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5 Eco-Friendly Home and Remodeling Tips

A healthy interest and commitment to ecological concerns can be best realised at home.  The thinking behind a sensible green home makeover should be to modify and remodel, rather than to attempt a complete restructuring program. A remodeling can be done in a logical manner that makes the most of tried and tested techniques of both money and energy-saving procedures. Here are five of the best ways to create an eco-friendly home.

5. Recycle

When undertaking a large scale home renovation it can be tempting to take an ‘out with the old and in with the new’ approach to remodeling. From both an ecological and financial point of view, this method of simply throwing things away should be avoided at all costs! The key idea here should be to recycle. Home residents should aim to reuse items themselves wherever possible and if not, to take them to a registered charity or ecological group. The dumping of perfectly recyclable electronic items can cause highly toxic waste. This can be easily avoided through the use of eco-companies that can collect and recycle items. Customers may even be able to sell them their old phones, TVs and computers as an extra cash incentive.

4. Sensible insulation

A logical and well thought out attitude to home insulation should be taken by everyone about to remodel their home. Practical methods of keeping the heat in and the cold out can offer drastically reduced energy bills as well as a greater degree of comfort in the home. As well as using high quality insulation materials on widow and door openings, a certain amount of common sense can make a great amount of difference too. Check for drafts and seal them off wherever they appear. This can soon make a home more efficient and can save both money and heat.

3. Eco-friendly home heating

A correctly balanced and green method of heating lies at the heart of every home. An energy efficient method of keeping interiors warm is important not only for comfort but also for the confidence provided by the knowledge of taking the greenest option. Companies such as Dimplex Canada can be a great way to do this. Their range of easy to manage floor and wall heaters can offer the most advanced forms of economical and proficient heating sources.

2. Full energy audit

A complete energy audit is an absolute essential for everyone looking to enjoy an ecologically healthier home. This form of assessment should be realistically completed before anything else, so that the residents know exactly what kind of a remodeling task they have in front of them. The ability to see a complete breakdown of exactly where and how energy is being used throughout the home can point the way to making the best savings. It has been estimated that a great degree of carbon emissions can be effectively cut through the use of regular audits to inform the remodeling process. Energy efficiency should also be central in the minds of anyone installing new electronic equipment. This is especially true of refrigerators, a notorious energy drainer.

1. Buy reclaimed and re-owned

Rather than spending money on brand new items for a remodeling, why not make use of reclaimed and re-owned items? This can have a positive effect on both a bank balance and the world in general. As one of the simplest ways to take a green approach it is one of the simplest, and potentially the most effective.

Author Bio,

Jeremy Thompson is a freelance writer from Toronto, Ontario. Most of his article cover environmental issues and what can be done to make the world more sustainable.

Green Kitchen Details

As the heart of the home, the kitchen is a space where many homeowners are deciding to incorporate green elements. Since there are a variety of details involved in a kitchen, homeowners have the opportunity to make eco-friendly choices in a variety of areas.

The countertops in a kitchen play a very large role in the space, and a recent post on Twitter linked to an article that discussed ways for homeowners to get creative with kitchen countertop materials. The article discussed laminate, natural stone and ceramic tile as options for homeowners. But there are several other kitchen countertop materials that are both attractive and eco-friendly that homeowners should know about.

  • Concrete countertops can be made from recycled aggregate. They are extremely durable, can be dyed to almost any color imaginable and can be formed into custom shapes.
  • Terrazzo countertops are a long-lasting green option, with a lifespan of over 40 years. These are also knows as recycled glass countertops, made of crushed stone and glass.
  • Wood or butcher block countertops that are salvaged or left untreated are another environmentally friendly option for the kitchen.

Regardless of the style of your kitchen remodeling project, green countertop options are available.

To incorporate other eco-friendly elements, consider low VOC paint, replacement windows or energy efficient lighting.

The Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb Effect

Flip The CF Switch

If you’re looking for a simple switch you can make to save a little bit on energy bills and get more out of your lighting, replacing the incandescent light bulbs around the house with their superior CF counterparts is an easy move to make and one that energy providers, the government, and environmentalists have been encouraging since at least 2001 despite their existence on the market for more than 25 years.

