“Going green” has been a popular buzz term for several years now, but what exactly does that mean when it comes to home design?
Yes, we all know about natural cleaning solutions, natural health and beauty products, and organic foods, but there is so much more you can do in your home to help keep your family and the environment healthy.
Research continues to evolve on the impact of home materials and chemicals on our health, and long gone are the days of using asbestos or formaldehyde in surfaces and glues. Paint and flooring companies are introducing more low-VOC options. VOCs are volatile organic compounds that can affect the air quality in your home and impact your health. Even when it comes to hardwood floors, oil-finished wood is gaining in popularity as an alternative to polyurethane finishes. Other sustainable flooring options include bamboo, cork, reclaimed wood, wool carpet, or recycled glass or stone tile. These options are better for your health when it comes to reducing chemicals in your home and have much less impact on the environment.
Another way to go green in your home is with energy-efficient fixtures and appliances. A lot of the appliances you see now have energy star ratings. These ratings show impact on the environment in terms of energy the appliance uses. Look for the energy star logo when purchasing appliances so you can select options that keep your energy bill down. Plumbing fixtures are another area to look for energy efficiency. Low-flow toilets use less water, as do toilets with variable flush settings. Shower fixtures with technology that infuses air to the water coming out of the showerhead give the feeling of higher flow, but actually use less water. Delta calls this technology H2Okinetic, and in addition to the droplet size, these fixtures also control the speed and movement of the water to control water usage. Another way to conserve water is to look for shower fixtures that have a pause setting. This allows you to shut off the water flow while you wash or apply shampoo, cutting back on the amount of water that is wasted.
Going green in home design applies just as much to the exterior of your home as it does to the interior. One of the best ways to make your home more energy efficient is with quality windows. Look for options that have Low-E glass to help eliminate the effect that outside air temperature has on the interior of your home. This coating also protects the color and finish of surfaces in your home such as curtains, furniture, and flooring which means they won’t have to be replaced as often.
Recycled and reclaimed materials have been trending for a while now and utilizing these products in your home is another way to go green. Recycled glass countertops and tile can be used in kitchens and bathrooms. Reclaimed wood can be used as flooring, or as an accent on walls, fireplaces, kitchen islands, etc. If you’re really feeling adventurous, scout out local antique shops or consignment shops to find furniture, accessories or other items that can be repurposed rather than always buying new. Or even when remodeling, consider donating cabinets, countertops or furniture to a local consignment shop or company like Habitat for Humanity or the Salvation Army. This all helps reduce waste in our landfills.
One final way to make your home greener is through electricity and lighting. LED lighting has come a long way in the past few years, offering different brightness options and color temperatures. You can even get vintage Edison-style bulbs in LED now. LED lighting offers up to 90% energy savings when compared to traditional incandescent lighting and emits very little heat. Solar energy is common in the West and is finally making its way into the Southeast. Adding solar panels to your home can help use the sun’s radiant heat to power your home and supplement your existing energy source. While this energy source can be expensive to set up, the savings in the long run on your wallet and the environment are well worth it.
When it comes to making your home more eco-friendly and energy-efficient, there are endless options. You don’t have to go all out all at once, either. Even taking small steps like changing out frequently used plumbing fixtures and light bulbs throughout your home can make an impact. If you’re not sure where to start, just reach out to a local remodeler familiar with green design for some advice.
Photo: courtesy Tracy Tesmer Design/Remodeling