With phrases like global warming, greenhouse effect and sustainable management being tossed around in everyday headlines, more people are focusing on the effects of their actions. It’s not just about what manufacturing companies are doing to help or hurt the environment; it’s also about what people do in their everyday activities.
How many of you have noticed the term “green home” weaving its way into your life? “Green” is a big trend in homes right now, but you’re forgiven if you’re not sure exactly what that means. In fact, I wasn’t completely sure what it meant until I did some research of my own. When I think “green home” I think of energy conserving, water miser Energy Star appliances, composting toilet and a home with solar panels. But what about a home with traditional heating and electrical systems that also has low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) drapes, paint and carpet? Or, can it be as simple as making our environmental impact as small as possible, given the tools we already have?
What I found is that any of the aforementioned are steps in the right direction. Going green can be anything from where you buy a home, how you build a home and the ways in which you cut water and energy waste.
It is possible to be a little bit green. Everything helps, even if you simply choose a floor of sustainable cork instead of Brazilian rain-forest cherry or a kitchen counter top of recycled glass tiles rather than granite. Not only will you help the planet, but doing so often helps your own bottom line through lower energy bills and your home’s potentially higher resale value.
So, how can you make improvements without breaking the bank?
- Use certified (sustainably harvested) wood products
- Buy products made of recycled materials
- Cut energy use with insulation and a highly efficient furnace and appliances
- Install renewable energy sources like a wind generator or solar panels
- Reduce light pollution
- Maximize open space on your land
You’ll be happy to know that some of the best investments are also the easiest to implement. These four will give you the most return for the money spent:
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. They last seven or eight years and use less energy, saving about $100 per year in electricity. Cost: $2+.
- Install a timer on your lights and heating-and-cooling system so you can program your home to consume less energy when you’re gone or sleeping. Cost: roughly $30.
- Put aerators on faucets to dramatically reduce water use. Find them at hardware stores for about $3 each.
- Caulk and weather-strip air leaks around windows, doors and other places where the wall is penetrated. Cost: Roughly $5 for a 10-ounce tube.
Yes, there is some extra effort involved in going “green”, however, the lower monthly utility bills might just be worth the up front work. Not to mention, according to the National Association of Home Builders, 85% said they were more satisfied with their green homes then with previous, traditional houses. I know that I will be making some changes in my own home, what about you?