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What Is Sustainable Insulation?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday July 20th, 2009 | 2 Comments

InsulationPart of achieving energy efficiency is using good insulation. The definition of good insulation, from an environmental stand-point, should include insulation made from recycled materials that does not contain chemical irritants like formaldehyde. Three companies make products that fit my definition of good insulation: Bonded Logic Inc., Ecovative Design, and GreenFibers.
Bonded Logic Inc. takes people’s used pair of jeans and makes insulation out of them. The company’s UltraTouch insulation line does not contain chemical irritants, and is made from 85 percent recycled textile waste taken from landfills. UltraTouch is treated with a non-toxic mineral, Borate, which acts as a fire and mildew retardant. During UltraTouch’s manufacturing process, “minimal amounts of energy are used,” according to the company’s website. All scraps are re-used, so there is almost zero waste.


“The company is owned by a very sustainable, environmentally friendly conscience family,” said Sean Desmond, director of sales and marketing. “What really got them into (the insulation market) was the availability of the raw materials because of their background in the recycling industry. They’ve always been looking for ways to be energy efficient and to conserve resources.”

Ecovative Design
Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre founded Ecovative Design, and created insulation made from agricultural byproducts, called Greensulate that do not contain chemical irritants. The byproducts are put in a dark room without electricity, and then a growing organism is introduced into it. Within a week the organism coasts the byproducts, creating material strong enough for insulation. By the end of the year the product will be shipped in limited quantities to consumers.
Bayer described the process of making Greensulate:

We are developing a whole new material. Instead of making it with conventional manufacturing processes, synthetic resins, we are actually growing materials. We are growing them indoors, in the dark in molds. It is actually a fungi. We take local feedstock, agricultural byproduct, and combine them together with a organism that we have identified.

We then form them into a shape and over a seven day period in the dark, without any electricity or petroleum, that organism self assembles a strong resin around these particles. We dry them out and get a rigid material that can be used as insulation, or depending on how you formulate it and what particles you use, a packaging material. It is totally compostable at the end of its lifestyle and it has an extremely low carbon footprint.


GreenFiber
GreenFiber is the only national manufacturer of cellulose insulation. Their insulation is called Cocoon Insulation, and is made from recycled paper fiber, called Cocoon Insulation. The company has 11 manufacturing plants in the U.S., and wants to use more locally available materials at all of its sites. Cocoon Insulation is non-toxic, according to the company’s website, and has a 26 percent better performance than other insulation.
GreenFiber pays people to recycle, by offering $15 a ton to businesses or schools that use the company’s recycling bins, and $30 a ton to an individual who drops paper products off at their warehouse in North Carolina. The company has placed 1,600 recycling bins.


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  • Saul

    “taken from landfills”? I think you mean diverted from landfills. I don’t think they literally go out to the landfill and dig stuff up do they?

  • David Bergman

    While UltraTouch is indeed a great product, I have to correct the misconception that it is made from used blue jeans. With the exception of a few VIP promotional projects (using donated jeans), the insulation is made from post-industrial factory waste, i.e. the cutoffs from the blue jean factories.