Carpenter Carter Oosterhouse's HGTV shows, "Carter Can" and "Red, Hot and Green," have made him a big name in green building. His nonprofit group, Carter's Kids, develops parks and playgrounds for urban youth, and he serves as a spokesperson for the Council for Responsible Energy (CRE), an advocacy group for natural gas.
How did you become interested in green building and green remodeling?
I grew up with parents who pushed us to take care of our health—we took a lot of vitamins and never ate sugary cereals. My parents also made sure we never used harsh chemicals for the laundry or for washing the car. This helped me transition my thinking about building. I was eating organic foods and using natural cleaners. Design and home building were the next logical areas of focus.
What was your most challenging green home project?
Every project is different. The beauty about green building is that it's always evolving. I’m always trying to keep up with the new trends and materials, so every project is a challenge.
What advice do you have for homeowners who want to increase their homes’ energy efficiency?
A home can lose 30 percent of its heating and cooling with air leaks and improper duct work. A ¼-inch gap under your front door is equivalent to a 6-inch hole in the wall. I’m sure you would close that hole, but lots of people don't fix the gap. Also, homes that use natural gas for heating, hot water and other appliances produce fewer greenhouse gases than electric- or oil-heated homes. As a result, the carbon footprint of a natural-gas home is an average of 46 percent less than a home using electricity for those same appliances.
What items should every natural home have?
Natural cleaners! It's amazing how many people think that once it goes down the drain, it’s gone. The reality is that you can harm the earth, our drinking water and make the house an extremely toxic environment, especially for kids. Also think about ditching the paper towels for reusable ones to avoid the 30,000 tons of costly waste caused yearly by regular paper towels.
Tell us about your natural home.
As I've remodeled my home I've used numerous eco-friendly materials: concrete countertops, Energy Star appliances, dual-flush toilets, low-flow fixtures, natural wallpaper. Even the outside, I have hardscape for the backyard so I don't use too much water.
How do you think green building will change in the coming years?
When green really caught on five years ago, it was just the cool thing to do. You wanted to show off your solar panels or your bamboo cabinets, but things have changed because of the economy. Now people are sealing up their homes because they want to save money, but they’re being green and efficient at the same time. I hope to see the two go hand-in-hand.
What environmentally friendly action should everyone take right now?
Go buy a CFL for you and your neighbor. Also, educate yourself about the number of carbon dioxide emissions your home produces, and learn how to reduce the number. You can go to www.comfortableresponsible.org to find out more.