Creating More Living Space Outdoors

Green Alternatives To Fiberglass Insulation

by Emily Flores

The standard batts of fiberglass insulation have been the go-to choice for decades, but newer, more sustainable products are now giving t some competition. Fiberglass insulation can off-gas harmful chemicals and it's a skin irritant. Knowing about natural and ecologically-friendly alternatives can help you make a safer choice in your home.

Wrap Your Home In Denim

Denim offers many benefits over the standard fiberglass choices—it doesn't contain formaldehyde and it's made from a recyclable material. It comes in rolls with similar R-values as its fiberglass counterpart, but since it's primarily made from cotton it doesn't require special handling during installation.

Denim insulation comes in rolls of batting, much like fiberglass. It doesn't look like the jeans it was derived from, other than in color. The installation method is similar to that of fiberglass, so most insulation contractors are familiar with installing this alternative material.

Count Your Sheep

Wool insulation comes from a renewable resource and contains no harmful chemicals, so special protective equipment isn't necessary during installation. It's available in multiple R-values, but it is thicker than comparable fiberglass options. As an added benefit, wool is a noncombustible material, so it acts like a fire retardant in your walls.

Wrap In Paper

Paper may not sound like a green choice, but it is if it's made out of recycled newspaper. The finished insulation, called cellulose, has an R-value comparable to fiberglass. It comes in both batts or as a blown-in insulation option. The main concern with cellulose is moisture. You don't want to use it in walls that contain plumbing pipes or in the attic where a roof leak could ruin the insulation and lead to mold.

Put a Cork In It

Cork is another renewable resource, derived from the bark of living cork trees. It can also be made from recycled cork, giving it an even smaller ecological footprint. It comes in either loose pieces or as an expanded board stock, which is installed similar to fiberglass batts. The board stock has a similar R-value to fiberglass, but the loose cork fill doesn't pack tightly so it doesn't insulate as well. Fill is usually only used for small areas where it's difficult to cut a board to fit.

Work with an insulation contractor like All Weather Shield Inc to determine the best green options for your specific project. For example, denim may be a better insulation choice for the attic and bathroom, while cellulose is a good option for the exterior walls. Your contractor will use your budget guidelines along with which materials are most easily available locally to help you come up with your green building plan.