It has become extremely stylish to embrace green living. Whether you’re driving a hybrid vehicle, supporting local and organic growers, or taking bags of plastic and aluminum to the recycling center every week, it’s pretty trendy to do your part for the environment. Of course, in addition to being great for your conscience, these acts also improve the health of the planet by cutting back on pollution and waste (which in turn improves your health). And there are plenty of people who are interested in reducing their carbon footprint in order to make a greener tomorrow for their kids. So whatever your reasons for adopting an environmentally responsible attitude, you may be pleased to learn that there are all kinds of ways to design an eco-friendly residence. Here are just a few areas that you can improve on the home-front.
1. Walls and flooring. When it comes to the base for every room in your house, you’re going to want to start with a green surface. That means paint that is free of toxic VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that can pollute your interior air for years. And as for flooring, there are a ton of alternatives to hardwood or synthetic carpeting. If you like the look of hardwood flooring but you’re not about to denude more forested land, consider reclaimed planks, which are less expensive and come with the patina of age. Or if you really want carpeting, look for natural fibers (wool, cotton) that are biodegradable.
2. Reclaimed cabinets. You’re likely to install quite a bit of cabinetry in your home (kitchen and bathrooms at a minimum). Instead of supporting deforestation and pollution-heavy manufacturing to get new cupboards, visit a vendor that deals in reclaimed cabinetry. You can likely find some really nice pieces that have been refurbished. You’ll pay less and do a lot to reduce waste and pollution. And for countertops, consider decorative concrete, which is neither manufactured (it’s often created on-site) nor mined (gouged from the Earth and then shipped to you, with plenty of pollution along the way).
3. Eco-friendly furnishings. Once the stage is set, it’s time for you to begin filling your spaces with the furnishings that will turn your house into a home. Whether you’re purchasing bed frames, dresser sets, couches, or a new dining room table, consider doing your part for the planet by opting for second-hand items. You might be surprised by the quality of pieces you can find at estate sales or on Craigslist. And you could end up with relatively new furnishings (even designer or custom items, in some cases) at a fraction of the cost.
4. Accessories. As for extras like lighting fixtures, photo frames, and other knickknacks to personalize your space, try to reuse the items you already have, frequent garage sales for items that can be refurbished, and visit eco-friendly shops for home-wares that are made with less environmental impact. And when it comes to curtains, throws, and pillows, opt for organic textiles and consider adopting a DIY attitude.
5. Energy and water usage. Once your space is complete and you’re able to enjoy it, you’ll want to continue to do less harm by conserving energy and water. You don’t necessarily need to shell out the big bucks to include alternative energy in your home (although it will show a return on investment over time), but you should install low-flow toilets and aerated faucets to cut back on water consumption, as well as CFL bulbs and a programmable thermostat to keep your energy usage under control.