Top 10 Green Advances in Commercial Building

Recycled and Sustainable Insulation
Yet another way a good pair of jeans can keep you cozy and comfortable.
Yet another way a good pair of jeans can keep you cozy and comfortable.
Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Thinkstock

When I think of building insulation, I think of pink, itchy fiberglass. But I also know that fiberglass isn't exactly a green option -- it releases irritating, potentially harmful fumes and can contain formaldehyde. A building has to be properly insulated to be energy-efficient, so what's a green-minded company to do? Luckily, lots of options are on the market, including insulation made of other materials. One company makes rolls of insulation that look similar to the pink stuff, except it's blue -- because it's made out of old denim! It's hard to imagine your favorite pair of jeans potentially filling the walls of a new building, but it's possible. No fumes, no itchiness if you touch it and it's treated to be fire retardant. There's also insulation made from recycled plastic milk bottles or newspapers. As with denim insulation, both materials are treated to be fire retardant.

If just recycling another fabricated material isn't innovative enough, how about something made directly from plants? Some manufacturers are producing structural insulated panels (SIP), a prefab panel that can contain straw previously used in agriculture. Hemp and flax are also seeing more use in European countries like the Netherlands and the United Kingdom as an alternative insulation. It doesn't need any kind of chemical treatment, and it's a fast-growing plant.