Your Natural Home
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5 Eco-Friendly Backyard Upgrades

Having a yard doesn’t always mean that your outdoor living space is considered to be green landscaping. There can be many parts of your yard that aren’t supporting the environment and can actually cost you more money in the long run. Consider these eco-friendly yard upgrades to do for your outdoor living space that will help to create a more sustainable environment.

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Source: Flickr

1. Install a Rain Barrel

Installing a rain barrel is an easy choice when wanting to help support the local environment. Collect rain that comes during hot summer thunderstorms and automatically reduce your water bill every month. Put the rainwater to good use instead of allowing it to run off your property by collecting in a rain barrel. Use the rain that would normally go into the drains to water your garden plants and grass all summer long. Simply install a rain barrel system at the end of a gutter, or consider creating your own by reusing a large water container and a hose.

2. Reduce Concrete

As the normal choice for many outdoor hardscapes, concrete does offer a polished look but comes at a cost. Concrete is not very environmentally friendly and soaks up a lot of heat during the summer months. Consider removing some of the concrete in your yard and choose other more sustainable options like grass paving, wood planks, or mulch. Adding these options will not only beautify your space, but will also not crack and need expensive replacing like concrete.

3. Compost, Compost, Compost

An easy way to upgrade the look of your yard, without having to buy bags of fertilizer, is to create a compost pile. These great additions to natural yard care take the things that you would normally throw away, like grass clippings and dead leaves, and instead uses heat and some help from worms to create a nutritious and natural fertilizer for your yard. Consider choosing some composting systems that are widely available or build your own using some wood and leftover materials. Having a compost pile is a sustainable option in that is reuses natural parts of your yard to create good additions for future plants.

4. Upgrade to Native

Choosing native plants that naturally thrive in your region is an upgrade that will help to sustain the local environment, as well as provide natural beauty. Xeriscaping is a form of gardening that takes into consideration plants that are naturally part of the local environment. These plants usually don’t need a lot of extra watering and are made for the conditions that already exist in your neighborhood. Using native plants provides interest and is an economical option for saving water use as well as maintenance.

5. Add Bugs Instead of Chemicals

Not all bugs are bad for your garden. There are many types of bugs that are essential to sustaining a healthy garden as well as keeping pests at bay. Consider tossing the chemicals that you would normally use to deter critters and encourage some natural pest defenders to stick around. Ladybugs are a great addition to any garden and are a natural predator to pests that can quickly wipe out a garden. Other benefits of not spraying plants with chemicals are that it allows natural bugs, like grasshoppers and spiders, to stay in your garden to ward off pests.

There are plenty of ways to make your yard more eco-friendly. Choosing to install sustainable options like rain barrels, mulch instead of concrete, and native plants can all help to support the environment. Consider making your garden attractive to bugs that will help to deter pests as well as create a compost pile for easy fertilizer. All of these options are great when trying to make your yard more beneficial to the environment.

Environmentally Friendly Housing Options

House hunting can be a challenge for anyone looking to purchase a new home. This is doubly true for those looking for an eco-friendly home. Should you look for a new apartment? Smart home? Tiny home?

Below we highlight some of the more eco-friendly options out there so you can make an informed decision on which might be best for yourself, your family, and Mother Nature.

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Apartments

While cabin living might be idyllic and seem like the greenest way to go, studies actually indicate that high-rise apartments in cities are far better for the environment.

Research performed by the United States Energy Information Administration indicates that apartment living might be much more eco-friendly than living in a single unit home. In 2009, 19 million people lived in apartment buildings with five or more units, but only accounted for 9 percent of home energy use during that time. That explains why New York City has the lowest per capita energy use in North America.

But not all high-density units are equally good for the environment. If you’re looking to lessen your carbon footprint with apartment living, it’s best to move into a newer unit with updated, energy-efficient appliances, new windows, good insulation, and other amenities that help to lessen energy use.

Tiny Homes

The tiny house movement has created a lot of hype for the past few years. Thousands of people across America have taken advantage of the perks of tiny homes, including a lower mortgage payment, mobile capabilities, and eco-friendly benefits, to become a part of the tiny house community.

