5 Green Renovations for Your Home

Reader Contribution by Bobbi Peterson
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Planning a home renovation is both a fun and stressful task. It’s exhilarating to think of all the ways you can improve your home and turn it into a reflection of your personality, lifestyle, and values. It’s also stressful to consider aspects like budget, time management, DIY vs. hiring professionals, and how to navigate the disruption of your normal routines.

On top of that, conscientious homeowners also choose to consider the environmental impact and sustainability of their projects. That doesn’t mean you have to add extra stress, however. You can take steps toward a greener renovation by following these five tips for renovating your home the clean way:

1. Plan Before You Act

Planning helps you get a full picture of what you need for your remodel. You can create a comprehensive plan that streamlines your efforts and reduces costly and wasteful backtracking.

Start by sitting down for a brainstorming session where you write down everything that comes to mind when you consider your renovation wishes and needs. List everything: ugly fixtures you want to get rid of, inefficient appliances that need upgrading, functional changes needed to fit your lifestyle, and measures to make your home greener.

After you’ve poured out all your thoughts, you can start figuring out what order projects need to be done in. Ask yourself: What’s crucial to the safety or stability of your home? What tasks need to be done first so they can pave the way for future projects?

Getting all of this planned out helps your renovation be more efficient in terms of resources and time. Jumping in without a plan could mean you waste both time and money on a project you have to redo later because you failed to account for all potential issues.

2. Pick the Right Materials

From recycled materials to sustainable wood to no-VOC paints and stains, picking the right material can help reduce waste, decrease your footprint, and promote better health.

Some of these choices are simple, like selecting no-VOC paint and Energy Star appliances. Other materials will take a little more research. Look for materials that are made from recycled goods or are made of sustainable material. For example, bamboo is a quick-growing, sustainable resource that lends itself well to everything from cabinets to countertops to flooring. When it comes to countertops, skip the solid surface options and look for counters made from tree pulp or recycled glass.

Don’t forget to include hidden but crucial materials like insulation in your green material search. There are a number of high-performing, eco-friendly insulation options available.

3. Regift, Reuse, Recycle

Think twice before you start swinging a sledgehammer or filling a dumpster. Sure, it’s the quickest route for demolition, but is it the best?

So many renovation projects trash perfectly usable material. Just because you don’t want it or like it doesn’t mean it can’t be used by someone else. Talk to your local Habitat for Humanity about what they accept as donations or accept to sell at ReStore. Neighborhood Facebook pages and websites like Freecycle or Craigslist can help you find a new home for your old materials, fixtures, appliances, or furniture.

Think critically about what you can reuse from your project. Can you refinish old floors instead of replacing them? Give a cosmetic or organizational update to cabinets instead of getting new ones? Can you refashion old cabinets, furniture, or salvaged wood into something new and useful for your space?

Don’t forget to check with local waste management or green construction companies to find out what waste can be recycled rather than put in a landfill.

4. Clean and Trash Safely

Do your research before cleaning or disposing of construction materials to make sure your actions do not harm yourself, others, or the environment.

Not all construction waste can go in your trash can. Research to find out how to safely dispose of materials like paint, batteries, and cleaners. The EPA’s website is a great resource not only for safe disposal of hazardous waste, but also for tips on how to reduce your use of hazardous materials.

Paint is one of the cheapest, quickest ways to update your home, but homeowners need to be careful that they don’t take the quick and easy route when it comes to cleaning up from paint projects. Excess paint should not be tossed in the trash, and latex paints should be cleaned only in sinks linked to municipal sewage to avoid pollution.

5. Get Help

Research and planning goes a long way, but there’s no substitute for the experience and resources of professionals. Partner with green builders and eco-minded professionals in your area to ensure that you make the best choices for your lifestyle, your home, and the environment.

It might take a little extra work or even cost a little more upfront, but renovating your home the green way pays it forward with long-term savings, fewer risks to your health, and a far-reaching, positive impact on the environment.

Photo by Fotolia/Leandervasse

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