As people become more conscious about the environment and the impact we have on the world around us, it makes sense that we endeavour to bring that consciousness and eco-friendly practices into our homes. Environmental sustainability and eco-friendly practices follow three basic principles: do not waste, do not harm and give back to the environment. Since so much of our time and use of resources are used of in our homes, we should all aim to follow eco-conscious practices in building, maintaining and renovating our homes.
When it comes to using eco-friendly practices and materials in building, there are a numerous ways we can begin to incorporate sustainability right from the initial planning stages right through to the finished product.
Location and space. Being aware of environmental factors like earth shifting, underground water and flooding potential makes an enormous difference in what issues might arise at a later time. Make the very best use of square footage of your home by creating a design that avoids the use of too much wasted space.
Avoid wasting energy. Make use of energy efficient appliances and equipment. Ensure to insulate well, which keeps out both heat and cold and reduces the amount of energy that you need for either. Install energy efficient, insulated windows and doors. Use “on demand” water heaters and low flow plumbing fixtures. Use programmable thermostats that can be set to function at a much lower rate when no one is home.
Make use of natural, renewable resources. Solar, geothermal and wind energy are all natural and renewable resources that neither harm the environment nor become depleted. Catching, storing and utilizing rainwater and snow melt is a practical way to provide irrigation for your landscaping.
Make use of recycled materials. “While many designers are focusing on passive and active energy systems, the reuse of recycled materials is beginning to stand out as an innovative, highly effective, and artistic expression of sustainable design.” (Metcalf, 2011) Recycled building materials can include anything from empty soda cans to used tires.
These are, by far, only a few of the ways that you can impact the environment through eco-friendly building practices. With some creativity and the right attitude toward conservation, you’ll probably come up with a number of your own ideas.
Just like with construction practices, there are certain maintenance practices that are environmentally friendly as well. Keeping the three principles of sustainability in mind, consider these home maintenance ideas as part of your regular maintenance routine:
- Insulation and weatherizing. Making certain that your home is well insulated and free from leaks should be a priority in your home maintenance plan. A suitable amount of insulation reduces the amount of energy necessary to maintain your interior environment. Making sure that all of the cracks where cold or warm air might leak in is also a factor.
- Color of exterior paint can make a difference. Lighter colors reflect heat and darker colors absorb heat. If you live in a climate that is usually warm, go light; where it is cold, go dark. Use eco-friendly paint.
- Roof materials. Metal, slate and ceramic are the best choices and tend to have a longer life, though they are often more expensive. In the long-run, however, they save you money.
- Landscape strategically. Using trees to create windbreaks or shade can help reduce the amount of energy necessary to heat or cool your home.
- Green household products. Use cleaning products, fertilizers and insecticides that do not contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment.
If you are considering a home renovation, then this is your chance to make use of some eco-friendly building practices:
- Reuse and recycle. Making use of wood, metal, bricks and glass that was removed from gutting a wall or tearing down an exterior structure can be reused in your renovation.
- Replace cabinetry with formaldehyde free products.
- Use low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) or VOC free paint.
A renovation doesn’t mean that you have to waste or throw away the old materials, it just gives you an opportunity to repurpose it in a new way in your eco-friendly home. Eco-friendly materials and methodologies that can make a big difference in the impact that our homes have on the environment, which will hopefully encourage more people to find new materials and practices by educating them on ways to make their homes greener.