When it comes to creating the home of your dreams, you probably don’t have visions of deforestation, pollution, and waste that generally accompany such building projects. And yet, if you’re trying to embrace an environmentally responsible lifestyle, you need to stop and think about what your construction is going to cost the planet (in both resources and damage). Luckily, there is a lot you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and still have the functional, beautiful home you’ve always wanted (albeit greener than you dreamed). Here are just a few things you’ll want to consider before you start construction.
- Sustainable materials. Wood and natural stone are common construction materials, but for the most part, they cannot be considered sustainable. There is only a finite amount of popular stone deposits around the globe (granite, marble, and so on) and most mining operations leave a wasteland where once there was natural beauty. And logging companies that harvest wood for homes rarely replant when they’re done clear-cutting. The processes used to gather these resources spread pollution and waste in their wake. But there are companies that work to do less harm or even repair the damage they’ve done, and you can also consider using recycled materials and concrete in the construction of your home.
- Local goods. Shipping is a major source of pollution (through greenhouse gas emissions). So no matter what materials you end up using while building your home, see if you can find them locally. You’ll not only cut down on emission; you’ll also be doing your part to support businesses within your community.
- Pollutants and waste. Green building projects can cut waste by up to half, but what you should really worry about is the pollution they create. By purchasing local goods and services, you can definitely reduce some pollution, but the use of heavy machinery, as well as “run-off”of debris from the building site can upset the surrounding ecosystem. Ask your contractors what they can do to temper these common effects.
- Alternative energy. Although the sun, wind, and water are free, the systems that allow you to turn them into usable sources of energy are not. However, a totally green home practically demands the inclusion of power off the grid. Luckily, you can cover up to half of the initial expense through government incentives like tax rebates (both federal and state). And the costs will be returned to you over time through savings on utility bills. You may even be able to get some cash out of the equation if you create enough unused energy to sell back to the power company.
- Landscaping. When putting the finishing touches on your green home, you should address the greenery with the same attention to detail as the structure. Eco-friendly landscaping includes the use of native plants (preferably those that are drought-resistant). And when it comes to water usage, you should consider underground sprinklers (which lose an estimated 30% less water to evaporation) and a system that utilizes recycled water. A compost enclosure for creating natural fertilizers is also a good idea.
Carol Montrose writes for Justin Doyle Homes, a Cincinnati home builder since 1976 offering luxurious homes for every lifestyle.