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Environmental Facts About The Most Popular Building Insulation Products

While people may debate the causes of global warming and climate change, it is just common sense to use products that have as little impact on the environment as possible.

Table of environmental facts about popular building insulations

Insulation, by reducing the amount of energy required to heat or cool buildings and homes, is environmentally friendly by design. But don’t be fooled into thinking all insulating materials are equal. There is plenty of green washing taking place to make building insulation products look more environmentally friendly, or less harmful, to the environment than they really are. Below are some of the key differences between cellulose insulation and the most common other types of insulation.

Cellulose Insulation

Cellulose Insulation is one of the greenest building products in the world. It is made from recycled newsprint and other paper sources, paper that might otherwise end up in landfills releasing greenhouse gases as it decomposes.

If all the paper currently being put into landfills each year were converted to cellulose insulation, it would save approximately eight million tons of CO2 emissions. That’s the equivalent of taking every car off the road in New Mexico and Nevada.*

Fiberglass Insulation

Fiberglass batts, while popular for their low cost and DIY applications, are one of the least effective types of insulation. Loose-fill fiberglass is a better insulating product. However, the recycled content of fiberglass insulation ranges from 0-40%, primarily glass products, and that figure often includes waste from the manufacturing line itself.

Fiberglass insulation also takes large amounts of energy to produce relative to Cellulose insulation and provides far less energy savings over the life of a building.

Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation has some highly beneficial insulating properties. However, it is the most expensive and least environmentally friendly of building insulations. Spray foam insulation is a petroleum-based product. It contains little or no recycled content and most formulations are made from a non-renewable resource. Because it is petroleum based, spray foam insulations have a very high embodied energy content, which means more impacts on the environment.

Check the Table of Environmental Facts for Insulation to see a side-by-side comparison of the environmental facts for all the major types of insulation products.

*(Sources: National Auto Dealers Association; Paper Industry Assoc. Council 2006; EPA)

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