4 Simple First Steps to an Eco-Friendly Home


We all know that the temperature of the Earth is steadily rising, but did you know that the home-building industry may be partially to blame? Indeed, about 160 million tons of building-related debris are generated each year in the United States, but only a small portion (about 20 percent) of this debris is recycled. On top of that, residential homes account for nearly 40 percent of the energy consumption in our country. But living without shelter is not possible nor desirable, so what can we do? We can start by making our homes as eco-friendly as possible using the following great options for green-ifying the home.

1. Where Possible, Choose Sustainable Finishes

One of the simplest ways to lessen your residential environmental footprint is to approach construction and renovation with an eco-friendly eye. In other words, if you’re building a new home or redoing your current one, make sure that you ditch the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other harmful chemicals in favor of renewably sourced building materials, such as:

  1. Hardwood Flooring—Good news for those of us who love the gorgeous look of hardwood flooring—this stuff is a smart choice for the eco-friendly designer. The reason why is relatively simple: Wood is made of trees, which are fast-growing, renewable resources. Compare that to other popular flooring materials, which are made from harmful chemicals, and you’ll quickly see the clear winner. Look for wood flooring that’s Lacey Act-certified for the most eco approach.

  2. Concrete Countertops—You may not realize that concrete is actually one of the eco-friendlier countertop materials out there. If you break it down, it actually makes sense, since concrete is made from water, cement and rock, sand or gravel. But what makes it especially ideal for the eco-friendly home is the fact that it’s recyclable and can be repurposed after it’s done serving your kitchen needs.  

  3. Natural Fibers—The aforementioned VOCs have long been a source of concern for environmentalists, and they just so happen to be prevalent in the carpeting industry (though many modern manufacturers have begun to produce VOC-free options). To avoid this, choose natural fiber carpeting or rugs made with renewable resources, such as sisal or jute. You can also help curb your negative impact by selecting natural fiber textiles for your upholstery and window treatments.

2. Decorate with Second-Hand Décor

Consider this: A recent study from the Nordic Council of Ministers found that, by exporting used textiles, we could save 190,000 tons of carbon dioxide and reduce water consumption by 18 billion gallons! There’s simply no arguing the fact that buying used lessens your impact on the environment in a big way, especially as it pertains to things such as home décor and clothing. Challenge yourself by decorating an entire room only in second-hand décor! With chic antique shops, thrift stores and online marketplaces, there’s no excuse not to go used.

3. Lessen Your Energy Consumption

Obviously, one of the easiest ways to transform your home into an eco-friendly oasis is to make sure that you’re not needlessly hogging up energy with a super-inefficient household. Anything you can do to lower your reliance on electricity and natural gas will help slow the rapid warming of the Earth.

  1. If Possible, Go Solar—Residential solar power systems are becoming more accessible, affordable and easily installable than ever, so now’s a great time to seriously consider them as an option for powering your home. You can use Google’s Project Sunroof to get an idea of how much you’d save by installing roof solar panels. If you’re not super-keen on covering your roof with high-tech panels, at least consider harvesting a bit of energy to power your exterior lights and other gadgets.

  2. Use Efficient Appliances—Alternative energy is great, but you also need to work on reducing your energy consumption altogether. One of the best ways you can do that is to upgrade to eco-friendly appliances (of course, we all know to only buy Energy Star these days) and to ditch your old energy hogs once and for all. Since almost all the very best appliance manufacturers strive to meet stringent energy efficiency standards now, you shouldn’t have any trouble with this.

  3. Go 100 Percent LED—By far the simplest but biggest impact option on this list is to swap out all of your old incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs to super-efficient LEDs. Giving your home the old eco-friendly swap-out can help you cut back on your lighting-related energy consumption by as much as 80 percent! On top of that, LEDs can last as much as 25 times longer, so you won’t have to worry about the cost and hassle of replacement as often.

  4. Insulate—Make sure you’re not needlessly wasting heating and cooling throughout the day! That precious warm air in the winter and cool air in the summer can escape easily through drafty doorways and poorly insulated walls, so this is definitely worth your complete attention! Upgrading windows, installing temperature-regulating window treatments and patching up drafts will help.

4. Monitor Usage with Smart Gadgets

Consuming less and switching to sustainable materials is only half the battle. You also have to instill systems that help you monitor, adapt and adjust to ensure that you’re not wasting as you go. Installing a smart thermostat—which will adjust to the appropriate temperature when you’re not home and allow you to control it remotely—is one of the easiest ways to do this.

Shifting to an Eco-Friendly State of Mind

At the end of the day, the very best way to build an eco-friendly home is to focus on selecting sustainable materials, lessening your energy consumption and monitoring and adapting as needed. As long as you pay close attention to these factors, you’ll be well on your way to creating an Earth-friendly estate with a smaller carbon footprint.

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