Insulation, by reducing the amount of energy required to heat or cool a building, is by its nature environmentally friendly. Residential and commercial energy use is responsible for 11% of all CO2 emissions in the United States. The Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR program was created to help protect our environment, and insulation is key to achieving that objective. “If existing homes in the U.S. were insulated to ENERGY STAR levels, annual carbon emissions would be 11 percent lower and 29 million fewer tons of carbon would be released into the atmosphere.” (Alliance to Save Energy, April 2011)
If insulation is green by its very nature because it saves energy, then why is “green” insulation greener? For some people, it’s green when it contains a high percentage of recycled materials; for others, it’s when it doesn’t contain substances that they may have sensitivities to. Still others consider insulation green when it’s made of natural materials.
Conserving the Environment
By choosing building products that are energy-efficient, conserve virgin resources, minimize waste and reduce pollution, you are making a tri-fold positive impact on the environment. Today, insulating is a “no brainer” because it saves energy, so manufacturers of insulation material are diverting that extra brain power into developing materials and strategies that are safer for people and the environment, yet significantly more effective. Two such products are blown-in cellulose and rock wool.
Cellulose is made of at least 80% post-consumer paper waste– paper that might otherwise end up in landfills, releasing greenhouse gases as it decomposed—and is blown into all the spaces between framing on interior walls and ceilings. It doesn’t require any accelerants or adhesives. It takes less energy to produce than other types of insulation. It has a better resistance to air flow and prevents the upward movement of air created by temperature differences. And, it is non-toxic–no adverse health effects from cellulose insulation have been identified.
Rock wool, a by-product of steel smelting, is an excellent example of using waste as an environmental benefit. Using waste means less exploitation of natural resources and reduced energy in production. On top of being a super-insulator even in extreme temperatures, rock wool is also water repellant—diverting moisture that can cause damage to the structure and negatively impact interior air quality over time. Rock wool was, for many years, the most widely used type of insulation in North America and Europe.
Products like these, and those to come in the future, turn waste into viable materials that keep us on the path of responsible, sustainable building and retrofitting. To dig deeper into the benefits of using earth-friendly insulation in your home energy improvement project, feel free to contact us. Our highly knowledgeable team is well-versed in sustainable insulation materials.