ByHaley Shapley

Nov 6, 2014
Roof shingles

From its origins as the developer of Fiberglas technology to its current status as a maker of building materials, Owens Corning has found many ways to create practical and sustainable solutions for customers — all while keeping the environment in mind.

Recently, the company earned a spot in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) for the fifth straight year. The DJSI is a global index that tracks the financial performance of world leaders in sustainability, taking into consideration environmental, economic and social factors. For the second consecutive year, Owens Corning was named Industry Leader in the index’s World Building Products group. One look at the company’s latest sustainability report, and it’s clear why it’s being commended.

“Our goal of being recognized on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index reflects our overall strategy of encompassing sustainability as part of our business strategy,” says Gale Tedhams, director of sustainability at Owens Corning. “We realize that sustainability and financial performance go hand in hand.”

To achieve these recognitions, the company has made sustainability a key component of its operations, striving to “decrease its footprint while increasing its handprint.” That means Owens Corning aims to reduce energy and water use, emissions, and waste, while also taking a clear stance on climate change and increasing sustainability education and recycling.

“Owens Corning strives to be a leader in sustainable building through the entire life cycle, and this 360-degree approach has made us cognizant of how each step in the manufacturing process and supply chain is connected,” Tedhams says. “We simply cannot look at any step in isolation.”

In the past year, the company’s sustainability efforts have been diverse. Owens Corning commissioned the largest on-site photovoltaic solar system in New York at an insulation manufacturing plant. It doubled the number of miles company vehicles drove using natural gas instead of diesel fuel. It also signed the Climate Declaration asking government officials to address climate change and has taken steps to advocate for climate and energy initiatives.

Meanwhile, Owens Corning continues to make asphalt, insulation and other building materials that use recycled content and help reduce energy use. These products can help buildings achieve LEED certification and Energy Star ratings for builders and owners seeking green building certification.

A Focus on Recycling
In addition to using recycled content in many of its products, Owens Corning’s ongoing efforts to recycle shingles have continued to grow. The company’s Roofing and Asphalt Shingle Recycling Program works with roofing contractors across the country to recycle torn-off shingles. About 10 million tons of shingles that could be recycled are removed from roofs in the U.S. annually, according to the EPA, and last year 1 million tons — or 10 percent — were recycled through the program, based on estimates from the Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt Recycling Network.

If you’re considering replacing your roof, visit the recycling program to find an Owens Corning Roofing preferred contractor who is a member of the Owens Corning Shingle Recycling Network. Old asphalt shingles are turned into pavement, which is used to cover the nation’s roadways.

How much pavement can the shingles from your house make? A pretty significant amount: about 200 feet of a two-lane highway.

The Benefits of Extended Producer Responsibility
When companies think ahead about what happens to a product at the end of its usable life-span, recycling solutions are easier to plan for. Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt’s recycling efforts are a good example of how a business can reduce waste throughout the life cycle of a product and find innovative ways to put that product to good use even when it no longer works in its current form. This lets consumers know they’re purchasing shingles now that could eventually turn into roads in the future.

To learn more about sustainable building and roofing solutions from Owens Corning, visit the company’s website.

Editor’s Note: Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. Owens Corning is one of these partners.

Feature image courtesy of Randen Pederson

By Haley Shapley

Haley Shapley is based in Seattle, where recycling is just as cool as Macklemore, walking in the rain without an umbrella, and eating locally sourced food. She writes for a wide range of publications, covering everything from sustainability to fitness to travel. Read more of her work here.