The cold hard facts are that by replacing just one incandescent light bulb in each American home with a certified CF light bulb, the amount of energy saved would light more than three million homes for a year saving $600 million and significantly reducing the amount of greenhouse gases produced.

Why are CF light bulbs so effective? Compact fluorescent lights use less energy and have a longer life span than incandescent bulbs and have also made great technological strides improving their light color and consistent lighting performance. Thanks to the combination of a gas-filled tube and an electronic ballast, CF light bulbs emit ultraviolet light which creates a phosphor coating inside the tube which then radiates visible light. Their efficient technology uses about 75 percent less energy than standard bulbs so by replacing a typical 75W bulb with a 20W CF bulb 1,300 lbs. of carbon can be saved.

Though CF bulbs have a higher initial price tag than incandescent, they can outlast an incandescent from anywhere between 5,000 and 14,000 hours saving plenty of money over the years on replacement bulbs. One energy aficionado’s calculations predict that a single Litetronics 5W 300 lumen bulb that cost $10 will last for 96 years. With a bit more initial investment in more efficient light bulbs, estimations are that home owners could save anywhere from $400 to $1500 in light bulbs over the bulb’s lifespan and up to $22 in energy usage per year. Understandably, it could be hard to justify replacing a perfectly good incandescent bulb with a new CF bulb so start with the rooms you light up the most to start seeing the effects of making the switch.

Early versions of the CF light bulbs were reminiscent of flickering, buzzing back room fluorescent fixtures with a harsh light output, but new technology and advances in energy efficiency have produced new CF bulbs that meet the silent and white light expectations of incandescent bulbs. There are also a range of sizes and light fixture adapters now available that allow replacing incandescent bulbs with CF to be a hassle-free process.

New technology will continue to make it easier to integrate efficient and sustainable products into the home, but it is the home owner’s responsibility to make the green change. Switching out a few light bulbs is a good place to start.

Composting 101

Household Composting

Reduce Your Curbside Trash

Making the home a greener place to live does not need to be accomplished by eco-friendly construction materials and sustainable resources alone. In addition to standard reuse and recycling practices, composting is an ideal way to make the most of your waste, and you don’t need to live on a farm to do it.

Compost is the result of the decomposition of organic matter and can be used as fertilizer and soil conditioner in landscaping, in gardens, on farms, and in any horticultural practice that requires nutrients to flourish. The act of composting household waste means there is less trash accumulated that must be managed at landfills thereby making even the smallest difference in reducing the amount of landfill space needed to hold our trash.

Composting is a natural process that involves the circulation of air, heat, water, and food that support microbial life allowing organic waste to decompose. A balanced proportion of carbon-rich materials often referred to as “browns” and nitrogen-rich materials, called “greens” will create the best environment for decomposition. A good rule of thumb is 25 parts brown to one part green for speediest composting and minimal odor. There are a few basic components required for successful composting and multiple variations to the system.

Since the majority of what you will compost at home will come from kitchen scraps and yard waste, it’s important to have a bin separate from your trash can in which you deposit waste intended for the compost pile. However, because you can also compost things like hair, dryer lint, and cardboard you may want additional separate trash cans or bins in the house to collect the most amount of compostable materials for your pile. Make sure the bins have air tight lids to prevent bugs from gathering and to reduce any smell the waste might generate.

Selecting a location for the outdoor compost pile is relatively simple so choose a spot that is convenient for you, preferably on a lawn or soil to invite worms and other decomposers. A contained three-foot by three-foot space is sufficient for your compost pile and this larger size will allow the maximum amount of heat to build up in the pile. There are myriad bins you can buy or you can certainly make your own reusing any extra wood or plastic scraps on your property; ensure there is an aerating lid to trap heat and allow for air circulation. Create a bottom layer of grass clippings for your greens and add dried leaves, cardboard, straw, or shredded cotton clothing for the browns. Begin adding waste materials from your indoor containers as often as possible keeping the main pile moist and enclosed. Stir the main pile once or twice a week to encourage aeration and help reduce aerobic bacteria. With proper attention, most compost piles will not smell unless meat scraps and high-fat foods are introduced to the pile which have a stronger smell and are more likely to attract insects.

The combination of the materials composted, the level of involvement of you as the composter, and environmental factors like temperature will all affect the time it takes for your pile to become usable compost. When you have a layer that is dark, earth-smelling, and can sift through your fingers, separate this layer for use in your garden and stir up the rest of the pile to continue decomposing. Your roses will thank you!

