We, as a society, are more green thinking than ever before. Our environment is on our minds more than ever, and it’s evidenced by many facets of our lives — from hybrid cars to compostable disposable plates. The same is true when it comes to our desire for our homes to leave as little of an environmental impact as it possibly can. And, one way to do that is through sustainable roofing materials.
Sustainable is somewhat an ambiguous term. To some homeowners, it can mean a truly green roofing solution. To others, it may mean a roof that has better longevity, good energy efficiency and is not as harmful to the environment to produce, like metal roofing as opposed to asphalt.
There are varying degrees of sustainability among roofing materials that are considered to be more environmentally friendly choices.
The following are your best bet if you’re trying to be kind to Mother Earth
The greenest, or sustainable, roofing material of the bunch. Recycled shingles are made from recycled waste materials, such as plastic, rubber, or wood fiber. Some products are made from clean post-consumer waste, a.k.a. garbage. Some come from post-industrial factory waste. Companies, like EcoStar, have a long track record in the sustainable roofing materials industry. Recycled-content shingles are incredibly durable, and they look good too. It’s not obvious they’re made from old plastics and rubber.
The great thing about recycled-content roof shingles is they help keep waste out of landfills as well as reduce our need to draw raw materials from the earth and then process them. This lowers energy consumption and reduces pollution. Some of these recycled shingles are recyclable too, and may even come with 50-year warranty.
Wood shingle and wood shake
Most wood shingles and shakes are made from old-growth western cedar. Even though the amount of energy it takes to produce the wood shingles is fairly low, it does harvest old-growth trees and is not sustainable in the long run. If you would like to install wood roof shingles, and local building codes permit them, but want to do it in a way that’s environmentally friendly, reclaimed lumber is a sustainable roofing material to consider. Companies that specialize in reclaimed wood shingle roofs use wood from mills, bridges, old water and wine tanks, old barns, and other sources. These reclaimed wood shingle can be rather difficult to find. However, reclaimed wood is becoming ever more popular as wood flooring, architectural beams, and furniture!
Environmentally friendly wood shingles are produced by companies that harvest sustainably grown (certified by the Forest Stewardship Council). This is an easier solution for finding a sustainable wood roofing material for your home. There are a number of companies throughout the U.S. and Canada that manufacture sustainable wood shingles.
A sizable portion of metal roofing products include at least some recycled material, but one excellent benefit of metal roofing is that it can be recycled at the end of its life. And, because metal roofs can last up to 50 years, roofing replacement is less frequent, which means less waste over the years. They’re also ideal for homeowners who want to collect rainwater from their roofs to water gardens, or any other use without the worry of chemicals leaching like you would from an asphalt roof.
Slate is a natural stone material and makes for extremely durable and long-lived roof tile — one that can last over a 100 years. Mining slate and transporting slate is energy intensive. But, because slate doesn’t require much in the way of processing after mining, and because of its extreme longevity, it can be considered a sustainable product. It doesn’t end up in a landfill with anywhere near the frequency of other roofing materials. It is also made of natural materials and can be reclaimed and used again as well. Certain manufacturers offer salvaged slate and clay roof tiles.
A living roof is truly the greenest and most sustainable roofing material. It is literally a vegetation-covered roof, which is planted over a waterproofing membrane. There may also be additional layers of root barrier, drainage, and an irrigation system.
Living roofs reduce heating and cooling, reduce water runoff, and reduce the amount of CO2 and other pollutants in the air. Green roofs work best for flat roofs and might not be up to code in your area. They take more work and a bigger time commitment to get started, but the payoff comes in environmental, energy, and aesthetic benefits.
Only hire a roofing company that specializes in installing sustainable roofing material
If you’re in the market for green, sustainable roofing material, be sure to connect with a roofing contractor who specializes in the green roofing industry and not one who just dabbles or wants to give it a try.
A roof made of traditional roofing materials is a big investment. This is even truer when investing in a green roof.