Some types of roofing are more environmentally friendly than others. The material itself as well as the way in which it is manufactured determines its ecological impact. Factors such as sustainability of natural resources, the durability of the material, the energy consumed and emissions created during its manufacture, and whether it is recyclable later all have a bearing on the environmental score of your shingles.
Roofing made from recycled materials such as wood, rubber, plastic or industrial waste products are typically long lasting. Shingles made from 75 percent recycled tire rubber mimic the sleek look of slate tile roofing. An average-sized roof repurposes anywhere from 600 to 1000 tires that otherwise would take up space in a landfill. Warrantied to last at least 50 years, recycled rubber shingles are designed to resist cracking and are naturally impervious to rot. Because recycling tires uses far less energy than their original manufacturing process, they make a much lighter impact on the environment.
Natural slate tiles last hundreds of years if they are properly maintained. While quarrying and fashioning the slate is energy consumptive, the remarkable longevity of this stone roofing makes it an eco-friendly option. Slate is a natural material but not a living product, so it does not meet the definition of sustainability. However, the supply of raw materials for slate roofing is robust.
Traditional cedar shake roofing is made from old growth red cedar trees that achieve their large size after hundreds of years of growth. Because the manufacture of cedar shakes consumes these trees much quicker than they can regenerate, this material is not sustainable or eco-friendly. Manufacturers using alternatives to living trees to make shake roofing are rapidly claiming a share of the wood roofing market. Recycled shingles gleaned from torn down structures, log buildings and bridges repurpose wood materials in an environmentally responsible manner.
Metal roofing products are durable, and they are recyclable too. Metal is eco-friendly because it sheds snow and rain without adding any chemical runoff that could harm the landscape. Some forward-thinking manufacturers are using content from recycled aluminum cans and waste copper in their metal roof coverings.
When reroofing, homeowners can opt to reuse the steel, copper or lead flashing from their old roofs, provided the flashing is in good condition. This saves on manufacturing new flashing and the associated environmental costs. If steel flashing must be replaced due to wear, recycling it is an eco-friendly choice.
When replacing roof decking during a reroofing project, opting to use FCS plywood, certified to be environmentally friendly by the Forest Stewardship Council, is another eco-friendly decision. Better yet, using as much of the existing, non-damaged decking as possible saves trees and the energy that goes into processing them.
Roofing a home is a costly undertaking and homeowners must, by necessity, be frugal in their materials choices. Choosing roofing, flashing and underlayment with the environment in mind is often just as economical for homeowners and far more beneficial to the earth as a whole.