Insulation is a cost-effective, energy-saving product that can help reduce utility bills and increase comfort levels for homeowners. While the energy savings from insulation are significant, so are the environmental benefits. By making buildings more energy efficient, insulation helps reduce the amount of fossil fuel combustion needed to heat and cool homes, businesses, and factories. That, in turn, decreases the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. Because carbon dioxide is one of the principal “greenhouse gases” contributing to global warming, insulation can play a significant role in protecting the environment.
Historically, thermal insulation was constructed from fiberglass wool, a thick, fluffy material made from discontinuous fibers. Fiberglass can cause temporary skin irritation and itchiness in many people handling the products. Other types of commonly used insulation include mineral wool insulation which refers to rock wool, which is made from basalt, a volcanic rock, and limestone and slag wool, constructed from blast furnace slag. In the late 1980’s, some of these types of insulation had been found to be carcinogenic to humans, although further research in the early 2000’s gave opposing results and was inconclusive.
Now there’s a new trend for home insulation, that’s completely non-toxic, eco-friendly and sustainable, cotton batt insulation. This all natural product is manufactured from post-industrial denim and cotton fibers. The product is available in R-13, 3.5 inch thickness, or R-19, 5.5 inch thickness, un-faced batts.
Because denim insulation is completely non-toxic, installers and homeowners can touch it without the fear of the dreaded itchy rash. There are also no long term health or breathing issues associated with cotton insulation.
Cotton fiber insulation is sustainable. It all begins when the cottonseed is planted between early February and mid-May. The matured fluffy, white bolls are harvested from September through December. From this sustainable source, jeans are constructed. Programs to collect worn-out jeans are popping up across college campuses, elementary schools and some retailers are even joining in the effort to recyclable denim clothes. In March of 2010, the Gap offered a two-week long promotion which offered a 30% in store discount on denim products in exchange for the donation of a worn-out pair of jeans.
Once the worn-out denim is collected, the first step in turning an old pair of jeans or any denim garment into natural cotton fiber insulation is to remove zippers, buttons, hardware, and embellishments. The denim is then reprocessed into the original cotton fiber state, giving them new life as natural cotton fiber insulation. The end result is an environmentally safe, non-itch insulation without carcinogenic warnings, formaldehyde or chemical irritants. In addition, it is one of the only insulating products that contain an active mold/mildew inhibitor.
Companies such as Cotton. From Blue to Green.® have promoted recycling efforts to create their green insulation product. Since their inception, they have collected more than 270,000 donated pieces of denim. While it takes approximately 500 pairs of jeans to insulate an average home, these donations have allowed the company to donate enough natural cotton fiber insulation for 540 homes in areas of the United States affected by natural disasters. In doing so, they have also prevented 200 tons of denim from being sent to landfills.
Smart business models that produce environmentally friendly, sustainable products are key to creating a greener planet. Additionally, companies that can help give back to our society with that same product, get two green thumbs up from me.