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Use environmentally friendly materials for your pool

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Using eco-friendly materials for your swimming pool helps keep harmful substances from entering natural ecosystems. It also cuts back on energy use and landfill deposits by using recycled products.

Eco-friendly pool materials

The most significant way to incorporate eco-friendly materials is to create a natural swimming pool. For conventional pools there are fewer options, and few eco-alternatives to specific pool parts like liners, for example. But the environmentally sound materials that do exist are markedly innovative and will help make a difference.

  • Insulating concrete foam (ICF): These foundations for building are made of concrete mixed with other materials. Only ICFs made with recycled materials are green, and they are among the most sought-after materials in America today. Rastra contains 85 percent recycled polystyrene taken from materials like old packing peanuts and Styrofoam coffee cups, mixed with cement and concrete. All that foam makes Rastra a super insulator that can significantly reduce heating use in the pool. Durisol contains 78 percent recycled materials, such as wood waste, shavings, and chips from the lumber and building industries that are bonded together with cement. It also has high insulating qualities for reducing heat use.
  • Pool paint: A new generation of waterborne, acrylic paints emit little or no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and are made from water rather than oil, yet are strong enough for pool use.
  • Glass tiling: Glass bottles are recycled and made into shimmering glass tile that works perfectly for pool walls or floors.
  • Natural stone: The original environmental material, local stone, has become popular as a paver around pools, with native pebbles for accents. Stone found on the same land where the pool is set is particularly eco-efficient.

Find it! Eco-friendly pool materials

Using eco-friendly materials for your pool helps you go green because…

  • You’ll be using recycled plastic. One ton of recycled plastic saves 685 gallons of oil and 30 cubic yards of landfill space.[1]
  • You’ll be using recycled glass. The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle is enough to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.[1]
  • You’ll be keeping VOCs from polluting the outdoor air.
  • By using environmentally friendly paint, you’ll also be creating a cleaner home environment: There is no danger of VOCs to swimmers.
  • Using natural stone for paving creates an entire outdoor environment, rather than the sense that the pool was just placed in the land. If the stone is from the same land as the pool, it will have even more of a sense of visual unity and a vernacular.

The materials used to make anything as expansive as a swimming pool take a toll on the environment. Plastics are a problem in general in the United States, where 2.5 million plastic bottles are used every hour and only a small percentage are recycled. Enough plastic bottles are thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.[1] Recycling is vital to the environment but not yet prevalent. Approximately 40-65 percent of the waste stream in the US is recyclable, but about 65 percent of garbage is buried in landfills, while 15 percent is incinerated and only 20 percent is recycled.[1]

The environmental problems from paint are also significant; the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that 9 percent percent of the airborne pollutants causing ground-level ozone (smog) come from the VOCs in paint. Wind can carry ground-level ozone hundreds of miles from where it originates.[2] Ground-level ozone harms ecosystems and vegetation, accounting for an estimated $500 million in reduced crop production each year in the United States.[3]

Using recycled materials completes “the cycle” of recycling: Not only do the original materials escape entering landfills, they're transformed into something that is used new, eliminating the massive energy use that goes into creating brand new materials. Rastra, for example, requires only one to three kilowatt hours (kWh)to make each block.[4] One ton of recycled glass saves 42 Kwh of energy, 5 gallons of oil, 7.5 pounds of air pollutants from being released, and 2 cubic yards of landfill space.[5]

Related health issues


Health effects from paint VOCs can include eye, throat or lung irritation, headaches, dizziness, and vision problems.[6] Some of these chemicals are known to cause cancer in animals and may be carcinogenic in humans.[7]
The ground-level ozone or smog that forms when VOCs react with nitrogen oxide gases also create health effects. Breathing ozone can cause chest pain, throat irritation, coughing, and congestion, as well as worsen asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema.[8] Studies have also shown there can be short-term or long-term damage to lung tissue from exposure to ozone.[9]


  • volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Organic solvents that easily evaporate into the air. VOCs are emitted by thousands of products including paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings. They cause problems for the outdoor environment, and may cause immediate and long-term health problems.
  • ground-level ozone: The main component of smog, ground-level ozone is formed when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react chemically with nitrogen oxides, which come from sources like motor vehicles and industrial plants.

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