The Environmental Impact of Roofing Materials

The impacts of human activities on the environment exist in everything we do; from what we eat to how we build our homes. In the 21st century, we have begun to implement sustainable construction practices, as a paramount inclusion in mitigating the adverse impacts of human activities on our world. The choice of roofing materials that we make can be one of the most significant impacts to how well our home may be considered “environmentally sustainable.” What we choose for our roof has significant importance in the overall health of our home, from its architectural appeal to its insulation. Yet not all roofing materials are created equally when it comes to environmental impact.

A renowned contractor and roofing company like Epic Roofing can help you decide on what roofing material is best for your home. Keeping in mind the environmental impact of what you choose can go a long way to encourage sustainability and diminish your carbon footprint. Let’s get into the environmental impact of the most popular roofing material:

The Environmental Impact of Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are considered the most common roofing material among homeowners, primarily due to their ability to adapt to numerous environments and climates, and their affordability. However, replacing roofs with asphalt shingles has resulted in tens of millions of pounds of shingle waste, which has the potential to be recycled, but is generally diverted to landfills for ease and therefore wasted.

Landfill Waste and Disposal Challenges

Asphalt shingles may take anywhere between 300-400 years to decompose entirely. Because shingles are dense, they take up a lot of room, which means that there is a significant loss of space for other types of waste. They may also leech chemicals into ground water supplies, which can end up becoming carcinogenic. Consider how many homes there are in Canada that use asphalt roofs, and then consequently consider that asphalt roofs must be replaced every 20-25 years. That’s a lot of waste being dumped.

Potential for Recycling and Sustainability

Asphalt shingles are recyclable, but the practice of recycling them hasn’t become commonplace until recently. Asphalt shingle scrap can be used for asphalt pavement, fuel oil, new roofing, road cover, ramps, bridges, utility cuts, and parking lots. The process of recycling asphalt shingles involves grinding the shingles to a much smaller size in order to repurpose them. It is eco-friendly and can save you a lot of time and money, plus it prevents companies from dumping tons of waste into landfills.

If you are considering a roof replacement, consider your options for roofing sustainability and ask about recycling your roofing material.

Sustainable Roofing Alternatives

Beyond choosing a roofing material that is the most affordable, many homeowners are also considering which roofing material is the most eco-friendly. There are numerous types of eco-friendly roofing options, all of which varying in cost, material, and design. Those are:

  • Standing-seam metal roofs, which are long-lasting and 100% recyclable. They come in a limited number of designs but are fire-resistance and ideal for snowy climates.
  • Sustainable wood shakes, which give the classic appearance of wood shingles.
  • White roof/cool roof, which has a cooling effect on the house as it reflects much of the sun’s rays. Cool roof systems have the added advantage of reducing air conditioning bills and can significantly reduce energy costs.
  • Clay roof, which offer a Spanish design and can naturally last up to 100 years. They may not be good in all climates, but are consider eco-friendly options.
  • Green roof, which offers homes additional cooling and insulation and a natural appearance for a more beautiful home.

Key Points: Prioritizing Sustainable Roofing & Informed Decision-Making at Home

The environmental impact of your home’s roofing materials should not be overlooked when you are striving for more sustainable construction practices. As we have addressed earlier, asphalt shingles may be recycled but often are not – thereby resulting in thousands of pounds of unnecessary landfill waste, which can take 300-400 years to fully decompose. There are options for recycling asphalt, as well as dozens of other roofing alternatives which may be more eco-friendly all around. Those include metal roofing, wood shakes, cool roofs, clay roofs, and green roofs. Of course, always discuss your roofing options with your local roofing company, to choose which option is the most durable, best for your current environment, affordable, and has the best environmentally-friendly properties. Roofing materials should be able to withstand local weather conditions to be able to stand up in the long-term, but your local roofing company should be able to lend your expertise when it comes to narrowing down your decisions.

Ultimately, the conscious decision to be more eco-friendly comes down to both the construction industry and the individuals. Doing our best to make informed decisions and embracing eco-friendly alternatives can help all of us to significantly reduce the environmental impact of our buildings and our homes.