Even the most environmentally-conscious among us sometimes need to make upgrades in our home, whether it’s renovating the kitchen in a mid-century house or adding an extra bedroom for an expanding family. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to minimize the environmental impact of your remodel and even improve energy savings with your changes.
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See What You Can Sell/Donate
If your remodel requires you to get rid of certain appliances or items like your old dishwasher or cabinet doors, try selling them or offering them for free on a site like Craigslist, or donate them to an organization like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, rather than just throwing them out.
If you’re unable to sell or donate certain items, check with the local waste management department to see if they have a recycling program for appliances.
Assess Your Floor Plan
Thinking of adding a new room to your home? First consider whether you have enough existing space to add that room without adding any square footage.
For example, you might be able to add a wall to create a small kid’s bedroom out of part of an L-shaped living room, or you could add a partial wall to a living room to create a separate dining room area. If you want to add a front entryway or mud room, you might be able to pull space from your existing kitchen. If you do need to make an addition, think about how you can add enough square footage to meet your needs without going overboard.
Call in an Energy Auditor
Before you start renovations, have an energy auditor assess your home. A professional energy auditor will check things such as insulation, ductwork, your furnace, doors, and windows to determine how much energy your home uses and whether it can be more efficient.
Once you have these recommendations, you’ll be able to incorporate energy saving changes into your remodel. These changes can save you money, reduce your emissions, and make home maintenance easier, so there’s no reason not to make them.
Work with Reclaimed Materials
Reclaimed wood is becoming an increasingly popular choice in home remodels thanks to its many benefits. Since it’s recycled, it has a minimal environmental impact, and it’s also tougher and more durable than wood taken from first-generation forests. Many homeowners also appreciate the aged, weathered look of the wood and choose to use it for exposed beams or even a kitchen island.
Of course, wood isn’t the only type of recycled material you can incorporate into your remodel. Natural or recycled stones can also be a good choice because they absorb the temperature around them, improving energy efficiency as a result. On top of that, stones are a visually appealing element that can be incorporated into many different areas of the home.
Make the Most of Natural Light
Whether certain rooms in your home get good natural light will depend largely on their location, angle, and the outside environment, but if you’re remodeling a room that already has great natural light, you should use that to your advantage. Strategically place windows, or even consider adding full-length windows in order to let more light in and reduce your need to use electric lighting in the room.
To maximize your light even further, consider adding soffits (ornamental ledges) above the windows, as these help transfer light into the room. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you might even consider adding a sky light.
Do Your Research
Be sure to do your research before you start any green renovation project. Talk with a contractor who specializes in green building, and check with your local utility company to see if your green remodel will qualify you for any incentives or rebates. By taking the time to do your homework, you should be able to reduce costs and find new ways to save energy that you might not have initially anticipated.
Juliana Weiss-Roessler is a freelance writer and mom who co-owns the business Weiss-Roessler Writing with her husband. She frequently writes about how to minimize your impact on the environment.