Remodeling a home makes it feel brand new, fresh, and healthy – until you start wondering about the environmental impact of wasted or newly harvested materials. Luckily, you can now take measures to make virtually any home renovation more eco-friendly both for the sake of your health and the planet. Also, well-implemented green renovations can actually save you a great deal of money as well.
Plan Your Green Renovation
The time to start thinking about the eco-friendly phases of your home remodel is when you’re planning. If you’re hiring a professional crew, take into consideration how ‘green’ they are and how they dispose of demolished materials and/or how they go about selecting new ones.
Hire Eco-Friendly Professionals
Your first step towards making more eco-friendly choices is by hiring green-savvy professionals to work on your home. Ask to see some examples of their work and exactly how they are eco-friendly. If they are truly experts, they will readily know everything about product sustainability and toxicity to taking advantage of natural heat and light sources. They can also show you how to reduce energy costs and consumption.
Demolished Materials Disposal
As your planning your remodel, particularly if it’s a major one, consider what you are going to do with your demolished materials and waste. The less waste you have, the better. Can you repurpose or reuse any of it in other areas of your home? For instance, tearing down an old fireplace and reusing the bricks in the backyard to build a charming pathway to a fire-pit is a great way to repurpose materials. Another idea is donate or resell any functional materials to a local salvage yard or other recycling vendor.
Choose Your Materials Wisely
Obviously, you’ll need to determine what materials you intend to use in the planning stage of your remodel. Look for eco-friendly products that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or the Greenguard Environmental Institute. Visit salvage yards to find a wide variety of windows, doors, cabinetry, tiles, and other useable materials left over from new build construction.
Consider eco-friendly substitutes, several of which cost less than their “not so green” counterparts. Here are some just to name a few:
- Choose Linoleum Instead of Vinyl
- According to the organization Greenpeace, vinyl is the most damaging material available today due to its health-damaging materials such as phthalates and dioxin. Authentic linoleum, derived from linseed oil, is a much better option to use.
- Flooring: Cork, Bamboo, or Reclaimed Wood Instead of Hardwood or Carpet
- Carpet is a bad choice, especially if it produces VOCs (volatile organic compounds), like most do. If you must have carpet, find brands they are certified by the Green Label Plus, and Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label programs, which emit very low VOC emissions. Also, think about greener options to hardwood or carpet such as natural bamboo or cork, both of which quickly replenish.
- No or Low VOC Paints
- Standard paints release VOCs. However, many non-VOC paints are available today. Look for no or low VOC caulks and sealers as well.
- High Impact Remodels: The Kitchen and Bathroom
- Both your kitchen and bathroom remodel will have the strongest influence on not only the overall value of your home, but the two spaces where incorporating eco-friendly changes will pay off the most over time.
Kitchens are high on the list of any home renovator’s wish list. If you’re planning to remodel your kitchen and would like to take a more eco-friendly approach, here are some ideas to make it both functional and green:
- Instead of buying bottled water, consider installing a quality water filter to drink fresh water.
- Choose appliances that are Energy Star rated, which use less energy overall and are still comparable in price.
- Take advantage of natural light sources by implementing well-positioned skylights, windows, or sun tunnels.
- Install an attractive substitute to trendy granite like recycled glass countertops.
Bathrooms are another opportunity for renovators to make more green choices. Some of those choices include:
- Use shower heads and sinks that reduce water flow to use less water.
- Replace toilets with low-flow water usage models.
- Install tile made from recycled materials such as colored glass.
Consider these green options as you’re planning your home remodel. Over time, the energy and money you save may pleasantly surprise you.
Charlie Teschner started MESA Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling in 1982. Charlie has a journeyman and master plumber’s license. He was raised with a strong work ethic and he now applies those values to tasks such as heating repair in Boulder.