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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

What Does It Mean to Go Green?

by Tracy Herz

Tags: greenspeak, Energy Star, LEED, West Virgina, bamboo, tile,

As I begin my foray into so-called "green remodeling," I found myself pondering some essential questions, mostly along the lines of "What the heck is everyone talking about?"

With the start of this project, I'm beginning to realize there are some key terms and words that I just don't know enough about. And that, my friends, is no way to begin a big project, especially with a budget of about $15,000, give or take, for this overhaul (minus appliances and furniture). (As you may recall, my family is distinctly unskilled when it comes to DIY construction which is why I feel it's my duty to learn as much as I can about everything else!)

Of course, this all occurred to me today, when everything was torn out of the condo except the drywall. So while it's a bit late for second thoughts, the need for an education has become quite pressing.  

This week, I'm researching new vocabulary terms. First up: LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), (from the U.S. Green Building Council, my new best friends.) According to USGBC, if your house is LEED-certified, it's environmentally sound and "a healthy place to live."

I desperately want to be certified.

Our LEED-certified architect and green consultant, Thom of McKinley Associates tells me we can't get LEED certification on our remodel, because we would have to replace the drywall, and even then, it's questionable as to whether the remodel would have to include the entire building of six units. But, he thinks we might be able to get an Energy Star certification if we do the kitchen right. 

Energy Star is a familiar term, but in this remote area, I'm a bit intimidated by the choices that lie ahead. Luckily, Energy Star offers lots of helpful tips and brands. I'll be spending quite a bit of time at Ferguson's Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery down the road in Charleston. I'm sure I'll be revisiting this issue in a later post. 

Of course, you can't talk energy without learning about your carbon footprint. I knew appliances played a big role in determining how our lifestyle affected the environment, but who knew flooring did, too? Bamboo, another word of the week, is the eco-choice of the moment, but the National Association of Homebuilders claims that wood flooring in general will last more than 100 years, so maybe I don't have to be limited. (I want whitewashed maple flooring, and am trying to find a green way to do it.)

This, of course, raises another philosophical question: Does lifespan and quality justify an initial carbon output? I tend to think it does. 

For help in sorting through all of this, I'm relying a lot on my floor guy at European Flooring. He has all the dust-free equipment by Nona, too crucial for keeping a healthy environment during the remodel. 

And what about tiles? I am attracted to handmade Italian tiles, but Italy is a long way off—that's a lot of jet fuel for a kitchen floor. On the other hand, tiles are green all the way, and grout and glue are environmentally sound, with low emissions. 

Since my head is packed full of new terms and questions, I'd love to hear what you all think. Leave me a comment below!