Green Hotels For Eco-Savvy Travelers

How to Select A LEED-Certified Hotel

The influence of greener building practices is a widespread initiative among architects, contractors, and suppliers. Integrating eco-friendly building techniques into the home can be a little expensive but because it increases savings in expenses down the road is a realistic choice for home builders and owners to make.

When owners of commercial buildings and public properties choose to go green, there is no doubt they are taking on a costly project but it’s worth it to achieve green building goals. For eco-savvy travelers, it’s nice to have accommodation options that take the environment into consideration.

By following the guidelines and criteria set forth by the USGBC, hoteliers are able to build green hotels to high standards and also enhance the traveler’s experience. A new Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott-Inner Harbor that is set to open in Baltimore in spring 2009 will be Baltimore’s first LEED-certified hotel and the features that have been integrated into its design promote environmentally friendly building practices as well as green and healthy lifestyles. Owners and builders of the new hotel took its location into consideration and ensured that it will have good access to public transportation as well as bicycle storage and changing rooms so that employees and guests are able to reduce their carbon footprint. The hotel is in the historic Jonestown District, on Baltimore’s Heritage Walk, and on the site of the former Baltimore Brewing Company at Brewer’s Park. Builders will be reusing materials from the original brewery such as beer storage tanks that will be used to collect rainwater; hardware; bricks; and the original Baltimore Brewery sign, which meets the goals to be both environment-conscious as well as supportive of local history.

Many of the green building practices that the new hotel will represent are standard among other LEED-certified buildings and should set the traveler’s mind at ease. For the Baltimore hotel in particular, no deforestation is required to build it as it’s all part of an urban redevelopment plan and because of the urban location, construction will be done in such a way to minimize environmental impact, pollution, and waste.

LEED designs integrate storm water management, light pollution reduction, enhanced fresh air intake and use of natural light, the use of recycled construction materials, and sustainable refrigerants to operate more efficient HVAC systems. Simple things like making recycling storage containers available for guests will make traveling routines similar to those at home by allowing people to continue their green lifestyles on the go.

Though the new Baltimore hotel is a $23 million project, Bill Marriott announced at the groundbreaking ceremony that the Marriott group is on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million tons, a goal that was set in 2000.

If you’re used to your green habits at home, seek out a LEED-certified hotel when you travel; it’s guaranteed they share your same awareness for the environment. At least you know where to find one in Baltimore.

Green Building Standards

Building green homes and facilities is supported by more than 15,000 organizations nationwide that are all a part of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC and its members are focused on promoting the construction of structures that are built and operated in environmentally responsible ways, contribute to minimizing operation expenses, and are healthy places to live and work. The USGBC supports the efforts and financial success of the U.S. market’s green building products and services through a variety of programs which provide critical resources and education for successful green building projects.

Programs provided by the USGBC include Chapter Programs which allows individual communities to draw on the resources and education of a USGBC chapter in their area; education in the form of courses on green design, construction, and operation; an Emerging Green Builders program that offers education and resources in green building techniques future builders; and perhaps the most influential program is the execution of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

The LEED rating system is one that when adhered to ensures that a facility has been built to the highest standards possible with regard to sustainable buildings. There are five main areas for the LEED rating criteria: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. Developed by USGBC, the LEED certification is actually through a third-party who provides the tools and resources necessary for all involved in green facility projects from lending to design to construction to landscape and the owners and operators.

The intention and goal of the LEED rating system is to advance the development and implementation of green building practices on a global scale and offers criteria and resources that can be used in homes, neighborhoods, schools, commercial facilities, and more. It is through the combined efforts of the USGBC, their affiliate programs, and eco-aware developers, owners, and operators that sustainable building practices will continue to succeed in construction projects on every level.

Eight Earth Day Eco-Efforts

In 1970, the first Earth Day motivated and energized people to take action and think differently about life on the planet. Earth Day itself is about educating, celebrating, and becoming engaged in ways in which we can improve and reduce our impact on the environment around us. Fortunately, the good behaviors of Earth Day have been increasing and spreading for 39 years and things like recycling have become second nature.

