Your home needs insulation no matter where in the world you live. Insulation keeps houses warm in winter and cool in summer, which saves you money and immeasurable discomfort. In the old days (more than 20 years ago) most insulation was made out of fibreglass and may even have contained a proportion of asbestos. It was effective but wasn’t exactly healthy. In these more enlightened days we have a wide range of insulation materials to choose from and most of them give at least a passing nod to the environment.
There is a school of thought that believes all effective insulation is eco-friendly to a degree. This is because no matter what material you use, insulation saves energy. According to some estimates insulation can reduce your energy bills by up to 13%.
Truly eco-friendly insulation comes in a number of forms, each suited to different needs and different budgets.
Green Living Tips provides the following examples:
- Recycled cellulose fibre, which is made from paper products. It can be expensive but is very effective. It’s also one of the most eco-friendly options available.
- Recycled denim is made from denim and cotton waste. It’s easy to handle and affordable.
- Soy insulation is long-lasting and easy to use. All you have to do is spray it where you need it and let it expand and harden.
- Sheep’s wool insulation is the most expensive option but it has a number of advantages that give it good value for money: It’s naturally flame resistant, doesn’t require much energy to produce, is long-lasting and moisture resistant and deadens sound.
Depending on how far your ethics go, however, sheep’s wool might not be for you. Several animal rights organisations are against the use of wool in any context because of inhumane farming practices. In particular they are against mulesing. According to PETA, mulesing is when farmers cut out chunks of lambs’ skin (near their tails) to prevent “flystrike”, which is when flies and maggots thrive in folds in the skin. The thing is, mulesing doesn’t necessarily prevent flystrike and can actually cause it. Furthermore, the skin is usually cut off without any painkillers or anaesthetic and causes terrible pain. There are more humane ways to prevent flystrike; they just take a little more effort, such as changing diet, regular washing and specialist breeding.
On BrightHub, B. Stone provides a few additional examples of environmentally-friendly insulation:
- Plastic fiber insulation, which is mostly made from recycled plastic milk bottles.
- Formaldehyde-free fiberglass.
- Rockwool insulation, which is made from recycled steel by-products mixed with basalt rock.
You can even, if you so choose, build a house made of straw. Straw has excellent insulation properties and is extremely cost-effective. Just make sure you don’t build it anywhere near wolves.
When it comes to living a greener, more environmentally-aware life you don’t have to spend a lot of money to save a lot of money. Ensuring that your home is properly insulated with some eco-friendly material is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to kick off your green lifestyle.
(image by Colin Rose (originally posted to Flickr as Straw Bale House), via Wikimedia Commons)