Traditional gypsum boards feature a thick layer of gypsum plaster sandwiched between a layer of thick paper. The gypsum plaster is produced in plants that release sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. Sulfur dioxide pollutes the air and contributes to acid rain. The United States government has long recognized the potential hazards of sulfur dioxide as addressed in the Clean Air Act of 1970, which required manufacturers to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions.
Gypsum plaster is the most common wall material used in the construction of American homes. For the ecology-conscious builder or homeowner, this can present a moral dilemma, since gypsum wallboard leaves a substantial carbon footprint. If you want to construct a green home, you should consider an eco-friendly alternative to traditional gypsum wallboard, or drywall.
The Gypsum Problem
A Friendly Alternative
Synthetic gypsum, or flue-gas-desulfurization (FGD) gypsum, looks almost identical to traditional gypsum board, and offers the same insulation and protection, but does not bear the same carbon footprint. In fact, synthetic gypsum releases no sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, because its manufacturing process involves the use of chemical scrubbers that remove sulfur from the flue gases. Due to tougher environmental regulations, many drywall manufacturers now use synthetic gypsum exclusively.
Other Environmental Benefits
In addition to its reduced pollution, synthetic gypsum production benefits the environment by allowing for easier and less invasive gypsum production. Traditional gypsum is collected from gypsum mines, a process which has an environmental impact on its own. even before the gypsum is refined. Synthetic gypsum does not require extraction from gypsum mines. This contributes to less waste, which amounts to reduced reliance on landfills.
If you want to truly create a green home, you must consider more than just the gypsum. By packing your walls with cellulose insulation, which consists mostly of recycled newspaper, you can raise your energy efficiency by preventing extreme hot and cold temperatures from entering your home from the outside. Other forms of insulation, like fiberglass and polystyrene, are typically less environmentally sound. If you want to install ecology-friendly drywall, ask a retailer if it offers synthetic gypsum specifically.