It seems like everyone looking for eco-friendly, green insulation material is talking about spray foam insulation. “Spray foam this…” and “Spray foam that…” Ugh! Have you even read the ingredients in that stuff? It a petroleum based, non-sustainable product. But homeowners have many choices when considering green insulation.
Until we develop a truly bio-based foam insulation, here are some options for people that want to minimize the toxin in their home:
Not what you were expecting, right? Fiberglass insulation manufacturers have given spun glass a higher recycled content (up to 40 percent) and have taken steps to reduce the acknowledged problem of airborne fibers.
Cellulose insulation is made of 80% post-consumer recycled newsprint chemically treated to resist fire, insects and mold. The Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association (CIMA) claims that insulating a 1500 ft 2 house with cellulose will recycle as much newspaper as an individual will consume in 40 years. Plus, it has a higher R-value than fiberglass and costs about the same.
Denim is a sustainable, ecofriendly option that offers many benefits for homeowners including excellent thermal and acoustic performance. Typically made from industrial scraps, (Bonded Logic and Cotton Incorporated estimate that they have diverted 200 TONS of unwanted denim from landfills) the insulation is treated with a fire retardant (albeit a “natural” one), but it’s 100% recyclable, VOC-free, and formaldehyde-free.
Made from up to 90% recycled slag and mined basalt rock, mineral wool is one of the oldest insulating materials. It is highly resistant to fire and pests and has excellent acoustic properties. The main health concern is that formaldehyde is used as a binder in the manufacturing process. However, most testing shows that no formaldehyde remains in the final product.
Cut (or sheared, to use the vernacular) from living creatures in the usual way, the cleaned fiber is formed into batts and lofty loose fill, then treated for moth and mildew-proofing. It has many unique properties, like its ability to absorb moisture, hold its shape and breakdown indoor air pollutants.
Proper installation is key
In order to get the stated R-value, it is essential that insulation be installed properly. While most green insulation materials can be installed easily, any loose fill insulation will require a blowing machine, so you may want to consider hiring a professional insulation contractor.
The earth friendliness of home insulation depends on whether you are looking at how it’s made or how it performs. Given that insulation products deliver similar benefits, greenness is more a matter of opinion. So while there’s no set ranking system for what makes an insulation green, the good news is that no matter how you choose, there’s a product that meets your needs and budget. And that should make you feel warm all over.