Most building owners let the builder make the decisions regarding insulation, not considering much about it besides that it works. One may look at the R-value, a value that measures how well insulation resists heat flow, or how well the material insulates sound. Among the many different characteristics between types of insulation, one characteristic to consider is the sustainability of the material.
The pink, fluffy, fiberglass insulation that is commonly used is hazardous to humans without protective gear, ultimately ends up in landfills, and may release chemicals into the atmosphere. So, while the product is still energy efficient, there are better forms of insulation that are energy efficient and sustainably made.
One of the sustainable options for insulation is natural sheep’s wool. The same material that is used to make sweaters and blankets can also be used to keep homes and buildings warm. This material is natural and compostable, making is a very sustainable option. In addition to its environmental benefits, wool is also safer than other insulation materials. It even filters out harmful chemical living in walls. Unlike fiberglass insulation, it does not require protective clothing or equipment for installation. It’s safe to touch and breathe in. It wicks away moisture, preventing mold and maintaining its R-value.
Havelock Wool is a company that sells sheep’s wool for insulation. They boast that their wool is made naturally on sheep’s backs, unlike their competitors who make insulation in factories. Havelock Wool does not use wool scraps. They instead harvest wool directly from sheep bred intentionally for insulation wool. Havelock Wool acknowledges that fiberglass insulation is the current industry standard, and likely will remain the standard. It is cheap and readily available. However, they implore their customers to consider the quality of the insulation they are using. Just because it is cheap and available does not mean it is the best option. Sheep’s wool is better quality and simply safer than fiberglass. The fact that it is also biodegradable and compostable is just the cherry on top.
Another sustainable insulation choice is cellulose insulation. Cellulose is typically composed of recycled newspaper, cardboard, and other discarded paper products. It is sprayed into spaces and can conform to those spaces. Cellulose insulation currently contains the largest amount of recycled material out of all insulation on the market. Its R-value can be compared to that of fiberglass insulation, and it is inexpensive, unlike sheep’s wool. Cellulose insulation is also treated with fire-retardant chemicals. Cellulose is already a very popular insulation that has been in the industry for years. There are many brands that are readily available for purchase and installation at home improvement stores such as Lowes and Home Depot.
One of the leading brands of cellulose insulation is Greenfiber. Greenfiber advertises two installation versions of cellulose, loose-filled or spray-applied. Their website states that the manufacturing of cellulose insulation takes 13 times less energy than fiberglass insulation. In addition, it is especially effective for sound insulation, blocking up to 90% of noise. Greenfiber is cheaper per square foot than both sheep’s wool and fiberglass insulation, making it accessible while still being sustainable.
Insulation is a necessity in any home or building. Consumers have the choice to select insulation that will have a far less negative impact on the environment. Insulation like sheep’s wool is not only safer for the planet, but also safer for the consumer and installer. Choices like these can help make a building greener and safer without sacrificing the quality of the building.