Anyone who has remodeled a home or tried to boost the energy efficiency of his or her dwelling has probably handled that wretched cotton candy-like substance known as fiberglass insulation. You know the stuff. Owens Corning successfully made its version seemingly more consumer friendly by emblazoning the all-too-familiar image of the Pink Panther on the side of the packaging. Cute cartoon characters aside, once you get past the plastic, you are treated to expanding blankets of itch-inducing, finely spun glass fibers that may do wonders for your R-value but also happen to come with a health warning attached. Fortunately, we rarely make a habit of living in direct contact with exposed fiberglass insulation, and even if we did, the International Agency for Cancer Research claims that the manmade material dissolves in our bodies rather than persisting like other carcinogens — a fact that is oddly not as comforting as they were probably hoping. In the interest of finding an environmentally sound alternative that doesn’t wreak potential havoc on our body’s systems, there are two eco-friendly alternatives that everyone should seriously consider the next time they decide to revamp the insulation factor of their homes. Even if you’re not planning to replace your itchy cotton candy in the foreseeable future, please read on and spread the word to your family and friends! Jeans have long been a veritable fashion staple, no matter your budget or style, but now they take center stage between the wooden studs, joists and beams of eco-friendly houses in the form of Bonded Logic’s Ultra Touch 100% recycled denim insulation batts (90% of which is post-consumer). In addition to shredding and repurposing donated denim duds that have seen better days, the company also converts the cotton fiber waste remaining from the manufacture of new jeans. The resulting product comes in the form of plush blankets that are free from traditional irritants, formaldehyde, airborne particles or other health-compromising compounds. Beyond being sustainable and safe to handle, their denim insulation offers a maximum R-value factor, and now there is even a 30% tax credit available when you install it in your home.
Mushrooms as insulation? Not as far-fetched as you may think.
Those who really want to go green may argue that there’s nothing planet friendly about modern cotton cultivation (think about all of the agricultural chemicals and copious amounts of water, for starters) so they may feel that using recycled denim isn’t the way to go. Ecovative Design and its founders, Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, have developed a wild solution that makes the most of the simple power of ’shrooms. They’ve figured out how to make vegetative, tube-like mushroom roots thrive in a nutritive medium consisting of various agricultural waste byproducts (such as regionally available seed husks, rice hulls and cotton burrs), flour, water and perlite. In a few weeks time, the result of their green thumbs is a homegrown, Styrofoam-like rigid panel (on par with the strength of wood) that is entirely biodegradable, free of volatile organic compounds or laboratory chemicals, possesses a class-1 fire rating and can be safely used to insulate homes. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation have all been so enthusiastic about Ecovative’s groundbreaking product that they have awarded the company with several grants to further explore the eco-possibilities. In fact, Bayer and McIntyre have also created an Ecocradle Styrofoam packaging alternative (made of the very same material described above) that will soon be found protecting several consumer goods. Now, fashionistas and fungus fans alike have every reason to jump on board the eco-insulation train. It’s high time that we kick the pink stuff to the curb and wrap our studs in something that is sustainable, safe and eco-innovative!