Eco-friendly building products don’t possess the unequivocal aura of “sustainable sexiness” that many green interior design products flaunt. Sure, a modern chair crafted from eco-friendly materials can make your pulse race and your eyes flutter, but insulation and water heaters? Not so much.

Matters of aesthetics and sexiness aside, when it comes to environmental impact there’s no denying the vitality of eco-friendly building products designed to not only conserve resources like energy, water and raw materials but also to help you save money and stay healthy.

Below, we’ve picked six innovative eco-friendly building products that we think are making an impact right now and ones that we believe have potential to change the way we build. And, surprise, surprise, some are easy-on-the-eyes, to boot.

1. Eco-friendly insulation

You may have heard about eco-friendly insulation that’s made from last season’s blue castaways from the GAP. Well, this is it.

The recycled denim used to make Bonded Logic Inc.’s UltraTouch Natural Cotton Fiber Insulation isn’t exactly plucked from landfills — it’s made from 85 percent post-industrial cotton, meaning it consists of scrap material salvaged from denim manufacturers.

Non-itchy UltraTouch provides superior R-value performance, blocks out sound like nobody’s business and doesn’t emit harmful-to-your-health VOCs (volatile organic compounds) like traditional insulation that contains chemicals like formaldehyde.

For fashionable folks looking to score some easy LEED points, UltraTouch is the perfect fit.

2. Solar-powered leaves

Conventional photovoltaic arrays undoubtedly leave something to be desired in the aesthetics department (just ask those battling vigilant HOAs).

Solar Ivy, one of our picks for top eco-friendly building productsSolar Ivy, however, looks pretty darn cool.

This modular solar energy system from Brooklyn-based Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology, is composed of recyclable polyethylene leaves in which Konarka Power Plastic solar cells are embedded.

The low-maintenance leaves are attached to a structural mesh system made from stainless steel.

Our favorite part? The leaves themselves will be available in various colors to match the existing environment.

3. A rainwater filter

There are a few reliable “top green building products of the year” lists out there, but it’s the annual list published by Sustainable Industries magazine that’s considered by many to be the gold standard.

One product honored on the magazine’s 2009 Top 10 Green Building Products shortlist received more nominations than any other: a gutter filter. Yes, a gutter filter.

The Raintube, a Cradle-to-Cradle certified rainwater control device from GLI Systems Inc., is made from 100 percent post-consumer HDPE (aka milk jugs).

It blocks out gunk that can clog gutters after heavy rains and lead to headache-inducing hassles — siding damage, landscape erosion, leaks and dry-rot. Plus, it makes eco-friendly, must-do rainwater collecting all that much easier by catching debris and allowing water to flow freely through the gutter's downspout to the barrel.

The Raintube is unfussy, totally effective and makes excellent de-clogging use of materials that would otherwise be clogging landfills.

4. Countertops from recycled material

We like Brooklyn-based green countertop manufacturer IceStone because the company truly walks the talk.

IceStone countertops are one of our picks for eco-friendly building materials.In addition to producing stunning, Cradle-to-Cradle Gold certified surfaces available in 29 different colors and made from 100 percent post- and pre-consumer glass, IceStone commits to the environment in other notable ways before its eco-friendly building product graces your kitchen.

The company operates in a day-lit factory in which grey water is recycled, the manufacturing process is low emission and even the once-petroleum-based machine lubricants have been replaced with soy-based ones.

5. A super-efficient water heater

When it comes to investing in a water heater, there are several choices to consider: tank, tankless or solar.

Industry leader Rheem offers all these choices, and now the company’s family of products also includes the HP-50 Heat Pump Water Heater, a multiple-award-winning residential water heater that works “like a refrigerator in reverse.”

Not only is the EnergyStar-rated HP-50 super-efficient — it can knock off up to $286 in annual energy costs compared to standard electric water heaters — but it’s one of the first truly affordable heat pump water heaters to hit the North American market.

Coupled with potential incentives and rebates, this is one lean, mean, cost-effective water-heating machine.

6. A healthier paint

With so much concern placed on outdoor quality, it may come as a surprise that indoor air is often more polluted than the air outside.

Combating volatile organic compounds is key to improving indoor air quality and Benjamin Moore’s Natura Paint should be in any green builder’s (or remodeler’s) arsenal of eco-friendly building products. The Natura line is waterborne, zero-VOC and odorless (yes, no new paint smell).

It’s easy to apply, dries quickly and is available in thousands of colors so you can paint the town, or room, green without compromising the planet, your health … or your personal style.

See also:

Green building materials

Sustainable building materials

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Eco-friendly building products
Six innovative eco-friendly building products that we think are making an impact right now.