Even if you use green practices when running your home on a day-to-day basis, it’s easy to forget about these when it comes time for a big home improvement project. And because green can sometimes mean more expensive as well, it can be tempting to cut corners on home remodeling and go with the conventional methods, even if they’re not very good for the environment. Let’s look at some of the easy ways to improve your home without damaging the environment in the process.
Paints: Putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls is a great way to give your home a quick and inexpensive facelift. But most types of paints emit volatile organic compounds, or VOC, over time. These will fill your home’s air with toxic substances, and often the same ones you’re trying to cut out of your cleaning products. When you’re painting, choose a paint formulated with low or no VOC levels. Most major manufacturers have at least one line in this category, and their prices aren’t bad. Plus, they have a very low odor level, so you won’t have to deal with a house that smells like new paint.
Building Materials: The materials you use in your projects are important, so look at where everything comes from. Consider shopping at salvage yards, where you can get reclaimed materials. If you’re going new, wood is generally better than plastic because it doesn’t require oil to use. Cork and bamboo are even better because they grow more quickly, and therefore, are more renewable. If you don’t want wood flooring, prioritize linoleum over vinyl, or even better, go with natural tile. In addition to using green materials, also consider what to do with anything you take out of your home. If possible, reuse, sell or donate materials you take out of your home rather than sending them right to the landfill. Many interior materials can be repurposed in your yard as garden paths, flowerbeds or other items.
Eco-Friendly Remodelers: The contractors you hire have a big impact on what your project does to the environment. If you choose contractors who don’t have much experience with green remodeling and improvement projects, you’ll have to ask them to specifically use green materials and procedures, which they may not be very familiar with. On the other hand, if you choose a contractor who has extensive experience with green projects, he’ll be able to provide expertise and fill in your knowledge gaps. The contractor’s recommendations and policies can go a long way in making your project a greener one.
Interior Decorations: Improving your home goes beyond the big projects and into the little details you use to decorate and spruce up your space. These components can either hurt or harm the environment as well, so it’s important to make informed choices. For example, when choosing fabrics and fills for seats and cushions, opt for bamboo, hemp, wool, cotton, silk and feathers rather than synthetic alternatives. Include live plants in your decor to help purify your air. Install a mirror on the wall perpendicular to a window so you can reflect light into the room and save on electricity. The options are countless for going green in decorations.
The most important thing in all of this is to stop and think before embarking on any project in your home or garden. Consider how you can reuse materials or opt for natural materials at each step. The choices you make now will have a big impact on the future of the environment.