If you live in a home then you probably have some sort of insulation. Insulation is one of the most important parts of home construction. It helps retain heat by stifling the air flow, and therefore cuts down on energy and the cost of heating and cooling in the winter and summer, respectively.
In the early 20th century, most homes started being built with fiberglass insulation. Fiberglass is layers of plastic reinforced by a man-made mineral blend made of various materials like recycled glass and sand.
As effective as it is at conserving energy, there are some shocking drawbacks to using fiberglass insulation. Small particles can become airborne and, because they are basically microscopic glass shards, there have been reported cases of internal bleeding and respiratory issues. Fiberglass insulation is also a skin irritant, causing itchiness and sometimes rashes on contact. And it certainly doesn’t help that most commercially made fiberglass insulation looks like fluffy pink cotton candy to little kids.
On the bright side, there is a variety of green home insulation alternatives to ensure a cozy and healthy home environment.
Cotton insulation is an effective method that is made by shredding recycled cloth (like denim) and pressing it into a thick batt that goes between the walls, in the same way that fiberglass insulation is installed. This sounds like a very flammable idea, but companies generally treat the fabric with a borate solution that is safe for humans, and the environment.
Sheep’s wool is also a popular green option, and is naturally fire retardant, only charring and not producing toxic gasses like other materials can.
We must also consider the foam variety. The chemical polyisocyanate is the active ingredient used to make polyicynene and polyurethane foams that are frequently used for home insulation. While it may not seem like a ‘green’ option, polystyrene provides extremely high R-values with considerably less material than most other types of insulation.
There’s no singular right way to insulate your home, some people value some characteristics over others. Hopefully the information in this article has helped you discover a few new, greener choices so it’s easier to find an option that best suits your needs and concerns.
Photography by Brett and Sue Coulstock