How to make your next project Eco-friendly

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If a remodel or home improvement project is on the horizon, now is the time to make plans to include green, or eco-friendly, products and services. Why go green? It increases long-term energy efficiency, conserves water and other resources, improves indoor air quality and reduces waste, pollution and environmental degradation, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Not to mention the potential cost savings and return on investment.

Sounds too good to be true, but going green may be easier than you think. It can be as simple as switching out incandescent light bulbs with LED or CFL bulbs, a one-day project that can generate big results. Or, if a more extensive project is in the works, a Certified Green Remodeler or other green service provider can make sure eco-friendly practices are implemented from start to finish.

To make going green even easier, we have identified eco-friendly options for every room of the house. Use this guide as a checklist to get the best results.

 

Green Home

Air Sealing and Insulation

❍    To increase energy efficiency and prevent conditioned air from being lost or wasted, get a BPI-certified (Building Performance Institute, Inc.) home energy assessment, or energy audit, to identify areas where air is escaping and insulation may not be adequate.
❍    Select insulation made from recycled, natural or eco-friendly materials.
❍    Cellulose insulation made from 100% recycled paper.
❍    Fiberglass insulation made from 30% recycled glass.
❍    Spray-foam insulation that uses a bio-based blowing agent such as water.
❍    Look for low- or no-Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)
and formaldehyde-free insulation and air sealants.

Refer to the “Green Exterior” section of our guide for additional tips on air sealing and insulation.

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning

❍    Install a programmable thermostat or add temperature control to a home automation system to maintain an efficient temperature setting throughout the day.
❍    If members of your household suffer from allergies or unexplained respiratory symptoms, have air ducts inspected to determine if they need to be cleaned. Dirty air ducts can pollute indoor air and decrease energy efficiency.
❍    Consider replacing an old hot water heater with a newer, more efficient model. Options include gas, propane, electric, solar and tankless hot water heaters. The most efficient option depends on size, costs, fuel type and availability.

See “Air Sealing and Insulation” and “Green Exterior” sections of our guide for more HVAC tips.

Flooring

❍    Consider refurbishing existing flooring.
❍    Salvage or recycle old flooring if it cannot be refurbished.
❍    Select solid surface flooring, which lasts longer than carpet.
❍    If carpet is preferred, look for wool or a synthetic that is GreenGuard certified. (www.greenguard.org)
❍    Choose a new flooring product that contains primarily renewable and sustainable materials, and avoid buying products made in countries with low environmental standards.
❍    Buy flooring from a local manufacturer to reduce the emissions and costs associated with shipping and transportation.
❍    Make sure any glues or chemical finishes are low-emissions and low-VOC.
❍    Select a flooring product that is long-lasting, easily repaired or able to be refinished.
❍    Find out if the flooring is easy to clean and if non-toxic cleansers can be used on it.

Eco-friendly flooring products to look into include:
❍    American hardwoods that are grown locally such as oak and cherry
❍    Bamboo. Solid and pre-finished is best because bamboo grows quickly, and pre-finished products are cured in the factory, reducing chemical emissions in your home.
❍    Tile, ceramic and porcelain are non-toxic and easy to clean, and small portions can be repaired tile by tile.
❍    Cork is a natural and resilient renewable resource.

Paint

❍    Choose low- or no-VOC interior and exterior paints.
❍    Water-based paints are preferable to oil-based paints, as they contain fewer VOCs.
❍    Avoid fungicides and biocides in paint, which can be toxic.
❍    Dispose of unused paint only at designated recycling centers to prevent it from entering the water system.

Lighting

❍    Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL bulbs, which are long-lasting, energy-saving and provide soft lighting, or LED bulbs, which produce less heat and are durable and energy efficient.
❍    Install dimmers, motion sensors and programmable lighting systems to conserve energy use.

 

 

 

Kitchen-remodel

Kitchen Remodel

Makeover: EcoCustom Homes, (404) 303-7280, www.ecocustomhomes.com
Location: Grant Park

Green  Elements
•    Floors are 100 year-old reclaimed heart pine refinished with Bona X water-based polyurethane finish.  
•    Cabinets are locally sourced poplar painted with a water-based, low-VOC finish.
•    Most appliances are from Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
•    Repurposed leaded glass transom window is from Scott Antique Market.

 

Green Kitchen

Countertops

❍    Select durable, GreenGuard certified materials.
❍    Check salvage yards for discarded pieces.
❍    For wood countertops, look for salvaged woods that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, and be sure the sealant used is a low-VOC, water-based product.
❍    For composite countertops, look for products that contain recycled tile, paper or glass.
❍    Other eco-friendly countertop materials include ceramic and porcelain tile that contain clay, an abundant natural resource, or recycled materials, and stainless steel countertops, which are recyclable.

Cabinetry

❍    Refinish or reface existing cabinetry.
❍    Use old wardrobes, tables and shelves for kitchen storage.
❍    For new cabinetry, select FSC plywood, look for GreenGuard certification, and select low- or no-VOC finishes.

Appliances

❍    Keep refrigerators clutter-free for optimal air flow.
❍    Only run clothes washers, dryers and dishwashers when they are full.
❍    Choose an exhaust system that circulates sufficient air back into the house. (Consult a professional Building Performance Institute analyst about combustion safety. Visit www.bpi.org for information.)
❍    For new appliances, choose Energy Star-rated products.
❍    Recycle old appliances.

 

 

Green-bathroom

Green Bathroom

❍    Install moisture-resistant drywall to prevent mold.
❍    Choose tile made with natural clay or recycled materials.
❍    Select eco-friendly countertops and cabinetry
See Green Kitchen section for more information.

