The building and remodeling industry has a huge impact on our planet. It takes an abundance of energy and resources to harvest or manufacture building materials. Building lots and landscaping require space. Once a structure is built, the people that occupy it continue to create a carbon footprint through their home lifestyle.
You can minimize your own carbon footprint by making sustainable choices when it comes to design, building materials, furniture, decorating, and home maintenance services. A sustainable design not only incorporates green energy and materials, but also
helps make day-to-day life more eco-friendly.
Sustainable floor plans. A sustainable floor plan uses innovative designs to make excellent use of space and helps us live comfortably in a smaller setting. Less square footage means that your living space uses less energy overall and requires fewer
materials to build and maintain.
Salvaged building materials. There are a lot of opportunities to save money, resources, and landfill space by finding and using salvaged building materials. Used materials such as brick, tile roofing, wood, windows, doors, cabinets, countertops, sinks, bathtubs, and more can be found at salvage yards, thrift stores, and even through materials manufacturers.
The floors and cabinets in this kitchen are constructed entirely from reclaimed wood. Image courtesy of Mark Hickman Homes
Renewable building materials. As these types of materials become more accessible, more homeowners are choosing building materials that incorporate recycled materials (like recycled crushed glass countertops), materials that are sustainably grown and harvested (such as cork), and materials that renew themselves quickly (such as bamboo).
Upcycled furniture and décor. New furniture can become a high-dollar line item during a remodel project, and unwanted old furniture takes up valuable landfill space. You can do both yourself and the planet a favor by upcycling some of your own furniture to fit your newly designed space. Wooden furniture can be painted or refinished, while upholstered furniture can receive a facelift from a professional if you can’t tackle the project yourself.
Look for ideas online or come up with your own creative ways to turn household items into new accent décor. For example, your old sheets, grandma’s antique tablecloth, and unwanted clothing can be turned into new window treatments, pillow covers, a bed canopy, shower curtains, and much more. Kids can get involved in these projects as well to help decorate their own rooms.
Green landscaping. Water and sunlight are precious resources, so green landscape design places emphasis on these issues. Try turning part of your lawn space into a vegetable garden, planting trees or constructing a pergola to create shade, installing rain collection barrels to save water for outdoor plants during drought, and choosing drought-resistant plants and xeriscaping in drier climates.
A rain chain is an attractive way to collect water for reuse in irrigation. Image courtesy of Feldman Architecture, Inc.
Home maintenance and upkeep. The ways we choose to live after a remodel contributes toward our carbon footprint as well. That’s why it’s smart to integrate amenities like built-in recycling containers and low-flow showerheads into a remodel design.
The ways in which you perform home upkeep can make a difference too. Ask your gardener to leave grass clippings on the lawn as natural fertilizer. Create a compost pile for yard and food waste. Hire painters that are willing to use low-VOC products. Choose a contractor that regularly finds and incorporates salvaged materials into projects.
Written by guest contributor Tom Coan
Author Bio: Tom Coan, owner of Case Design/Remodeling Birmingham, writes about green building and sustainable remodeling choices, including choosing materials, designing smart spaces, and finding low-impact home maintenance services.