Today, there are so many choices for eco-friendly building materials that there has never been a time that has been better for renovating your home and going green. There are more and more contractors who have become well versed in energy efficiency. Homeowners can not only save money up front, but also over the long-term by making selections in materials and strategies for installation that will reduce utility bills, maintenance, and replacement costs in the future.
Consider materials that are post-industrial or post-consumer recycled. These items are easy to recycle later when it comes to replacement time as well. Make sure that the materials you choose are sustainably sourced, like wood. To reduce on gas emissions, try to minimize the number of trips required to pick up materials or the distance you have to travel to go and get them.
Tighten things up in your home by filling in any holes, replace or patch any siding or roofing that is needed. Add new weather stripping around all windows and doors. Remove older single-pane style windows and replace them with more energy efficient that are modernized double and triple pane. Within just a few short years these things will pay for themselves in saving on your utility bills. It will also improve the level of comfort in your home. Add to or replace the insulation within walls, attics, or other spaces in the home to keep the cold and heat from penetrating the home’s interior. Swap out older appliances for new models that are certified under the Energy Star Label. This will really help to reduce your monthly utility bills.
For additional guidance on renovating as green as possible, look into the US Green Building Council’s Guide for Green Homes. This online resource is free and the recommendations are based on the guidelines from LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification of “green” buildings. Users can visit this website to speak to contractors who are experienced in questions about techniques and sustainable materials. It also helps homeowners find qualified green home professionals in their local city for jobs that would be considered larger green renovations.
REGREEN is another great website. It is a joint project between USGBC and ASID (American Society of Interior Designers. It offers interactive tools, guidelines, and case studies for green remodeling projects. Even the most basic do-it-yourselfer can understand the information provided. REGREEN offers a Strategy Generator Widget that can offer specific tactics for specific remodeling projects tailored just for your needs.
Where to Buy Green Materials
Visiting a retail green building supply store like Green Depot will go a long way to helping you make eco-friendly material selections. Green Depot has 10 locations across the U.S. You can also visit Lowe’s or Home Depot in your area to find sustainable materials. Green Building Supply offers customers a free online learning center that is quite extensive. They will ship a wide variety of materials to anywhere in the United States.
Disposing of Demolished Materials
The less waste that is created the better. Give consideration when you are planning how to demolish what you have. Consider which materials can be reused or repurposed. For example, you can take the brick from a fireplace you are no longer using and create a pathway in your front or backyard. In some cases you can resell or donate usable materials. Some local salvage yards will take them and you can make a little cash on the side.
Greener Material Choices
The initial planning stage is when you can decide what materials can be used. Products that are certified by the Greenguard Environmental Institute, Cradle to Cradle, or the Forest Stewardship Council will be good for your project. These materials have undergone certifications that are rigorous so that they are tested for environmental impact. Many green salvage yards offer tiles, windows, doorknobs, doors, and a variety of other materials that are either leftovers or from demolition jobs.
Choose linoleum instead of vinyl. Vinyl, according to Greenpeace as a plastic, it is the most environmentally harmful. It is created with substances that have phthalates and dioxin in them. These can contribute to serious health problems over time. True linoleum is made from linseed oil which is a better option.
Choose no-VOC or low paints. Regular paint releases toxic volatile organic compounds. You can also find sealers and caulks that are the same way.
Use reclaimed wood, cork, or bamboo instead of carpet or hardwoods. Carpet is a bad choice because it releases volatile organic compounds. If you must buy carpet, then look for Green Label certified products. These will have lower voc emissions. Much of the costs are centered on installation so you will still be saving money.
Remodeling a kitchen is high on many homeowner’s wish list. Choose appliances that are Energy Star rated, as they use less energy and are comparable in price to other models. Some utility companies offer rebates on new purchases. At tax time you can enjoy federal tax credits. You can find more information about these on the Energy Star website. Install cabinetry that is formaldehyde-free – woods certified through the Forest Stewardship Council are sustainably harvested. Utilize natural light with windows that are well-placed, sun tunnels, or skylights, and try to keep the refrigerator out of direct sunlight and away from the oven. If the exterior of the refrigerator gets hot, it will think it has to work harder.
Lastly, the bathroom is another place where wise choices can be made when remodeling. There are many eco-friendly ideas available such as replacing toilets with models that are low-flow. Choose tiles that are made from content that is recycled. Add flow reducers to sinks and the shower that will help you use less water.