Six Easy Sustainable Design Options to Consider for your Next Home Remodel
By Marissa Lada
October 25, 2018
You don’t have to go all-out with solar panels to make an impact.
There is a common misconception that having a sustainable home means solar panels and other forms of green technology. But, those are just one aspect of sustainability. While Seattle is ahead of the game regarding sustainability, homeowners often don’t realize that having a more sustainable home can be as easy as making a few simple switches when it comes time to renovate or remodel.
Of course, if you want to ago all-in, that’s great; we need more truly sustainable homes! But, if you aren’t prepared or able to go that far yet, why not make some steps in the right direction?
Sustainable design offers more than just the incentive of reducing your carbon footprint and helping preserve the environment (although that’s a pretty big incentive). Opting to go the sustainable route can also save you money! (And who doesn’t want that?) You can see savings in your water, electric, and heating bills. Simply by replacing one old toilet to a low-flow model, you can see savings of $32 per year.
Even if sustainable design isn’t a top priority for your next home improvement project, adding these tiny changes to your design is easy to do and can make a huge difference for the environment and your wallet.
Source from sustainable manufacturers.
An important “thing” to remember when going the sustainable route is knowing how your materials (“things!”) are being produced. This can range anywhere from furniture to the tile for your backsplash. It’s a good thing to know if these items are manufactured in facilities that use a lot of water or leave a lot of waste.
Ask yourself, “Does it take a lot of energy to produce this item? Is it a locally-made product that doesn’t need to be shipped overseas? Is there any recycled content in the product?” Ponder these questions when selecting your finishes and materials. This may require some research. Otherwise, consult a designer or product rep, who can help select a sustainable option.
During the actual remodeling process, a big way you can be sustainable is through selecting stains, adhesives, and paints that have little-to-no off-gases. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are chemicals that easily become vapors and gases and are not only hazardous to our environment, but our health. These chemicals have been known to cause headaches, dizziness and even lead to damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system.
Take care of yourself, family, and others in your home — make a point of choosing products with little-to-no VOCs. They are healthier for us and our environment and show little to no difference when compared to the quality of the standard options.
Go green with your appliances.
When choosing your appliances, whether it’s a dishwasher for your kitchen, or a dryer for your laundry room, opt for appliances with the ENERGY STAR label. These appliances use up to 50% less energy than standard appliances, reducing your energy bill and the amount of greenhouse gases that are released into our atmosphere.
Just by replacing your old fridge for an ENERGY STAR model, you can save up to $260 over a span of five years and reduce your carbon footprint by 8,200 pounds. ENERGY STAR appliances come in a variety of styles and colors, so it’s easy to find one that fits your design scheme.
Select low-flow plumbing fixtures.
Swapping out your plumbing fixtures for low-flow options is another easy way to go green. Low-flow fixtures can reduce your water use by up to 60%.
When shopping for low-flow options, it’s important to know what to look for. For toilets, find a dual-flush toilet (a toilet that has a half-flush option for liquid waste and a full flush for solid waste), or a toilet that uses no more than 1.28 gpf (gallons per flush). When choosing faucets, find one that uses a maximum of 1.5 gpm (gallons per minute). Lastly, opt for showerheads that use no more than 2.5 gpm.
Install energy-saving lighting.
5% of an average household’s energy budget is dedicated to lighting. Traditionally, most light bulbs in homes were incandescent, which use a lot of energy to produce light, and 90% of that energy is given off as heat. LED light bulbs use 25%-30% of the energy a traditional incandescent bulb would use and last up to 25 times longer. Replacing your home’s five main sources of light can save you $75 per year. Now that’s a bright idea!
Another energy-saving option for lighting is through switches. The most common energy saving light switch is a dimmer, which reduces the flow of electricity to the bulb, allowing you to control the amount of light (and energy) you use in your space. Other options for light switches are occupancy sensors (which detect when a person enters/exits a room, turning the light on/off automatically), and timer controls, which allow you to set specific times to turn lights on/off.
Opt for FSC Certified wood flooring.
Hardwood flooring creates a beautiful, seamless look throughout your space. When choosing flooring, look for wood that is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified. This certification means that the wood is responsibly harvested. Why is this important? This means that wood is being carefully selected to minimize the damage done to the environment.
The FSC prohibits cutting in old-growth forests and other fragile ecosystems, being mindful of the environment. They also ban the use of highly hazardous chemicals which can damage the water supply of those areas. FSC wood comes in a variety of species and finishes, so you don’t have to sacrifice the look you’re wishing to achieve. You can also find FSC certified woods for use in furniture pieces.