Insulation and the Environment
While people may debate the causes of global warming, it is just common sense to use products that have as little impact on the environment as possible.
Insulation, by reducing the amount of energy required to heat or cool a building, is environmentally friendly. But don’t be fooled into thinking all insulating materials are equal. There is plenty of greenwashing taking place to make products look more beneficial, or less harmful, to the environment than they really are.
Cellulose Insulation is one of the greenest building products in the world.
Cellulose insulation is made from recycled newsprint and other paper sources, paper that might otherwise end up in landfills, releasing greenhouse gases as it decomposed.
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.
1(Sources: National Auto Dealers Association; Paper Industry Assoc. Council 2006; EPA)
- Cellulose takes less energy to make than any other insulation material. This is known as embodied energy and includes the total energy required to transport raw materials, manufacture and distribute the product. Fiberglass has up to 10 times more embodied energy than cellulose and foam products up to 64 times. 2
- Cellulose has the highest level of recycled content in the insulation industry - up to 85%. Cellulose insulation is made with recycled paper, paper that might otherwise end up in a landfill. Fiberglass has a maximum of 40% recycled content and foam products little or none.
- Cellulose insulation, by utilizing recycled paper, helps prevent the release of the greenhouse gas methane which would result if that same paper were sent to a landfill to decompose.
- Cellulose insulation scrap is recovered and recycled on-site. Fiberglass and foam residue go to a landfill, and don’t decompose.
- Cellulose insulation is regionally produced. Using local recycling programs and independent recyclers, and servicing communities close to home, brings new meaning to the slogan “Think Globally, Act Locally.”
The recycled content of fiberglass insulation ranges from 0-40%, primarily glass products, and that figure often includes waste from the manufacturing line itself. While fiberglass claims to lower energy costs over the lifetime of a building, making it environmentally friendly, this is true of all insulation products.
The simple fact is that fiberglass takes large amounts of energy to produce relative to Cellulose insulation2 and provides far less energy savings over the life of a building.
Spray Foam Insulation
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 is bad for the environment.