Asphalt or Concrete Roads: Which Is More Eco Friendly?

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My husband is really getting into the whole eco friendly lifestyle. I have even heard him telling friends and family how little trash we throw away each week. I ‘m glad he doesn’t think I’m a complete nutcase! So, recently he asked me “Which is better for the environment: Asphalt or Concrete roads?” To be honest, I had never given it much thought so I did a little research and thought I would share!

Asphalt vs Concrete and a look at road sustainability

Which is better? Asphalt or Concrete Roads?

Many factors influence the choice of asphalt vs. concrete for road creation. Neither material is necessarily better than the other… there are pros and cons to both materials.  Concrete roads are very durable and slightly more environmentally friendly compared to asphalt roads.

However, asphalt costs quite a bit less to install. Asphalt roads are also a bit safer when it comes to things like snow and skidding.

Are Asphalt Roads Greener?

Asphalt vs concrete roads. Which is the better choice for the environment? While you probably don’t have much say in what your city uses, I thought I would share some ideas about which one is better for the environment!

  • PRO: For the initial construction, asphalt has lower “ore and fertilizer input requirements,” and lower toxic emissions.
  • CON: For the initial construction asphalt has a higher energy input.
  • PRO: Asphalt has been recycled in larger quantities than concrete saving resources and reducing pollution. (according to one site….read on…)
  • CON: It has higher hazardous waste generation and management than steel-reinforced concrete
  • Asphalt absorbs sunlight and converts it into heat. In the hot summer sun it can reach over 140°. Not good for global warming.
  • CON: Asphalt is a byproduct of the petroleum industry. As oil reserves decline and/or prices rise this may become a problem. And, do we really want to support the petroleum industry?

Asphalt or Concrete roads

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Are Concrete Roads Eco Friendly?

  • PRO: Concrete requires less artificial light at night because it reflects light better. The less energy used in lighting the better, reducing emissions.
  • PRO: Concrete is a light grey and reflects most of the energy of the sun.
  • PRO: Concrete and the steel reinforcements are recyclable. “Concrete yields 45% to 80% usable coarse aggregate ” (according to another site…)
  • CON: Cost. Concrete is more expensive
  • CON: Concrete is made of Cement (composed of 75% limestone) and then sand, gravel and water are added. This requires extensive amounts of mining. Do we really want to support extensive mining of our landscapes?

chrysler building and road for traveling

Greener Roads for Green Travel!

SO, in general…it seems to be who you ask…concrete people extol the virtues of concrete and asphalt people say that their product is better. I am leaning towards Concrete being the better of two evils but some other’s may disagree with me.

More Green Travel Tips

There are some newer materials being explored including porous asphalt and rubberized asphalt concrete. I think our ecofriendly existence depends on one of these newer materials. We need to start thinking outside the box a little bit if we are to lessen our impact with all our road building!

Sorry, hubby, no good answer for your question!


References: (neutral people)
Charger Enterprises (asphalt people)
Concrete Coalition (concrete people)


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