Five Green Insulation Options for Sustainable Warm and Fuzzies

By Bethany Johnson in Thinking Sustainably


Posted by Bethany Johnson, guest blogger

Knowing some of your home’s heat and air escapes through the walls, windows, and roof can be disheartening, especially as your appliances work harder to keep up with these leakages. If you’re looking to move toward a more earth-friendly lifestyle (or even considering an interior project), you’ve probably heard that insulating your residence can conserve energy while you’re at it. But the traditional rolls of insulation require a moon suit and respirator to install.

Are there any green insulation options that can make the task more earth-friendly? Of course! Here are some natural alternatives that work just as well—sometimes even better than the conventions.


Old newspapers, often recycled into insulation, are either blown dry into walls or sprayed on attic floors in a damp state. And it’s very easy to lay on a weekend.

cellulose insulation is one form of green insulationThe material, called cellulose, is made of up to 80 percent recycled newsprint and, according to  University of Massachusetts, achieves more insulating power than fiberglass. When cellulose was first used, the material was thought to be flammable. After all, newspapers are one of the best ways to start a campfire. Thankfully, explains the Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association, developers engineered a natural treatment for cellulose insulation that makes it both eco-friendly and fire-resistant.

Soy and Cashew Nutshell

Is there anything plants can’t do? Natural polyols called Agrol® are a green alternative to petroleum-based polyols. Developed by BioBased Technologies, the newest Agrol products are derived from soy and cashew nutshell liquid, making them comparatively lower in their carbon footprint, global warming potential, and volatile organic compound (VOC) emission. Not to mention, this plant-based foam is renewable.

Putting tofu in your walls can feel like offering rodents a free meal, and it’s a logical worry. But homeowners profiled in This Old House were pleased to learn it isn’t edible for termites, rats, squirrels, or even mold. So while you’re benefiting the environment, you don’t attract hungry neighborhood pests.

Old Jeans

When cleaning out closets and choosing items to donate or swap, occasionally you’ll come across a pair (or two) of jeans that are beyond reusing. But that doesn’t mean they’re trash; Blue Jeans Go Green takes your tired denim, strips it down to its natural cotton fiber state, and turns it into insulation for communities in need.

This method gives you the best of two worlds: Not only are you insulating your home—which lightens your carbon footprint—but you’re using a natural material that has already served its original purpose!


This silica mineral-based material—developed by NASA, according to Thermablok—tops the list for insulating power, making it a fantastic eco-friendly option by its nature. The fact that it’s more than 90 percent air, says CNET, is a bonus. And air is obviously one of the most natural, organic materials in the world. Imagine nanoparticles arranged like a tiny sponge; that’s how aerogels are structured. All that air does a number on heat’s ability to escape, since air doesn’t conduct heat nearly as well as solids or liquids, according to the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Sheep’s Wool

When you’re cold in the winter, you usually reach for your wool sweater over polyester. People have always used sheep’s wool for warmth and personal comfort, so it’s not surprising to see it making a comeback in residential insulation. When sourced from a sustainable producer who’s committed to his or her herd’s well-being, wool can be one of the most sustainable materials in the world, mainly because it’s constantly being renewed, according to Sheep Wool Insulation. It costs much less than synthetic fibers and is perfectly safe to work with.

A house, from the outside, getting insulation put in.

Green insulation isn’t as impractical or extensive as it sounds. Check out these green insulation materials that benefit the environment while keeping your home warm and toasty.

When choosing an insulation material, another factor for going green is how many resources the substance takes to produce. For example, making sheep wool takes less energy to produce than its synthetic counterpart. As for performance, sheep’s wool has a host of benefits toward insulation: breathability, resilient thickness, natural flame resistance, acoustic blocking properties, inability to settle over time (so it’ll work well for years), and the capacity to absorb air pollutants from other sources in the home.

When you think of insulation, don’t just think pink. Not only do these green insulation alternatives benefit the environment; they also help your environment by giving you polyurethane-, fiberglass-, and formaldehyde-free materials to work and live with. Eco-friendly insulation options are just a matter of creativity and ingenuity, so which one will you choose? Tweet pictures of your project to @TomsofMaine.

Image sources: Flickr | Flickr

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.