Toilets, Faucets, Shower Heads

❍    Choose low-flow or WaterSense-labeled models.
❍    Consider reusing gray water collected from sinks and showers in toilets.

 

 

 

Basement-remodel

Basement Remodel:

Makeover: EcoCustom Homes, (404) 303-7280, www.ecocustomhomes.com
Location: Sandy Springs

Green Elements
• The hardwood countertop and cabinetry are made from fallen white oak trees harvested in Atlanta. Trees were processed, kiln dried, milled and finished within a 50-mile radius of the job site.
• Cork floors are from U.S. Floors.
• Paint is a lime-based, no-VOC paint by San Marco USA that also absorbs VOCs from drywall.

Green Basement

❍    Encapsulate your crawlspace to increase household energy efficiency.

 

 

 

Guest-room_remodel

Guest Room

Makeover: EcoCustom Homes, (404) 303-7280, www.ecocustomhomes.com
Location: Sandy Springs

Green  Elements

•    Daybed was carved in Bali from antique reclaimed teak.
•    Shoji screens are made with natural rice paper and manufactured locally.

Green Living Room/Bedroom

❍    Choose high-quality furniture constructed with
FSC wood.
❍    Upcycle. Take materials usually considered waste and convert them into functional pieces like lamps, tables and art.
❍    Repair rather than replace.
❍    Select linens, mattresses and textiles made with natural fibers such as bamboo, hemp, soy and organic cotton.
❍    Cover windows with curtains, blinds and/or shades to keep heating and air conditioning from escaping.
❍    Turn off and unplug electronics when not in use to avoid wasting energy. Use a power strip to deactivate multiple devices at one time.

 

 

 

upgrade-to-green
Existing homes with third-party green certification such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and EarthCraft House sell for 30% more.
—Earth Advantage Institute, www.earthadvantage.org

Green Exterior

Roof

❍    Make sure the attic has adequate insulation to increase household energy efficiency.
❍    Select a roofing material that contains recycled or eco-friendly ingredients, and consider the environmental impact of transportation costs for those.
❍    Understand the durability and life cycle of the roof material, and be aware of required maintenance.
❍    Choose a light-colored roof, which reflects light, lowers outdoor temperatures and minimizes heat transferred into the home.
❍    Make sure both the old and new roof can be recycled or disposed of in an eco-friendly way.

Weigh your roofing options:

❍    Asphalt shingles

•    Most popular
•    Lowest cost
•    Lowest insulative value
•    Shortest lifespan
•    Least eco-friendly

❍    Wood shingles

•    High insulative value
•    Natural resource
•     Expensive
•    Usually don’t pass fire codes unless treated, which decreases environmental value

❍    Slate roofs

•    Most durable, can last 100 years
•    Expensive
•    Recyclable
•    Nonrenewable, leaves large environmental footprint
•    Look for salvaged, reclaimed slate

❍    Metal roofs

•    Generally “cool roofs”
•    High insulative value
•    Twice as durable as wood or asphalt

❍    Faux shingles manufactured with recycled rubber or plastic.

•    Made to look like slate or cedar but half the weight
•    Durable (Most have a 50-year warranty.)

Finding a roofing material that meets all environmental criteria is unlikely, but choose one that best reflects your commitment and parameters.

Windows

❍    Consider Low E (emissivity) windows or glazing, which blocks UV rays and decreases heat transfer.
❍    Seal any air leaks, and replace weather-stripping to increase energy efficiency.
❍    Conserve energy by installing skylights, which use natural light from the sun.
❍    Open windows when the weather is nice for natural ventilation and to improve indoor air quality. However, be careful to not turn the heat or air conditioning on and off frequently, as re-warming and re-cooling a house is an energy drain. Try going without for an extended period of time.

Doors

❍    Seal any air leaks, and replace weather-stripping to increase energy efficiency.
❍    Choose a door made with an insulating material that is long-lasting and contains recycled or renewable content.

Green Landscape

❍    Choose native, shade-providing, wind-protective, drought-tolerant plants.
❍    Divide, re-root and re-plant existing plants instead of buying new.
❍    Use permeable pavement for patios, sidewalks and hardscaping to prevent soil erosion from runoff, filter pollutants and allow tree roots to grow.
❍    Place rain barrels under downspouts to collect water for plants and other household uses.
❍    Consider xeriscaping, which uses drought-tolerant plants to reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental irrigation.
❍    Use solar or geothermal energy to heat pools and spas.
❍    Save healthy, old-growth trees when renovating to help shade the house.


Is It Green?

Ways to evaluate eco-friendly claims
“Greenwashing” is a term that describes “the intentional or unintentional act of misleading consumers about the environmental benefits or practices of a company or service,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. When considering a green purchase, check claims using these “7 Sins of Greenwashing,” which are based on a 2010 report by TerraChoice Group Inc.
(www.sinsofgreenwashing.com).
1    Hidden Trade-Off: Does the product focus only on one or two environmental issues while ignoring others that may also be important? Every product has multiple environmental impacts and truly greener products try to address them all.
2    No Proof: Does the product offer evidence of its claim, either on the package or on the company website? Company websites and respected certifications can provide proof.
3    Vagueness: How specific is the claim? Does it provide details that explain the overall environmental impact of the product such as type of packaging and manufacturing process?
4    Worshiping False Labels: Does the product use words or images that give the impression of third-party certification or endorsement when none exists?
5    Irrelevance: Are the green claims true of all products in the category? Remember: Many products are ‘recyclable’, and CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons, which cause ozone depletion) were banned 30 years ago.
6    Lesser of Two Evils: Is the claim trying to market a product category that is basically ‘ungreen’ as green such as organic tobacco?
7    Fibbing: Can the manufacturer back up certified organic or green claims? Can they prove their certification?


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