As more and more individuals, communities, schools, businesses, and governments become involved in the types of things Earth Day encourages, there is an ever-growing opportunity to make a difference today, tomorrow, and every day. Use Earth Day to jump start even more eco-friendly behaviors in your lifestyle. Need help getting started? Here are eight easy ways you can reduce your carbon footprint and improve your impact on Mother Earth:

  1. Recycle

    No matter where you are, you have an opportunity to recycle used items rather than throw everything in the trash. Instead of sending all your waste to landfills, pick up recycling bins from your local distributor and start sorting. If you’re lucky, your recycling center won’t require you to pre-sort your items, but all you need is one corner in the kitchen, garage, or outside to place a bin or bag where you toss your recyclables. From cleaning containers to food containers, cereal boxes to paper napkins, and junk mail, much of what comes into the home can go out of the home in the recycling bin rather than the trash can. In addition to “standard” recycling, e-waste now also has recycling solutions. Trashing cell phones, computers, and other electronics contributes highly toxic substances into soil and groundwater, but with today’s recycling programs, old electronics can be safely repurposed.

  2. Reuse

    The best way to integrate good reuse practices into your lifestyle is to modify your purchase habits so that you are buying durable products with long life spans. Choose items that can be reused rather than trashed or that can be repurposed for other uses. Instead of buying paper plates and napkins and plastic serving ware, pull out your own plates, silverware, and cloth napkins for the next party. If you’re headed on a road trip, take a mug from your cabinet to use at the coffee shop instead of their paper or Styrofoam cups. Opportunities to reuse items you already have also inspire a bit of creativity-who said you can’t use a glass spaghetti sauce jar for your goldfish?

  3. Reduce

    Reducing is the practice of minimizing the amount of “stuff” that you use and throw away in order to avoid making waste in the first place. If you carry reusable grocery bags with you to the store, you are by default reducing the amount of bags you might have otherwise used. If you carpool to the gym, work, or the store with a friend or neighbor, you are reducing the amount of carbon generated by multiple cars. If you rely on natural light to fill your room (so long as you can see), you reduce the amount of electricity you are generating. Like many other eco-friendly habits, reducing must first start with making the choice. In this case, we must decide to use less as often as we can.

  4. Freecycle

    Do you have a mattress, TV, or bike that you no longer need or want? If selling on eBay is not up your alley and all you want is to move your goods to a new home rather than the landfill, Freecycle is an international, non-profit, web-based solution. The Freecycle Network has over 4,700 groups with over 6 million members and all you have to do is join your local Freecycle Yahoo Group and you can post, share, give, and receive products for free and save them from going to the landfill.

  5. Go Paperless

    While there are many reasons for maintaining a “paper trail,” much of what used to be done on literal paper that kills trees and takes up space on desks, in drawers, and in files can all be done electronically. From note taking to letter writing to bill paying to shopping, you can save trees and reduce trash by choosing to do as much as possible online. There are many options for electronically paying bills and when you can shop online, why do you need to receive the catalogue? When paper does come into play, be sure to first use it for scrap paper before tossing and when it’s time to toss, recycle it.

  6. Buy Local

    The closer the food, products, and services you buy are to your home, the less they have to travel to get to you; and less travel means less energy expended on the overall production of that item. Buying local also eliminates the need for a “middle man” and is an investment in your local resources as well as the environment. Try your local farmer’s market as a starting point for buying local and get to know where your food is coming from.

  7. Be Energy Efficient

    From the home to work to school, there are many ways to reduce the amount of energy you use that you can implement wherever you are. Turn off lights when you’re not in the room. Unplug items that are finished charging. Use CFL bulbs in place of the incandescent, energy-consuming alternatives. Make sure your appliances are in good working order to reduce energy drain. Insulate your home and replace drafty windows and doors to improve the heating and cooling of your home or office.

  8. Conserve Water

    It’s reported that a family of four uses up to 400 gallons of water a day. By making a few simple changes in routine, we can help conserve water for future generations. Little changes make a big difference: turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth; only run a full dishwasher; repair leaky faucets and toilets; and choose products that meet water-efficiency programs.

