You can be deluged with “green” building and remodeling tips if you do even some rudimentary research.
Although there is some overlap, there are 3 primary categories of “green.” These are energy, recycling, and health. All three of these are areas can be addressed during a home remodeling project, and the greenness of your home can be enhanced as part of the overall remodeling design.
The first, of course, is energy conservation. This has to do with leaving the smallest possible “carbon footprint.” The considerations reach farther than the energy used in your home after the remodeling project is complete. It also considers what kind of energy it took to; a. procure the raw materials, b. transport and process the raw materials. c. manufacture the product, d. package the product, and e. transport the product to your site. If you really care about being green, then you have to include the global carbon cost in your overall green project calculus. Over and above the energy savings you are apt to experience in your home, the number of years these savings will take to offset the global costs to get it into your home must also be considered. Some manufacturers are finally catching up to consumers in sophistication regarding this.
The recycling and repurposing of material that will otherwise end up in an already overburdened waste stream is another critical aspect of reducing your carbon output. Producing waste is something for which we Americans have become very proficient. In fact, we’re number 1! Recycling, repurposing, and energy conservation can work hand-in-hand to reduce the amounts of energy and water it takes for us to live. Reusing “gray” water is becoming a popular mode of conservation. Collecting, storing and using rain water is also a cost effective and common-sense approach. There are many roof gardens in action today—especially in cities where open soil is scarce. These not only use rain water in a productive way, but also can be beautiful while providing insulation benefits as well. Simply collecting rain water for use in our own gardens and lawns is an easy and beneficial way to be green.
While our planet and its sun provide us with much energy in nearly unlimited quantities, the solar, wind, nuclear, and geothermal options have their trade-offs. This trade-offs manifest themselves in prohibitive costs and perceived danger. Until the technology becomes economically attainable for the masses and can be proven to be safe, the best we can do as people, businesses, and communities, is the best we can do. The U.S. Federal Government has enacted several incentives for families to get greener. Some State Governments do still more. However, these incentives are erratic and dependent on the solvency of the respective institutions. Keep an eye on the available incentives if you are leaning this way.
The third class of “green” is concerned with how healthy the materials are that we are putting in our home. Again, this is not just about us, but also the human manufacturing cost. Many commonly used material in construction off-gas unhealthy toxins to which many of us unknowingly expose our families daily. Adhesives, binders, dyes, and coatings are all around us. Many of these can be harmful to people and animals. Beyond that, there are many materials whose hazards are most suffered by the people working in the manufacturing end.
Many are under the mistaken impression that you have to be building a home from the ground up in order to go green. There are many, many ways to lessen your carbon footprint in an existing home. From the materials being used to the methods in which they are employed have everything to do with reducing your carbon footprint. While you may not be addressing the whole of your home, the areas you are addressing can most certainly enhance your greenness.
A kitchen remodel, for example, usually entails the demolition of the existing kitchen. As the wallboard on the exterior walls is removed, the insulation material and method you choose to replace the existing can be your start to a greener life. If not otherwise specified, the common faced, batt insulation used by most contractors, while an effective insulator, contains formaldehyde. You can choose formaldehyde-free insulation, insulation made from recycled materials, or you can super-insulate with closed cell, spray foam. Care taken to seal off gaps in the exterior wall substructure can help a great deal with heat loss. If you are replacing or installing new windows and doors as part of your kitchen remodel, the careful selection of those units will also help with heat loss. From there, paperless drywall, zero VOC drywall and subfloor adhesives, cabinetry made from sustainable materials such as bamboo or cork, counter tops made from recycled glass, sustainable flooring, energy star appliances, water conserving fixtures, LED lighting, and zero VOC paint will considerably green up your act.
“Greenwashing” is the term used for a material that may have one “green” advantage, but then other elements that are not so green. For example: the aforementioned recycled glass countertops. While recycling glass is very green, the binders and adhesives used to produce the top can be extremely unhealthy. Do your homework. It can be difficult as so much marketing is at odds with the facts. One great website to begin sorting through the mire of factoids and truth is http://www.greenwashingindex.com . There is a wealth of information there to help navigate the “green” forest.