15 Ways To Make Your Shipping Container Home More Eco-Friendly

Posted By: April 30, 2015 In How To

Want to build your own shipping container home? Start Here.

So we already know that using shipping containers to build homes with is environmentally friendly. And in the recent survey which we published we found that the two most common reasons people want to live in a container home is because they are affordable and eco-friendly- more about that here.

But, how can you make your shipping container homes even more eco-friendly?

Well today we have put together 15 tips which you can use to improve the eco-friendliness of your home!

Lower Your Temperature

Do you really need to walk around inside during winter with only shorts and a t-shirt on!? If you turn the thermostat down and slightly reduce the temperature of your hot water you could save yourself money and reduce your carbon emissions!

Use Your Garden

Another great way to improve the eco-friendliness of your container is to create a compost pile either in your kitchen (ideally within a compost pail/bin!) or in your garden.

Lots of daily items we throw into the bin could instead be placed on a compost pile, things like: vegetable peels, fruit, tea bag, cotton clothes and more could all be recycled.

Compost Heap

Around 30% of rubbish we bin each week could be composted instead, this would be very good for the environment. By using a compost pile instead of a landfill it stops the build-up of methane gas which is a contributor to global warming.

If you don’t have enough room in your garden for a compost pile you can purchase a compost bin and place this on your drive. Once the scraps have rotted down you have a rich compost which can be used to sprinkle on your plants and trees.

In addition to having a compost pile, why not try to grow your own food in your garden! Growing your own vegetables can save a huge amount of carbon dioxide emissions! Not only do you get the satisfaction of knowing where your food has come from, you also save the vegetables travelling thousands of miles to the supermarket and then to your home…

Switch Off Your Appliances

In the UK alone around $2.5 billion is wasted by electronic devices left on standby. It’s estimated that 40% of people with games consoles leave them on standby and this alone costs around $75USD per device each year.

So the first step is to make sure you turn off any appliances at the plug when they aren’t in use.

If you are more serious about reducing your carbon footprint then consider swapping out your old electronics for energy star rated ones. Energy star products use anywhere from 10-50% less energy than standard models.

In a similar vein look to switch out any incandescent lightbulbs for a CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulb- this will save over 400 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per bulb!

Try Eco-Friendly Insulation

Both what you use to insulate your container with and where you insulate your container can make a massive difference to the environment.Straw Shipping Container Insulation

Let’s start with what to insulate your container with.

Instead of using traditional fibreglass blanket insulation in the roof of your container- why not consider using a natural alternative like- cotton insulation or GreenFiber Cocoon? GreenFiber Cocoon is created out of recycled newspaper and can be purchased for around 25 cents per square foot.

Or, if cotton isn’t your style you could use straw to insulate your walls. La Milpa, a Mexican school, has recently built large sections of their school out of shipping containers and they insulated the walls with straw- keep your  eyes peeled on our blog because we will be interviewing the school about this within the next few weeks!

Now, let’s talk about where to insulate.

Although it’s temping when you’re building you container home to save money and only insulate your walls- in the long run this isn’t eco-friendly and will almost certainly cost you more money.

Instead you should insulate the container’s walls, roof and underneath.

To insulate the underneath and walls of your containers most of the time we’d opt for spray foam insulation but it depends on the climate and individual circumstances. To insulate the roof, we’d choose one of the eco-friendly options mentioned above.

It typically costs around $400-$450USD to insulate your roof and you can save this money back in reduced heating bills within three years.

Fit Solar Panels

One of the best ways to do this is to fit your containers with solar panels. Depending on where you live a typical 4kWp system can save you over $200 off your yearly electricity bill. If you live in the UK you can also opt-into the ‘feed in tariff’ where you sell your excess electricity back to the government.

In order to get the best value out of solar-panels you need a south facing roof, ideally with no shade. If your roof has some shade this isn’t a problem but it needs to have clear sunlight on it from around 10am until 4pm.

Remember if you are seriously considering solar panels, you can ask the supplier to test your home first and they will give you an estimation of how much energy they expect the solar panels on your roof will produce.

Shipping Container Solar Panel

© Larry Wade

Like the sound of solar panels but don’t want to pay for them? Why not consider making them yourself. Larry from seacabin, built his own solar panels to go ontop of his container lodge.

Use Local Building Materials

A great way to cut down on your carbon footprint is to source any of your building materials locally- now this will be easier for some of you than others.

If you live in Canada and are using oak to clad the external skin of your container fantastic! However, if you want to do the same and live in Dubai this will require you to source your materials from a long way- greatly increasing your carbon footprint. So instead of using oak is there any other local material you could source to use instead?

Not only does this apply to building materials but taken further you could also apply this principal to your food and try to only eat locally source produce wherever possible.

Quick-fire points

  • Using carpets on wooden floors can save around 4-6% on heating bills.
  • Make sure your fridge is in the shade.
  • Make sure your bedding sheets are made from wool and not polyester- wool is more environmentally friendly to produce.
  • Instead of taking a bath, try to shower in your container home because this can save over 85% of the water.
  • Try using an eco-friendly kettle- or if you don’t want to buy a new kettle make sure you don’t boil too much water!
  • Try washing your clothes in cold water instead of warm water.
  • Don’t replace broken things- try to repair them!
  • Make sure any ‘drafty’ areas of your container are sealed up.
  • Replace any single glazed windows with double glazed window to reduce your heating usage!

Have any other great tips about how to make your shipping container home ever more eco-friendly? Feel free to leave them in the comments below and we will update the list!

  1. ksna sol

    Quick question. I’m discussing with my group the idea of a community based on shipping container housing, and the question of energy consumption has come up several times (in terms of heating and cooling) and more importantly the delivery of the containers to the (community) site. The fear is the delivery of the containers (the miles traveled) at some point, start to make the use of containers as homes ecologically unfeasible?

    • Tom

      Hi Sol,

      Yes to an extent. But again as I’ve mentioned in previous articles it really varies on the distance you are to a port/container dealer and the current use of that container.


      • ksna sol

        Thanks Tom. I think I’d read that. I was just being hopeful, throwing out a few feelers. So under the circumstance I’m guessing the best we could hope for is a distributor that isn’t located too far away from where we’re located.

        • Tom

          That sounds about right to me 🙂