Building Green: Eco-Friendly Ideas

By Lecia Monsen
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Whether you’re finally building the home of your dreams or remodeling your current nest, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of eco-friendly ideas to help you reduce your carbon footprint without making your residence look like a hippie commune.

  • Passive Solar Design—This is an age-old technique that requires only that you think before you act, even before you purchase property. In the cooler climates, homes with large, south-facing windows will help with heating the home in the colder months simply by collecting the warmth of the sun’s rays. During the warmer months, covering these same windows with insulated drapes will keep the interior cooler and reduce the demand for air conditioning. In warmer regions, large windows shaded with awnings or deep roof overhangs will aid in cooling the home’s interiors. In regions that have intense sunlight you may want to consider tinting your home’s windows to reduce heat gain as well as protecting your interiors from damaging ultraviolet rays and fading.
  • Buy Local—Save the ecological transportation costs while supporting the local economy.
  • Conserve Water Usage—Low-flow shower heads and toilets, aerators on faucets, tankless water heater
  • Lighting—Swap out inefficient incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescents to reduce energy consumption. If you want lights on to greet you when you come home at night, purchase and install a timer to turn them on at dusk rather than leaving them on all day.
  • Ceiling Fans—Strategically placing ceiling fans throughout your home improves air circulation. Use fans to pull warm air up and out during the warm summer months and, with a flip of a switch, they will push heat down to the floor during cooler months.
  • Energy Conservation—High efficiency heating and cooling systems will provide a comfortable climate in your home without creating shocking utility bills. Look for Energy Star® rated appliances.
  • Programmable Thermostats—These thermostats help you conserve energy without constant monitoring. During the winter, set them to lower the heat during the day when the house is empty, warming it up as family members arrive home in the evening. In the summer set the air conditioner to a slightly warmer degree and close blinds and drapes and use fans to circulate the air to maintain a comfortable atmosphere. At night, open windows and take advantage of breezes to cool your home.
  • Insulate, Encapsulate, Encase—Pay close attention to the insulation around light switches, electrical outlets, exterior doors, windows, hot water heater, in the attic and between floors.
  • Paint—Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) improve the air quality in your home because they don’t release carbon-based chemicals into the air for you and your family to breathe. Effects of exposure to these chemicals range from the simple nose and throat irritation to nausea, vomiting, dizziness and in extreme or prolonged cases cancer and nerve, liver and kidney damage.
  • Friendly Flooring—Bamboo is as durable as oak, grows quickly (up to six inches a day) and is useable in a wide variety of products from flooring and furniture to textiles such as towels and bedding.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle—That old cliché “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” is actually the first generation of eco-friendly, green-living environmentalists. During the economic disasters of the early-to-mid 20th century this was the mantra of families the world over. It just goes to show that going green and saving a buck or two aren’t mutually exclusive ideas. No matter what your building requirements are (new build or remodel) there are green ideas.

For more landscape tips and information, you’ll want to read our other articles: Landscaping on a Budget, Landscaping—Where to Start, Picking the Perfect Landscape Fence and The Do's and Don'ts of Sprinkler Systems.