Ever walked along the ocean shore, feet splashing in the water, and been annoyed at the seaweed tangled up between your toes? You are not alone. But as it turns out, these clumps of seaweed might have a function quite aside from messing up our walk at the beach.
In autumn, winter and spring Poseidonia oceanica (commonly known as Neptune Grass) accumulates in ball-shaped deposits along the shores of the Mediterranean and the Australian South sea, where it grows, at depths of between 3 and forty meters.
Annoying as it may be when found on the shore, this plant is an important part of the marine ecosystem in which it lives, and as it grows best in clean waters, the presence of these Neptune grass balls is actually an indicator of the sea's health.
Dispatched to the shores by the waves, the leaves of these plants often end up rotting on beaches. But their fibrous content actually makes them perfect as a sustainable and naturally available thermal insulation material.
NeptuTherm is the company behind the manufacturing of its homonymous material, a wool-like product made from the leaves of the Neptune Grass, which can be used as roof and wall insulation: the product has a number of properties which make it a more sustainable alternative to many other insulation materials.
What exactly makes seaweed more sustainable?
According to the company, throughout its entire life-cycle, NeptuTherm requires thirty times less energy when compared to other insulation materials, such as fibreglass, or mineral wool, or polystyrol.
As well as being mould-resistant, and non-rotting, in contrast to other natural insulation materials such as hemp, wood-fibre, or cellulose for example, NeptuTherm does not require chemical treatment to reduce its flammability, which is extremely low. 100% natural and untreated, it can be simply thrown away in the garden compost at the end of its life-cycle.
Through its product development, the company not only utilises an organic material which would be otherwise left to rot, therefore providing a 'waste' management solution, but it also shows us once again how the sea and its ecosystem can help us meet many of our everyday needs. Yet another reason to protect it.
For more on the surprising ways that humble seaweed could have an impact on the future of our planet - from being transformed into clothing to being used as a meat supplement in order to boost protein levels, click here.