The sad reality of the roofing industry is that its not very environmentally friendly. Each year, nearly 11 million tons of asphalt shingles are left in landfills. In fact, asphalt makes close to 80% of the waste made by the roofing industry. The use of other materials from wood, underlayment and nails are also another issue since these are dumped into landfills as well. The benefit when re-roofing your house is that you won’t have to worry about your roof for another 20-30 years. Another positive side of this is that now more than ever, there are multiple options to choose from and some of them are more environmental roof friendly options.

When it comes to sustainability, you might be surprised that you have some options in what goes into your home. Keep reading to find out more.

What Makes a Roof Environmentally Friendly?

To determine this, we need to look into what makes up a roof. That is, the materials and how these are sustainable. When we look into the definition of what sustainability is, its any material or product that is made without permanently damaging resources. Furthermore, environmentalists would add that the product in questions does not cause any significant damage to the earth. Now, most roofing materials come from fossil fuels and mined minerals, so these are not sustainable by definition. Let’s take a further look.

Let’s Compare Some Roofing Materials

Asphalt Shingles

The main component of asphalt shingles is asphalt, that same asphalt that make up our roads and we drive on. Other materials include fiberglass, minerals as well as other petroleum products. Due to their petroleum-based product, asphalt is not sustainable. However, some asphalt shingles can be recyclable. Asphalt shingles can be recycled and made into new asphalt pavement or an additive for cold patch to help fill the cracks and potholes. Keep in mind, not all roofing companies recycle their shingles. If you have your interest peaked in knowing the waste disposal rules of each company, it will be a good idea to ask your contractor first.

environmental roof options

Metal Roofing

Made of steel and aluminum, metal roofs are made with materials that are mined from the earth. This makes them not sustainable by definition. Metal Roofs also require lots of energy to construct, can be made of high recycled contents and in turn, be easily recyclable when its at the end of its life cycle. Metal roofs do reflect some sun rays but they need to be installed and insulated properly, since the metal can get hot quickly and also conduct this heat around the house.

metal roofing steel aluminum

Wood Shakes

Wood shakes are probably the one true roofing material that fits the sustainability category because its made of wood, a natural resource. When it comes to disposal of the materials, wood shakes or shingles can keep their sustainability brand because they are biodegradable. Granted, that they have not been treated with other toxic preservatives. While it can make things a little difficult if the wood shakes are made from high energy productivity, look into shingles made from FSG certified wood. FSG or Forest Stewardship Council certifies certain products that meet the “gold standard” in ethical production.

wood shake shingles on a roof

Slate Roofing

Slate Roofing is highly durable and incredibly beautiful. Made from mining stones, sadly they are not very sustainable. Slate materials are also very expensive, since the process includes mining, processing and transporting slate tiles to multiple locations. During installation, slate tiles requires extra materials and a higher labor expertise, since its not an easy material to install. The weight of slate requites extra roof framing, therefore, more wood, nails and other materials will be in production. This causes additional resources to be used up that are also not environmental friendly.

slate roofing material option


Concrete Tile/ Fiber Cement

Not the most environmental friendly options out there. Concrete tile and fiber cement are both made with Portland cement, which creates CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. As you can tell, these materials take a lot of energy to produce. The benefit of these two materials is their durability, they will last a long time. Both concrete and cement are heavy, so extra resources, such as materials and labor will be needed during installation.

concrete tile fiber cement option

Clay Tile Roofs

Per the manufacturers of clay tile, the material is a sustainable product. Clay tile is made of, well, clay. Natural clay is shaped and framed into roofing tiles. While some of these can be made of additional properties, for example, some clay will be painted over and others have the more natural look. Clay tiles are very durable and last for decades. They are also more expensive than asphalt shingles and heavy.

clay tile material sustainable

Cool Roof Systems

Cool Roofs are able to reflect sunlight and self-cool by emitting the heat that is being absorbed. A plus of the cool roof system is that it does not have to be a light color to work, darker shades will also work with cool roofs. It all depends on the design materials. In order to work efficiently, a cool roof needs to have the proper solar reflecting capabilities and emit more heat outwards than other roofs. Typically, a cool roof will transfer less heat to the its structure below, so the building will stay cooler. Another way that cool roof systems are environmentally friendly is that it causes less greenhouse gas emissions, since less energy is being consumed.

As with any home project, the prospective costs are one of the first things to keep in mind. Well, the good thing about cool roofs is that they are not necessarily more expensive than regular roofs. If you are installing or re-roofing a brand new roof, then ask your roofing contractor for advise and to provide a budget for a cool roof. If you are wanting to switch over to a cool roof system while your roof is in fine condition, then it will be more expensive to make the switch.

Green Roof Systems

Green roofs are a layer of vegetation that is installed on top of a roof, usually this roof is flat and waterproof. These roofs are popular in parts of the country where there is extreme heat, such as islands. Green Roofs help by mitigating the heat, provide shade and help reduce the temperatures of the surface. Green roof systems can also help reduce the use of electricity. There are two types of Green Roofs, extensive and intensive and depending on your budget and your preference, you cannot go wrong with either one. The drawbacks can include the higher costs of installation and that these can be higher maintenance than most roofs.

It can be hard however, to be wholly sustainable. For example, green roof systems require a heavy-duty membrane(rubber) in order to prevent rain water from forming leaks and getting through the roof. Rubber membrane is made of petroleum, and this is not a sustainable source.

Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing Sustainable Roofing Materials

  1. Color – Depending on where you live and how much sunlight your house gets. It is always advised to pick lighter shingle colors, since darker colors have low reflectivity and will capture more sun-rays. Therefore, heating up your house and lead to higher electricity bills. The sun light will be able to bounce off lighter color shingles more easily and heat your house less.
  2. Weight – As discussed above, different roofing materials have different weights. Depending on the structure of your home, some materials are better suitable than others. After all, you do not want to compromise your home structure or put too much pressure on it and have issues down the road
  3. Slope of the roof – Another thing to keep in mind when talking about the structure of your home is the slope of your roof. If you have a flat roof, then its advisable to go with metal since its the best material to prevent leaks. You could have a low-slope roof, where its best that some parts of the roof include EDPM or flat roofing materials. If you have a high-slope, then you have more options for the materials. The structure and build of the home determines the materials that can be installed on it
  4.  Maintenance – One of the positive aspects of getting a new roof installed is that there is little maintenance afterwards. Depending on the material you have chosen, its always a good idea to know the required maintenance tips that come with it. Tougher materials will require less maintenance than others. While more extravagant or colorful ones will require more effort since the upkeep and aesthetic rewards are greater.
  5. Warranty – Higher quality materials provide longer warranties, this means that the manufacturers stand behind their product and know they are durable for years to come. Knowing the warranties that go into the materials you choose is a great way to inform yourself of the quality of products that are going into your home.

Environmental Roof Options and More

Here we have highlighted some of the ways the roofing industry is being more sustainable and providing different ways to prevent further damage to the environment. While this industry is not the greenest, its interesting to see that there are new ways to deter further damage from happening to the planet. Investing a little more in your next roof project can bring more benefits than you thought possible.

If you have any questions or want to know more about the roofing materials we offer and work with, do not hesitate to contact us here! Oscar Roofing strives to provide the best roofing experience for all their customers. Give us a call at (812)545-1381 or (317)358-6625 and have all your roofing needs met under one roof!