Over the course of the past 20 years, neighborhoods have sprouted in Washington D.C., Austin, Sonoma, Olympia, Portland, San Francisco, and more. It looks like the trend is here to stay — but is it good for the environment?

Overall, yes. Tiny houses reduce environmental impact by a significant margin. Why is this?

The average tiny house size is 400 square feet or less, though there are ways to make that space larger depending on the build you choose. The size of the house alone reduces waste in a number of ways.

First, the use of fewer building materials, meaning trees are being saved, fuel is being saved for the transport of these materials, and fewer building resources are used overall. Since the houses are smaller, many of the building materials can be upcycled.

The size also allows owners to use more expensive, environmentally friendly materials in the construction of the home, such as bamboo, cork, palm, natural linoleum, natural paints, etc. Many also choose to make their homes solar powered. Since the roof size is significantly smaller than that of the average house, solar power is much more financially feasible.

Smart Homes

Smart homes have been notoriously touted for the ease of comfort they add to their homeowners’ lives. It’s that same ease of comfort that actually makes them more environmentally friendly.

Smart homes reduce the burden of the resources they require by using them as efficiently as possible. Smart homes have energy-efficient appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, entertainment systems, security, and surveillance systems that are interconnected and capable of communicating with each other based on a timed schedule. In essence, you can control any aspect of your house from any room in the house or from anywhere in the world where you have an internet or phone connection.

Naturally, these functions beget energy savings that not only save you money as a homeowner, but they also help save the planet.

Trying to find a place to live that lessens your footprint on the environment is no easy task. With new technology and an increased effort on sustainable housing, more options become available each and every day.

Tiny Home Inside Look, Black Mountain North Carolina

Located on a quaint suburban street within walking distance of the tiny, unique town of Black Mountain, you will find one of several “tiny” homes located in the Asheville area of North Carolina.  One home in particular lies tucked away among a lawn of tall field grass with a huge double wrap around porch and matching balcony.

tiny home exterior and yard
Photo by Kristy Severin

With 384 square feet of living space, this unique home has everything you need, including a roomy kitchen with handmade concrete countertops, a full-size refrigerator and stove, a living room, a dining area, a washer and dryer, full-size bathroom, a reading nook and a loft you can actually stand in thanks to the extra high ceilings. The natural light that flows in is beautiful, creating a sense of peace and calmness reflecting against the pine wood walls and poplar ceilings.

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Photo by Kristy Severin

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Photo by Carolyn Severin

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Photos by Carolyn Severin

The home is filled with all sorts of natural trinkets that decorate the space, from rock crystals to indoor plants laying their leaves across a shelf, or cascading down out of a window sill high in the loft, several homemade tincture bottles, pine needle baskets, hand woven dream catchers made from grape vines and hemp string, and hand crafted pottery accentuates the space throughout as well, among many other decors. The owner, fills the space with things that make her feel at peace and has very little, maintaining a simple lifestyle. She feels that living this way creates less impact on the earth and also helps her to live a less hectic lifestyle because she is living in a home she can afford and is able to use any extra money for traveling, gardening, or making new things.

Living small is an eco-friendly way of living that can help in using less resources. This minimalist lifestyle has created much interest over the past several years as many people are finding living small and living with less makes way for finding peace and tranquility in owning and managing less things and spending more time outside and in nature.

For more information on this tiny house or to inquire about plans, please email Kristy.

Eco-Friendly Home Improvement Options

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While being a homeowner comes with a lot of responsibilities, getting to make modifications and renovations can be a perk of owning your home. When it comes time to revamp, consider what improvements can be made that can both reduce your carbon footprint, as well as increase the value of your property.

Solar Panels

Many homeowners are taking advantage of refinancing their home and are spending the money saved on their monthly mortgage payment on new solar panels. Although the upfront costs of solar panels may be deterring you from installing them on your home (though they are getting cheaper every year), the rewards are much higher. The average home with solar panels is saving about $80 a month. Depending on the state that you live in, you can receive tax breaks and rebates on your installed solar panels. Some states also offer subsidies to offset those initial installment costs. If you are not ready to take the leap and purchase panels from your home, several companies now lease solar panels that can be removed when you move out.

