The Roots of Progress


A list of plant and animal materials used in manufacturing and construction. I’m excluding obvious uses as food products (meat, fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, berries, etc.), although I’ve included some cooking products such as lard; and I’m mostly excluding chemical products.

Part of my motivation is to understand what natural products were replaced by plastics, but in general a lot of these have been replaced by synethetic versions.

This is not absolutely comprehensive but is meant to indicate the most important or familiar categories.

Animal products

Plant products

I’m mostly ignoring many chemical products, including potash, camphor, and various oils, fragrances, and pigments (dyes/inks).

Mineral versions of the above

Just for context and to avoid confusion, note that there are “mineral” versions of various plant/animal products:

Products and uses

Not really comprehensive but I wanted to note a few categories of products, many of which show up under both plant and animal materials:


Chemicals/substances (I mostly excluded these from the lists above wanted to indicate a few key categories):

Fats and oils in particular can be used for a variety of things:

Wood and oil can also be used as fuel, but that’s separate from what I’m getting at here.