Lessons in Carbon Neutrality from a Homemade Beer Cooler

I remember the first time my mind was blown by the insulative properties of polystyrene insulation, and the guy who demonstrated it was a character I’ll never forget.

In 2006 I was an engineer working for The Dow Chemical Company. I relocated from the global headquarters in Midland, Michigan, to a much smaller site in Channahon, Illinois. The group of operating technicians at the Channahon site was a fun team to work with, but one team member really sticks out in my mind, I’ll call him Doug for this story. He had a very dry sense of humor, was intelligent in that street-smart kind of way and was just a lot of fun to be around.

At that location then Dow made blue insulation boards made from extruded polystyrene foam that are used in construction. One Friday after work, Doug created a very large homemade cooler by cutting a sheet of insulation board and gluing it together into a gigantic cube.  He then filled it with the ice that had built up on the outside of the nitrogen evaporator. When I asked him what he was doing, he said he was going to the races that weekend in 90-degree heat  and needed a very large cooler because he had a whole lot of beer to keep cold. I told you he was fun to be around.

But the lesson in sustainability came that following Monday when I saw Doug at work in the parking lot.  I asked him how his weekend was and he said, “Great!”  With wide eyes he told me how his homemade cooler had exceeded his wildest expectations. After being outside in the extreme heat all weekend, the ice he put in it on Friday had lasted the entire time.  In fact, it was still in the back of his red pickup. He opened the lid and there was the ice (but no beer).

It boggled my mind how that homemade foam cooler had maintained the ice all weekend long in the sun and heat. I knew that foam was used as insulation in buildings to minimize the heating the cooling needs, however, this was a visual and personal demonstration of just how well it does that.

Heating and cooling of buildings account for 40 percent of our nation’s energy consumption, and generates 43 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, foam insulation like that made from Epsilyte materials, reduces this energy consumption by 48 percent% in home and 30 percent% in commercial buildings1.

It takes about 9 million BTU’s to produce EPS insulation for one home (including transportation), but that insulation will save 329 million BTU’s over the next 50 years2. That’s a significant and a wise investment for our planet.

If we are going to achieve a carbon-neutral future, insulation made from Epsilyte products is going to be a key part of that journey. Just like it was a key part of Doug’s weekend at the races so many years ago.

And as one of the largest producers in North America, Epsilyte is excited to play a role in solving one of the world’s greatest challenges.


1 – http://www2.owenscorning.com/sustainability/docs/life_cycle.pdf

2 – https://www.epsindustry.org/sites/default/files/EPS%20Insulation%20Environmental%20Profile-4pg-%204-21-09.pdf