As more and more people are becoming aware of the toxic potential of conventional insulation, eco-friendly insulation options are becoming more popular. Many of these green insulation materials are just as effective as conventional ones, and often have the added bonus of being made from recycled materials.
Another concern for eco-conscious homeowners and builders is the use of petroleum products in the manufacture of insulation, particularly the spray foam varieties. Thankfully, there are alternatives. Here are some of the eco-friendly insulation types available today.
Cotton fibers can make excellent insulation. Some companies recycle old blue jeans to manufacture cotton insulation – a great use for denim cast-offs! Cotton fiber rivals fiberglass in its ability to insulate, and it helps keep out noise as well.
Yes, you read that correctly! Now even fungus may have a role in insulating our homes. Called Greensulate, this innovative fungal alternative to conventional insulation is made from the dense, fibrous roots of the mycelia mushroom.
The mushrooms are grown in agricultural by-products, such as grain husks, which adds to their eco-friendly standing. The roots are then dried to stop growth and after about 14 days they can be used as insulation. If seed husks are mixed with the dried roots, they are highly flame-resistant. This kind of insulation is very new and is still subject to testing.
This paper-based insulation is made from varying proportions of newspaper and cardboard. One of its advantages is that it can be “blown” into cracks and crevices as an eco-friendly alternative to chemical foam spray insulation, creating a nearly draft-free environment. It is also available in pads and boards.
To make the insulation insect-resistant and fire-retardant, the newspaper-cardboard mixture is mixed with borax, boric acid, and calcium carbonate (natural materials that are not implicated in health problems).
Normally, spray icynene uses petroleum products in its manufacture and formaldehyde as the “blowing agent.” Now, however, there are eco-friendly icynene options. Eco-friendly icynene is sprayed between wall studs and into cracks and other spaces, and it expands as it dries the way chemical foams do.
Water is used as the blowing agent, or a mixture of carbon dioxide and water. The increased use of water decreases the need for petroleum products, and some manufacturers forego petroleum products entirely, using castor oil instead. The castor plant, from which the oil is derived (from the castor bean), can be grown without the use of insecticides or fungicides. Castor oil is also safe for people, and is even an ingredient in some lip balms.
Wool is a renewable resource, it grows back quickly after being sheared from the sheep, meaning that is essentially a never-ending supply of raw material. This naturally flame-resistant material is familiar to almost everyone. You have the option of insecticide-treated or untreated wool. It is renewable, biodegradable, and recyclable, and its thermal insulation is comparable to fiberglass. It generally comes in rolls and pads.
There are helpful sites online where you can compare the different characteristics of various insulations. Some sites lists pros and cons, and what areas of your house are best for a particular type of insulation (i.e., which insulations are good for the attic, which for the basement, etc.).
Using eco-friendly insulation will cut down on the potential for indoor pollutants while saving money on your energy bills at the same time.