Drywall (aka sheetrock) comes from destructive gypsum mining; its manufacture produces 16 pounds of greenhouse gases per sheet, while plywood and other composite woods can off-gas formaldehyde.

- Plywood from Columbia Forest Products makes great panelling and cabinetry. Its FSC-labeled Purebond is formaldehyde-free and has a va­riety of finish choices.

- To make greener drop ceilings, Ecophon, a Sweden-based manufacturer, uses recovered household glass and recycled glass wool.

- A better drywall, made from 100% recycled content, is sold at Green Depot. And a recyclable Ecorock, to debut in late 2008, will be made with 85% post-industrial recycled content.



Conventional asphalt shingles are made of petroleum, and they are notoriously difficult to recycle, not the most durable option, and absorb heat. Many are opting to paint their roofs white or choose materials that reflect more heat.

- Nu-Shake highly durable polymer shingle panels from Armorlite Roofing look like cedar or slate but are eight times light­er, use fewer nails, and are 100% recyclable and Energy Star com­pliant for their heat reflectivity.  

- Classic Metal Roofing Systems claims their Aluminum Roofs help reduce attic heat by up to 34%, saving up to 20% on energy costs. Made from 95% post-consumer recycled aluminum, the roofs hang tight in high winds. 

TIP: Consider adding photovoltaic panels for solar energy or just to heat your water; check out for info. Solar roof shingles for homes are now on the market at and


“It may not be sexy, but one of the smartest things for home owners in terms of long-term investment is green insulation,” says Green Depot’s Beatty, pointing out that standard pink fiberglass has formaldehyde. You can breathe easier with the no-VOC products below.

- Beatty recommends either Cel-Pak, a cellulose insulaton made from recycled paper that is blown into walls (, or Bonded Logic’s recycled denim insulation, which Adrian Grenier, star of HBO’s Entourage and Planet Green’s Alter Eco, chose for his Brooklyn green pad.


Demand for wood to build homes has meant widespread deforestation and the introduction of composites, such as plywood and particleboard, which can emit formaldehyde. Using wood more efficiently can reduce the amount needed, slashing framing and sheathing costs, says Alex Wilson, founder of BuildingGreen and author of Your Green Home (New Society, 2006). FSC-approved, low-VOC wood products are now stocked by many stores. “For wrapping the house, we’ve got FSC plywood or oriented strandboard sheathing,” says Frank Banks, a building consultant with Green Depot. FSC-labeled redwood and TemPlus framing lumber is sold at Home Depot. FD Sterritt Lumber Co ships FSC-approved lumber and plywood nationwide. 

- For a non-wood option, consider Superstud recycled steel (up to 80% post-industrial material). “No insect, mold, or mildew worries,” Banks says.

- For decking, FSC-labeled cedar and tropical hardwoods are sold at For more materials, including recycled plastic composites, see and


Windows with multiple panes, filled with a low-conductivity gas for insulation, keep a home cooler in summer and warmer in winter. For cold climates, BuildingGreen’s Alex Wilson recommends triple-glazed windows, the “standard practice in Sweden for more than 30 years.”

- Weather Shield’s Zo-e-shield 7 triple-glazed windows can produce energy savings of 15-30%. $740 for a standard casement window.

- While they add 10% to 15% in cost, low-e (emissivity) coatings reduce heat loss by up to 50%, according to the Department of Energy. Or you can cover existing windows with low-e films, which deflect up to 70% of incoming solar heat and 99% of UV radiation. At $2.25 to $2.50 per square foot, the payback period is two to three years, and the films last 15 to 20 years. SnapTint will cut the PVC-free film to size and provide instructions.

- Solar screens, or shades, can reduce cooling loads in summer and glare in winter. Hunter Douglas sells PVC-free, recyclable Greenscape fabric screens. 


Sealing cracks can save energy, but choose low-VOC products so you don’t hem in toxins. 

- Try sealant from OSI GreenSeries, Titebond’s Greenchoice, or AFM Safecoat caulk.

Story by Brita Belli, Brian Clark Howard, and Tracy Tullis. This article originally appeared in Plenty in December 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

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