As Grand Designs Live opens, TV presenter Kevin McCloud selects 10 products from recycled scourers to insulating blinds•
Sting plus - upholstery made from nettles
There are lots of points to make about this fabric. But the main one is that it does everything a synthetic fabric can achieve (meeting fire ratings, "rub tests", resistance to fading and so on) while being made out of nettles and old wool, the two things you'll be almost guaranteed to find in a British field, together with barbed wire. There's nothing barbed about this fabric, however – it may be ethical but it doesn't sting or itch. Like linen, which is another natural fabric made from plant fibre, Sting is beautiful and glamorous.
Smile Plastics recycled plastic worktops
When it comes to specifying sheet materials for a new kitchen or some cupboards, recycled plastics often get overlooked, usually because they look like frozen sick. Smile Plastics, however, have begun making sheet plastics made from single source plastics: recycled and chopped CDs for example, which give the material the iridescence of abalone or mother-of-pearl. This is upcycled plastic. I chose it for this list because I wanted designers and architects to see it and specify it, as well as consumers.
Parans solar lighting
This product is almost too technical to describe. An egg-crate panel of little rotating eyes follow the sun all day long like a sunflower, collecting direct sunlight and distributing it through a building via a network of fibre-optic cables. This is ideal for introducing light into earth-sheltered or buried buildings or the thousands of London homes now retro-fitted with three underground storeys. It is brilliant. Literally.
Giles Miller - cardboard furniture
Giles is a designer-maker of extraordinary pedigree who examines the value and the usefulness of everything he utilises. So he forces us to re-evaluate materials like corrugated cardboard as not only durable and utilitarian, but also beautiful. We already ran the Grand Designs Awards and these are judged by a panel of luminaries from the worlds of design and sustainability. But choosing this range of cardboard furniture and the other green products here was a much simpler exercise – and much more personal. These are products and inventions that I've chosen because I like them, I've used or tested them and I wanted them to get more exposure.
Hemcrete - greener concrete
Hemcrete is a walling material that can be sprayed or cast like concrete, but it's made from lime and hemp. It performs both as an insulant and as a thermal-mass and it locks up carbon as it grows. The average hemp house can stow away about 20 tonnes of CO2 into its walls this way, about 40 kilogrammes for every square metre of wall in comparison with a traditional brick, block and cavity wall which is responsible for the production of about 100kg for every square metre. And hemp is the second-fastest growing crop on the planet after bamboo, so it can be slotted in between other crops during a growing season. It also requires almost no inputs and enriches the soil.
EcoForce - recycled everyday homewares
I remember clearly the day – as if it were yesterday – that someone told me that toilet roll wasn't made from recycled paper. What do you mean? Surely it's got to be, it only gets used once? The same goes for scourers and cleaners. You'd sort of expect throwaway bits of foam and gritty green plastic to be of the very cheapest grades of recycled plastic. But not a bit of it. They're all manufactured from virgin petrochemicals. I can understand that the acrylic used for making DVDs, that are read by lasers and spun at 200mph, needs to be perfect and crystal clear. But not my clothes pegs.
Black Mountain Sheepswool insulation - natural insulation
We all know about sheepswool insulation that comes from New Zealand or other far-flung outreaches of the world of sheep. It is highly breathable, natural, people-friendly and hygroscopic, regulating the moisture content in a cavity such as a wall. Very, very useful in timber framed buildings where condensation and moisture can dissolve the building into wet rot. And Black Mountain is British. Home-grown. Many of our sheep are bred to be shorn twice a year but only get fleeced once because the market for wool is so depressed. If we all bought sheepswool for our attics the flocks of Britain would be much more comfortable.
Newform Energy - combined solar electricity and hot water
Since Becquerel used selenium to experiment with photovoltaics in 1836, and Horace de Saussure captured solar heat in his homemade "hotbox" in 1767, the two disciplines of using solar energy to produce either electricity or hot water have remained separate. Until a very short while ago when some brilliant German physicists decided to circulate the water from solar thermal panels around the electronics in solar photovoltaic panels providing – bingo – a faster-than-normal supply of hot water. The resulting panel also produces electricity more efficiency than a standard photovoltaic panel.
Heatsaver Shades - insulated blinds
Heatsaver is an American firm that make insulated window blinds from the multilayer thin insulation sold for roofspaces which looks like the covering of a Nasa spaceship. Heatsaver uses a less complex structure in its product, which has the appearance of interlined cream linen Roman blinds and the thermal performance of several inches of plastic foam. Their secret, however, lies in a specially designed channel on the wall, in which the blind slides, forming an effective seal. There is no better way of keeping heat inside a building with large glazed walls or a listed building that is single-glazed.
Tirex from Interface Flor - flooring made from recycled rubber
We throw away 486,000 tonnes of tyres every year in Britain. Tirex carpet tiles are recycled — with a minimum of processing — by slicing old tyres and rubber machinery belts into long French fries and then bonding them together side-on. The durable fabric webbing that is inside the tyre wall is exposed as the top surface of the carpet and the resulting texture is a revelation. Interface Flor sell it as "entrance matting" but Tirex doesn't look anything like a tyre. Its colours are grey and brown. It is elegant and sophisticated and every office in the world and quite a few homes ought to be carpeted with it.