Pre-COVID, we crossed paths with steel on any given day. As we made our way to the office across town or to a conference across the country, we traveled by plane, car, or commuter train on highways and bridges made with steel. We may have barely noticed the muscular alloy given its decidedly practical use, but sometimes, seeing it in a larger-than-life setting, we took notice.Those crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, for example, might find the bridge’s industrial design, massive steel cables, and one-million-plus rivets breathtaking. As most of us continue to shelter in place, we don’t hear the whump, whump, whump of car wheels on the Fred Hartman Bridge near Houston or the Texas Street Bridge in Shreveport. Truth be told, we may not have appreciated it. Now, we are in our homes more than we ever imagined. Some of us might not start our cars for weeks. With work and home blended, we’ve developed a new familiarity with our living spaces. And right under our noses is steel — on a human-sized scale.
We don’t often think of steel as a household item in our modern, sustainable world. But steel is extremely long-lasting and supports our values, right alongside compostable trash bags and towels woven from bamboo. Our morning routines use steel pipes to draw water into our bathrooms, allowing us to shower and brush our teeth. Razor blades give us a soft shave, and smoothie-makers use blades to turn frozen berries into nutritious drinks. Garbage disposals grind our vegetable end pieces, remove unwanted food waste and keep our kitchen sinks clean. We use washers and dryers with steel drums to sneak in a load of laundry between work video meetings. We cook lunch on steel stovetops in shiny sauté pans before cleaning them with steel-wool. Our yards are surrounded by steel chain-link fences that keep our pets safe. Going for a walk? Fitness trackers monitor our steps as we get some fresh air, thanks to steel-girded cell towers.
Steel is dependable, durable and sturdy, with a staying power that few materials can claim. For our homes, we invest in big ticket items that we can trust to work for years or decades. Reliability is increasingly important to us — we need to count on things to work to be productive and to flourish. It’s critical, too, that we keep our principles in alignment as consumers. And steel, even the type found in households, is one of the most recyclable and sought-after materials in the world. The steel we put in our recycling bins on any given day may be used in fire hydrants, utility poles, construction materials, cars, or appliances. And while it may be hip and popular in urban décor with its exposed pipes and Edison-style lights, steel outlasts trends. Steel is strong, steadfast and tried-and-true. Most importantly, steel is reusable, again and again.