LEED—or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—building certifications have made a huge splash in the architecture world over the last few years. Homes that are designed to be LEED certified have to meet an extensive list of qualifications, all of which focus on meeting environmental and energy-efficiency minimums. These qualifications include things like the building’s location—even access to bicycle routes—and rainwater management to nontoxic pest control and use of a renewable resource, like bamboo, for flooring.
Unfortunately, we’re not all able to afford the cost of building a brand new home to meet LEED certifications, nor are we all able to afford the renovations that would be necessary to turn our homes into ones that are LEED certified. That said: there are still plenty of ways you can make sure your home is ecofriendly. And while an ecofriendly home doesn’t come with a special certification, you’ll know that you’re doing your part to help the environment.
There are, literally, hundreds of things you can do to lower your energy usage, and this is one of the biggest parts of making your home ecofriendly. From using newer appliances that are EnergyStar rated, to using new fluorescent light bulbs (which are all but necessary now that most incandescent bulbs have disappeared from the shelves, by law), to simply being conscientious about how frequently you use electric appliances when you don’t need to. Sure, if you’ve got old appliances, you may think about upgrading to something newer that will require less energy, but honestly, if you just pay attention to how much energy you’re using, you’ll not only see your energy bill shrink—you’ll be doing something great for the environment, too.
Low flow faucets and toilets can help reduce your water usage, too.
Of course, you could just opt for an alternative power source. If you pay attention, you’ll spot solar panels popping up on a lot of new homes, and even a few older ones as well. While it’s not a cheap investment, solar panels can ultimately save you a lot of money over time.
Let’s face it: there’s always something you want done to your home, whether it’s a newly remodeled kitchen or a deck added on to your back patio. Any time you remodel, you have a chance to make your home a little more ecofriendly. If you build a new deck, for example, instead of using traditional timber that requires stain and sealant, consider composite decking, which is more environmentally friendly and sturdier over time. Another alternative is cedar, which doesn’t rot and stands up against time very well.
Remodeling any room in your house gives you the opportunity to replace appliances or fixtures with more efficient ones. Green flooring options include recycled plastic carpet, ecofriendly carpet squares, or bamboo slats or other types of easily sustainable wood.
And hey, if you can, a skylight can let in plenty of daylight, which lessens your need for artificial lighting inside the house.
Of course, this all sounds like a lot of work. That’s one of the reasons why the government enacted the Energy Policy Act in 2005—it created tax credits for those who foot the bill to install solar panels and make other energy efficient changes to their homes.
And not only that, but you’ll find that once you’ve made many of these changes, the amount of money you’ll save in utility costs will pay for most of these changes in no time.