Many homeowners are seeking to go green from the ground up. Eco-friendly building materials have become a focus in recent years, both for their lesser environmental impact as well as the human health benefits involved. After all, what’s better for the habitat often bodes well for those living in it. Here are a few great green building ideas for your next DIY home renovation project.
Crafting a New Kitchen
In many homes, the kitchen is the hub—the nerve center, where everyone comes and goes throughout the day. Whether you spend much time in the food preparation area, it stands as one of the greatest opportunities when it comes to green construction. From cabinetry to cooktops, there is a multitude of eco-friendly kitchen upgrades to consider:
1. Cabinets: Seek out wood and pressed products from sustainable sources. The Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) identifies products that meet a range of standards, including process and product resource management, environmental stewardship and detailed air quality requirements.
ESP certification also assures that a product meets formaldehyde emission requirements as outlined by the California Air Resources Board’s ATCM, or “Airborne Toxic Control Measure.” This measure was enacted to limit human exposure to known air contaminants, including formaldehyde, a common substance in wood-binding resin and related adhesive products.
2. Countertops: Many popular countertop options are less-than-ideal from an environmental standpoint. These can include quarried stones, such as marble or granite, and energy-inefficient materials like new ceramic tile. Instead, consider the spectrum of renewable and reusable possibilities.
Durable recycled glass surfaces offer visual variety, eco-friendly production methods and can even include other salvaged materials for a textured, eye-catching appearance. Stainless steel is also favored by many green-minded DIYers for its clean, modern look and sustainable properties—many stainless products include recycled content, and are, in turn, recyclable themselves.
3. Appliances: The iconic blue Energy Star symbol is a reliable guide when it comes to appliances, especially those major players in the kitchen. The refrigerator, dishwasher, stove and oven can all rank among the most energy-intensive items in any home, accentuating the need to choose the right models for your eco-friendly redesign.
Don’t forget about keeping your indoor air free from pollutants, especially if you cook on a gas range. An efficient exhaust hood over your cooking area limits the introduction of harmful byproducts into the home atmosphere, and it prevents excess moisture that can lead to mold and other undesirable issues.
The Green Outdoors
Eco-friendly home improvement doesn’t stop at your front door - you can take a green approach to your outdoor living space by taking a cue from your indoor upgrades. Time to replace dated fences or patio furniture? Reclaimed materials and sustainably sourced lumber provide the same benefits as they would in your meal prep and serving spaces. Here are three suggestions for getting started:
1. Lighting: Renewable energy places a lesser toll on the planet as well as your wallet, which is why solar power is more popular than ever. Outdoor lighting is one of the easiest and most common ways to take advantage of the sun’s output, and it’s available in just about any style you can imagine. Find stake, string and wall-mounted lights to suit any exterior aesthetic—the electricity savings will surely offset your investment before long.
2. Lumber: In addition to air quality concerns, lumber should be acquired with a mind toward sustainability; the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) offers certification to identify wood products that are responsibly harvested. The council’s criteria focuses on the protection of ecosystems, local economies and native cultures through the restriction of clear-cutting, illegal logging and the use of pesticides.
Since wood does represent a sizeable investment for many projects, it’s worthwhile to consider other green-friendly alternatives when there’s a lot of ground to cover. Salvaged materials and reclaimed lumber can result in substantial savings, particularly for those who enjoy more rustic styles.
3. Deck Stains: You’ve likely heard of VOCs—volatile organic compounds—and their negative impact on human health. While they’re typically of greater concern indoors, it’s preferable to limit exposure via adjacent structures, such as your porch or patio. When staining a wood deck, take care to review all information provided by the manufacturer. Stains meeting standards for VOC compliance will clearly make note on the packaging or within product literature.
About the Author
Gregg Cantor is President and CEO of Murray Lampert Design, Build, Remodel, a design-build firm serving San Diego homeowners since 1975. Murray Lampert is proud to be a Green Certified firm and strives to be leading green construction contractor in San Diego.