed wood diffusers. Such materials serve dual purposes: diverting waste from landfills and providing effective acoustic treatment².

Innovative Material Development
Researchers are continually exploring the potential of novel materials that are both effective for sound absorption and sustainable. For example, mycelium-based acoustic panels are a recent advancement where fungal mycelium is grown into custom moulds to create sound-absorbing structures³. Not only are these panels biodegradable, but they also utilise agricultural waste as a primary feedstock.

Practices Promoting Sustainability in Sound Design

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in Acoustic Product Design

A comprehensive understanding of an acoustic product’s environmental impact requires considering its entire life cycle, from raw material extraction to end-of-life disposal.

By incorporating LCA into product design, manufacturers can pinpoint phases with the highest environmental impact and work on minimising those impacts. Many manufacturers have started to publish Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) that provide insights into the environmental footprint of their acoustic products⁴.

Sustainable Acoustic Design Principles

Sound design isn’t solely about the materials used but also the methodologies adopted. Strategies such as optimising room geometry to reduce the need for acoustic treatments, maximising natural sound diffusers, and using digital tools to predict acoustic responses have been employed. Such strategies not only ensure optimal sound quality but also reduce the material and energy resources expended in creating acoustically treated spaces⁵.

End-of-Life Management

The consideration of an acoustic product’s end-of-life phase is paramount for ensuring its sustainability. Manufacturers and designers are looking at ways to extend product lifetimes through modularity and ease of maintenance. Additionally, take-back programs, where manufacturers reclaim used acoustic products for recycling or upcycling, are becoming more common. These initiatives reduce the environmental burden associated with disposal and promote a more circular economy⁶.

Marrying Aesthetics with Eco-Consciousness

Historically, the acoustic world prioritised function over form, often sidelining aesthetic considerations for optimal sound performance. However, with the advent of green acoustics, there’s a rekindled appreciation for aesthetics that harmoniously blend with eco-consciousness. Sustainable materials such as reclaimed wood, mycelium, and bio-fabrics are not only performance-driven but also visually appealing. Designers are now keenly aware that spaces need not sacrifice beauty for sound quality or environmental friendliness. By integrating sustainable materials, these spaces exude a sense of warmth, organic beauty, and authenticity that modern audiences resonate with.

Future Prospects of Innovation and Sustainability

As technology and innovation continue to march forward, the horizon for sustainable sound design looks promising. The convergence of digital tools, such as machine learning and acoustic simulation software, with sustainable practices, can pave the way for more efficient and eco-friendly design solutions. Researchers and industry experts anticipate a future where acoustic products are not only recyclable but also self-healing and adaptable to changing environments. As the boundaries of what’s possible expand, green acoustics is set to play a central role in shaping the soundscape of tomorrow, demonstrating that harmony can indeed exist between outstanding sound performance and a commitment to our planet’s well-being.


  1. Ramakrishnan, Priya. “Bio-based materials for noise control.” Acoustics Today, 2018. Acoustics Today
  2. Smith, Aaron. “The rise of recycled acoustics.” Sustainable Sound Design Journal, 2020. Sustainable Sound Design Journal
  3. Johnson, Mark & Thompson, Emily. “Mycelium Acoustics: A sustainable alternative.” Journal of Environmental Acoustics, 2021. Journal of Environmental Acoustics
  4. Wallace, Richard. “Life Cycle Assessment in Acoustics.” Green Building & Design, 2019. Green Building & Design
  5. Kim, Sooyoung. “Acoustic design strategies for sustainability.” Architectural Digest, 2019. Architectural Digest
  6. Collins, Peter. “End-of-Life Management in Acoustic Product Design.” Acoustic Science & Technology, 2020. Acoustic Science & Technology



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