by Kimberly Blackford
Green building and living may seem a bit daunting. Many homeowners feel unless you are “all in,” then you are not living green. But, this just isn’t the case. It is wise to look at green living in small steps. If many homeowners take one or more steps towards a greener lifestyle, then the result compounds. It can only help our planet and everyone else who lives here. Although there are countless ways to live a green life in your home, here are 12 ways to go green that can easily be implemented.
- Use Hemp fabrics. Hemp is a plant that grows quickly and no chemicals are typically used when processing it from cultivation to the finished product. This fabric is not only durable, but also attractive and reasonably priced. A great resource for finding hemp fabrics is www.hempbasics.com. Here you will find countless fabric choices for covering pillows, couches - you name it. Another great option is organic cotton, tencel or flax. Organic cotton is grown without pesticides, tencel is made of cellulose, while flax is made from the flax plant. All are equally great choices.
- Install Hardwood Flooring. Easy to maintain and classic in design, hardwood floors never go out of style. Although many probably never would’ve thought of wood flooring as being environmentally responsible, it certainly can be. Choose wood that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (www.fscus.org). The FSC encourages responsible forest management. Then, if the flooring needs to have a finish applied, select a natural water-based stain and then coat with a low-VOC finish. Other great wood flooring choices include selecting timber from FSC-managed forests, installing floors made from reclaimed wood or using bamboo flooring.
3. Choose Marmoleum Flooring. Maybe not a common household term, marmoleum flooring is made from natural ingredients that include linseed oil, wood flour, resins, pigments and jute. It is a resilient choice that also provides natural antibacterial properties that prevent microorganisms from multiplying. Wouldn't it be the perfect choice in many areas of a home including the kitchen, bathrooms or even laundry room? It also comes in endless colors and combinations that include unique borders and more. It can also be installed in sheets or in tiles depending on your preference. If you are seeking other types of green flooring options, then try cork flooring. It is very attractive, comfortable and it’s harvested every decade from the bark of cork trees that can live up to 100 years.
4. Install Shades. A great shade can minimize the effects of direct sun in the summer and stop cold drafts in the winter. If you have a home with large windows that tower above living spaces and you think shades can’t be added to these inaccessible windows; think again. Hunter Douglas is just one company that offers motorized remote controlled shades perfect for these hard to reach areas. Or, select solar shades to filter or even diffuse bright sunlight if you want to maintain the “open window” feeling.
5. Select Wool Carpeting. Most synthetic carpets use more than 200 chemicals in the manufacturing process, so choose wool carpets instead and you have selected a naturally stain and flame resistant material due to the oils in the sheep’s wool. Not only is it durable and resistant, but also these carpets can last over 50 years or more. Plus, they are even biodegradable.
6. Use Low-VOC paint. All homes require some painting every now and then. So, this is the perfect way to introduce yourself to a green product for the home. It is best to choose a nontoxic low-VOC paint throughout your interior to maintain safe air quality. These low-VOC paints diminish respiratory problems often seen by using conventional paint types. Low-VOC paint covers well and can now be found in countless color palettes.
7. Buy Wood Furniture. Commit to buying wood furniture that has been crafted using domestic trees that have been sustainably harvested according to FSC standards. A company called Green Design Furniture (www.greendesigns.com) even engineers its furniture so that it requires no glue or nails for assembly.
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8. Incorporate Skylights. Nothing transforms a space like natural sunlight. It instantly adds an open feel and cheerful disposition to any interior room. Skylights not only add light, but they can help lower energy bills. And, besides a typical inoperable fixed skylight, there are now skywindows that are motorized so they can open and close by remote control or by using a rain sensor that will allow the window to close automatically when rain is detected. Installing a skylight such as this helps circulate airflow and better the air quality, thus resulting in decreased energy bills.
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9. Use Veneer Trim. Instead of using wood trim throughout your home, choose veneer trim and use several thousand square feet less wood. SJ Morse Company offers FSC-certified veneer and the core is made from wheat straw board. Plus, the veneer will not warp. Another great option is to use reclaimed or “rediscovered” wood. This is wood from a previous building, home or barn perhaps. Reclaimed wood instantly adds character many newer homes will lack.
10. Choose Ceramic Tile. Made from clay baked at very high temperatures, ceramic tile is one of the world’s oldest flooring materials. It can be considered sustainable because of its longevity and its inert and odorless composition. Also, there are companies now using recycled content in their tile such as light bulbs, bottles and even windshields. Looking for another similar option? Try glass tile which is made up of recycled glass and can come in many vibrant patterns and color shades for a dramatic look.
11. Add a Composite Deck. Choosing a composite deck made from a solid material composed of 60% hardwood “flour” or sawdust plus virgin or recycled polypropylene will offer a beautiful, sturdy and low-maintenance deck option. CorrectDeck uses 80% recycled content.
12. Decorate with Recycled Outdoor Furniture. Instead of using wood outdoor furniture that has a hard time standing up to the elements anyway, select patio furniture made of recycled plastic. Often this furniture is composed of plastic milk, water and juice containers. A company called “By The Yard” offers furniture that is made of 97% recycled plastic. It includes over 70 styles to choose from and comes in many colors suitable for every décor. Interestingly enough, the furniture weighs 20% more than cedar; so don’t think of this as a flimsy replacement for wood. It is durable, heavy, and weather resistant making it ideal for leaving outdoors all year long.
Before you think you can’t ”go green,” think again. Implementing any or all of these 12 simple steps will allow your home to become more environmentally conscious. Not only will you be surprised by the beauty of these materials and products, but you will be just as surprised by their long lasting durability that will allow your family to live green for many years to come.
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