Moving to a GREEN Paradigm Provides Healthy Incentives for Home Owners

bulb-treeBy: Joe Lederman

As citizens of this planet, we have an inherited obligation to care and nurture the world we live in. For a significant portion of the 20th century, the construction and building industry was plagued with many harmful materials that not only poses many risks for home owners and workers, but for the environment.  Living in the 21st century, we are in the midst of moving towards a green paradigm, away from health damaging materials. With a growing amount of education and resources in environmentally sustainable products, many states in the United States are leading the switch towards living GREEN!

When embarking on the path to home ownership or home remodeling, there are many things that need to be considered and additional responsibilities that will be required. Highly regarded throughout the 20th century, asbestos was considered the pinnacle of building materials, posing many intrinsic qualities that manufacturers loved. It’s fire resistant, durable and versatile components made it sought out by many industries. Asbestos was used in industrial products such as insulation, piping, roofing and flooring products.

Many public facilities, homes and buildings built before 1980 may still be harboring asbestos and other hazardous materials. If any of these are suspected, experts will almost always advise to leave it un-disturbed as this can damage it, releasing its fibers airborne. If it is determined that asbestos should be removed, leave it un-disturbed until a licensed contractor can safely remove the material. There are now many green alternatives that not only replace the need for asbestos, but can reduce annual energy costs.

There are many green, eco-friendly materials that replace the need for asbestos and can reduce energy costs annually.

Although most asbestos material does not pose a risk, consistent exposure can lead to lung ailments such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. With a latency period lasting 20 to 50 years and no mesothelioma cure, it accounts for three percent of cancer diagnoses in the U.S.  Mesothelioma treatments have varied affects on patients and many variables can affect patient prognosis.

GO GREEN: Breathe Easy, Live Simply

The United States Green Building Council is a non for profit organization working to make homes, buildings and facilities go green within a generation. Green building can and must be available to all people. This will lead to a better quality of life not only for the country, but around the world. Many are unaware that eco-friendly materials can reduce annual energy costs by 25 percent. The United States Green Building Council also conducted a study which estimated a new savings of $50-$65 per square foot for positively constructed green buildings. As education and technology of green sustainable practices increase, the numbers will continue to rise.

Many cities in the U.S. have established lumberyards that can re-store where recycled building materials are available. Instead of using old practices such as mal treated wood for interior walls, it can be constructed from concrete or steel, reducing the amount of risks associated with asbestos and obsolete methods of insulation. These healthy alternatives to asbestos include the use of lcynene foam, cotton fiber and cellulose.  Made from recycled batted material, cotton fiber is becoming a prominent form of insulation, containing the same fireproof qualities that once made asbestos the most sought after building substance.

Living in a world where environmental sustainability is a vital concern to the future of mankind, it is important to take note of the consequences of improper building materials and environmental degradation. These asbestos alternatives allow for a healthy, safe home, free of health deteriorating materials.

Joe Lederman
Mesothelioma Cancer Center

Choose Your Green Products Wisely

Green ProductsThe “Going Green” phase in home construction has many people confused about what “green manufacturing” really means. Many individuals, companies and organizations are struggling to find the balance between renewable, sustainable, recyclable, LEED certified, NAHB Green Program, Energy Star, energy efficient, net zero, carbon foot print, certified products, low VOC, air quality and a myriad of other green words.

So what is the ultimate goal trying to be achieved? Are we aspiring to save the environment, buy cleaner and healthier products, create personal energy efficiency,  live sustainable lives, recycle more trash? Special interest groups want to push their agenda within the green communities and business are trying to gain some profit from the emphasis being put on this topic so finding the proper information is important for balancing our lives in a green world.

Similar to the health and wellness industry that one day says this vitamin is drastically important and then next month it is not, living green is in this phase today. Do some research and understand what “being green” really means. “Going green” is here to stay and needs to be in the minds of every person on this globe if a change is really going to take place.

What is “Green”?

Don’t believe everything you read or hear. Study the basics of what makes a product green, then study the product and make sure it fits the proper criteria. Many companies use the Green catch phase to help promote their product but when looking into the product they are not so green. Many will use recycled products in the manufacturing process but this recycled amount may be very low. Some vinyl products claiming to be green may only have 10% – 15% recycled base in their product. Where as another with a similar product may have 40% – 50% recycled base. Which product has taken “green manufacturing” seriously and which is just using it as a marketing scheme?

Look for green certified products and then read as much as possible about the product. Compare several similar products and see which has made the most effort in “Being Green”.

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