Making Environmentally Sustainable Home Improvements

Reader Contribution by Chloe Taylor
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Photo by Fotolia

Green living is the latest buzzword in the design industry, and eco-friendly homes are a much sought-after feature on the real estate market. To bridge the gap between green design theory and practice, every homeowner should carry out eco-friendly updates that will both reduce long-term utility costs and boost the property’s market value. But how exactly do you go green in your home on a reasonable budget? Easy: you just need to know which upgrades and tweaks entail the biggest bang for your home improvement buck.

Go Green with Materials

The choice of sustainable materials for various home updates is the simplest way to do a favor to Mother Nature. Look for materials certified as eco-friendly by relevant bodies, such as Cradle to Cradle or the Forest Stewardship Council. Eco-friendly materials for a partial or full-scale home update include cork, bamboo, and reclaimed wood flooring, homasote fiberboards, hemp-based products, cotton and blown insulation, recycled gypsum boards, and low-or no-VOC paints.

Save Water

Water scarcity is one of the biggest environmental challenges the planet is faced with today, and though large-scale solution to the issue will require comprehensive and intense collaboration between national authorities, there are a few steps you can carry out in your home to help improve your home’s water efficiency. Water-saving add-ons such as low-flow faucet aerators, water-efficient shower heads, and dual-flush toilets cost little compared to the long-term utility savings and green benefits their use entails. Also, turn off the tap when you’re not immediately using running water, i.e. when tooth-brushing or scraping food leftovers from the dishes when washing cutlery by hand.

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The Eco Side of Appliances

When shopping for home appliances, check energy labels and ratings and opt for the greenest products available. When comparing refrigeration products, pay attention to the type of lighting: LED-lit fridges and freezers are a better option than standard counterparts with conventional internal lights. As for ovens and range hoods, your purchase should be based on trustworthy guidelines rather than supplier say-so, so make sure you make an educated choice and avoid greenwashing scams: not everything that has a green label is truly green.

Let There Be Green Light

consider replacing conventional incandescent bulbs with LED of CFL counterparts. Compared to standard lights, energy-efficient alternatives can last up to 3-25 times longer use as many as 25-85% less energy. Another simple option is to maximize use of natural light through the right choice of wall paint, strategic placement of mirrors or translucent wall panels that will help get sunlight flowing through your home without steep price tags to go with the brightness boost. To reduce the negative impact of intense sunlight indoors, you should consider outfitting existing windows and skylights with UV protection window films or even swapping conventional for tinted panes.

Out with Phantom Leaks

Every home has at least a couple of energy leaks that contribute to increased electricity bills and a household’s environmental footprint. Spare Mother Nature a thought: inspect your home for phantom leaks that are draining your home budget and generating added energy waste. The most common energy vampires are appliances and devices that continue drawing power, even when they’re turned off. Unplug all devices you’re not using at the moment, such as phone chargers, toasters, coffee machines and other small home tech you actively run only once or twice a day. That way, you’ll be curbing both energy waste and cash drain by a single no-cost move.

Homes designed with sustainability in mind are the future of real estate, and their value doesn’t just boil down to increased aesthetic appeal, market value, and utility savings. Environmentally safe home features are an investment in a safer and greener future for the generations to come, and we should all carry out at least a few cost-efficient updates in our living areas to help bring about a sustainable change in interior design and lifestyle. By greenifying your home from the floors to the ceiling, you can curb your household’s carbon dioxide emission by as many as 7.38 tons of CO2 a year – and if at least a half of us did that, the future of our world would be as safe and as bright as green houses.