It Is Easy Being Green – A Guide to Having a Green Home

The term “green” is thrown around frequently these days. Concerns over global warming, the increasing costs of fuel and utilities, chemicals and preservatives used in foods, poor air quality and dwindling forests and animal habitats are causing many consumers to think twice about the choices they make, proving the green lifestyle isn’t just for outrageous environmentalists.
So what really is green? Green means being healthy, sustainable, and environmentally and socially responsible. Green living can translate into almost any aspect of your life; from where you live and what car you drive to what you wear and eat or where your next pet comes from.

Green building is becoming increasingly popular in new homes and construction, and many homebuyers now expect green features when purchasing a new home. Whether you’re building new or remodeling an existing home, there are many ways green building practices can be easily applied to housing, creating healthier indoor atmospheres while reducing your carbon footprint.

There are many different aspects of green building. Material choices can be green. The method by which materials arrive at a jobsite, the amount of waste generated and the method of waste disposal can be green. The location of a home or community, the architecture, design, landscaping, and quality of the air inside a building can give a project a “green” label. If you’ve decided to go green, or are in the market for a green home, here are some green building ideas to consider:

  • Use materials that are renewable – Examples of renewable resources are bamboo and solar power. Bamboo is an environmentally friendly choice for flooring, cabinets, countertops and furniture that is both durable and good looking, and since it’s a grass that grows quickly, it creates less of an impact on the environment than harvesting lumber. Solar power is a cleaner choice for energy, and can be used for one appliance, such as a water heater, or can power your entire home. Many states offer rebates on solar power equipment, and there may be tax benefits as well.
  • Get Recycled – There are many recycled material options including recycled glass tiles, reclaimed hardwoods and timber, and even carpets and countertops made from recycled materials. By reusing these materials, less waste ends up in landfills.
  • Breathe Healthy Air – Pay attention to indoor air quality by avoiding products that contain harmful chemicals and choosing non-toxic and low-VOC finishes and materials. VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are present in many paints, stains and adhesives and can be harmful to your health. Low or no VOC paints, stains and glues are an excellent alternative. Choosing low-VOC and formaldehyde-free insulation, such as blue jean insulation, cellulose or spray foam rather than traditional batting is another great option. Make sure doors, windows and tub/shower enclosures are properly sealed to prevent moisture from seeping into the home, opening the door for mold.
  • Use Less Water – Look for water-saving features like low-flow or dual flush toilets, low-flow faucets and shower heads, and energy efficient washing machines. Landscape using xeriscaping; plant native plant species that require less water and install a drip system with an automatic timer. Use a minimal amount of lawn which requires heavy water use. In some areas, rainwater or grey water can be used for plant irrigation.
  • Conserve Energy – There are many easy ways to reduce the amount of energy you use. Choose energy star appliances and light fixtures, use compact florescent or LED bulbs rather than traditional incandescent bulbs, upgrade to high efficiency heating and air conditioning units with dual/multiple zones and programmable thermostats, add extra insulation and consider more efficient cellulose or spray foam insulation methods, choose a tankless water heater, look for low-e dual pane windows and doors, and make sure all cracks, crevices, and areas around pipes, doors and windows are sealed with caulk or foam. Not only do these things help to reduce your carbon footprint by reducing energy consumption, your utility bills will be drastically lower.
  • Think Long-Term – Sustainable design produces less waste. High-quality, timeless materials and well thought-out floorplans and designs will reduce the need for future remodeling or demolition. Spend time planning out the project, considering the orientation of the sun and direction of prevailing winds when deciding on window placements. Use quality, healthy, timeless materials rather than low-cost trendy options.
  • Location, Location, Location – Communities and homesites that promote walking or biking and are close to amenities, parks and public transportation reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Shop Local – Purchasing products from local manufacturers reduces the amount of emissions from transportation required to get materials to your home.
  • Waste Not – Plan ahead to reduce the amount of waste your project generates. Recycle as much waste product as possible (rather than transporting torn-out concrete to a landfill, try to stain and reuse pieces of broken concrete as patio pavers, or have a concrete recycling plant pick it up). Transport any waste materials that cannot be recycled to the closest landfill possible.
  • Is It Certified? The US Green Building Council is a non-profit organization that developed the LEED® green building rating system, which certifies and rates projects that meet their inspection criteria and can give a homebuyer a better understanding of the green features of a particular home. Homes can also be Energy Star Qualified. In addition, independent inspectors offer energy audits or inspections that can give suggestions on how to improve the energy efficiency of an existing home.

Whether you’re interested in reducing your carbon footprint and improving environmental quality, creating a healthier atmosphere for your family, conserving energy and natural resources, lowering your utility bills, reaping tax benefits, creating a sustainable space or adding value to your home, choosing green construction is an easy choice that benefits us all.