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From the Trash Bin to Underground Insulation

Plants and the Environment
Toben Dorsey-Sanchez

Marisa Kleiman

Global warming is a very real problem and CO2production is a huge cause of it. With the 531 million tons of CO2produced annually as a result of heating and cooling buildings globally, builders have started to look at alternative building options and materials to reduce this air pollution. Some builders have started building homes underground to reduce the need for heating and cooling and this has proven to be a more environmentally friendly option. Another significant environmental issue is our landfills. There are around 11.3 million tons of textiles that end up at landfills in America alone. My project seeks to reduce both of these environmental problems by examining recycled materials that might have the potential to become insulation for underground homes. A study conducted by me in 2023 revealed that in an above ground home recycled cotton and Styrofoam were more effective than fiberglass insulation in keeping a consistent temperature throughout the day. This study is aimed at looking at how these same materials will function in underground houses. For my project, I built 5 boxes and filled one each with cotton from jeans/clothing, polyester, Styrofoam, and the industry standard (fiberglass insulation). One box was used as a control or as a "no insulation" environment. I recorded the temperatures inside the boxes every two hours for 5 days from 8am to 8pm. Results revealed that both Styrofoam and Cotton did result in less variance in temperature, with Styrofoam preforming the best. However, the amount of difference of variance in each of the conditions was small (less than .5 degrees F).Still, these results do suggest that finding alternatives to fiberglass in underground homes may be fruitful and that using recycled materials may be useful in eventually finding solutions to two significant environmental problems.

Project presentation

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One thought on “From the Trash Bin to Underground Insulation

  1. Very interesting project and results. I hope you continue to experiment with this solution

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