Energy Efficient Windows

During the coldest months of winter and the hottest months of summer, energy-efficient windows will cut back on the amount of energy used to heat and cool your home. Outdated windows allow for heated and cooled air to escape at a rapid rate, costing you more money than is often realized. By not having to run your furnace or air conditioning as often, you can feel pride in doing your small part in reducing your environmental impact while still remaining comfortable in your home. If you have other home improvements that take priority, you can also increase energy efficiency by installing high-quality, thick curtains to retain climate-controlled air inside your home. An added benefit to energy-efficient windows is they also cut down on the amount of noise pollution coming into and out of your house — offering you and your family a bit more peace and quiet.

Gardens

When considering what improvements can be made to your property, don’t forget to look towards the exterior. Map out where you can install a garden, if you don’t already have one. Growing your own food can help to reduce the carbon footprint of your meals by a large amount. Food production and transport in the United States in one of the top three contributors to carbon emissions. By eating a more plant-based diet, consisting of vegetables grown on your own property, you can significantly reduce your impact.

In addition to a conventional garden, you can also utilize the exterior home for added growing space. Beans and squash can create decorative vines on the outside of your home, while also producing food for you and your family. Installing green roofs on your home can also make it more energy efficient. The plants help to absorb heat and work to insulate your home to keep it cooler in the summer months while also being aesthetically pleasing.

Repurpose

Before getting too excited about going shopping for new countertops and appliances, research how you can use what you already have and what simple updates can be made. Perhaps those vinyl countertops could be stripped and revamped with recycled-paper tops instead of removing all of the countertops and shipping them off to the landfill. If your home is older, there may be beautiful wood flooring underneath the carpet that you want to replace. The carpet can be recycled while you can sand and lacquer your home’s original flooring to create a unique look without wasting further building supplies. If you update your windows, make sure to donate them  to your local ReStore to give them the chance to serve a purpose in another home or project. Explore your local antique shops and recycling centers to see what other items can be used as opposed to using virgin material and newly manufactured goods when updating your home.

Being environmentally savvy when making home improvements has a big payback — it can save you money and you’ll be doing your part to reduce your environmental impact. Each year, innovative offerings expand the possibilities of ways to improve your home. Make a list of your priorities to update in your home and then research ways to do so that will benefit both you and the environment.

Go Green: Eco-Friendly Home Remodeling

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Home renovation projects are never as fun as home redecoration projects and they tend to be pricey, which is why people are not very eager on tackling them. However, if you just stop for a second and consider all the long-term benefits a smart, eco-friendly remodel brings, this project becomes much more appealing. Therefore, if you want to make sure that you did everything in your power to reduce your home’s carbon footprint and provide your family with a healthy and green living environment, check out these ideas. Additionally, by choosing to go green when remodeling, you stand a good chance of even saving some money in the process.

Organize and Plan

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Photo via Unsplash

Before you get down to any actual work, you should first determine what needs to be remodeled. More accurately, remodeling a single room, like the bathroom or kitchen, does not require the same amount of planning and preparation as remodeling your entire home does. Therefore, think about the changes you are planning to make and organize everything accordingly to avoid any unpleasant situations and reduce the downtime, as well as any chance of delay, as much as possible.

Hire the right professionals

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Photo via Unsplash

Once you have the scope of your remodeling efforts in place, you should make sure that you hire the right people for the job. Since big remodeling projects call for a lot of professionals working on the same thing, hiring the ones with a green mindset will be your first step toward a green and eco-friendly remodel. These professionals will (or, at least, should) recommend you the right materials, and advise you about the best ways you can work with nature, not against it, to reduce your bills in the future. These tips include everything from the position of your windows, through maximizing the natural resources, to sustainability and durability of certain products and materials.

Determine What to Do with Debris

Every remodeling project will leave you with a certain amount of debris and materials that are no longer useful to you. So, what you should do is see if the contractors could make use of those materials in their future projects; try to find someone who might need them or repurpose them yourself. For example, use old bricks to create new flower beds for your garden, or old wood to make new garden furniture or a deck. Also, make sure you recycle and dispose of the materials that can no longer be used the right way. Keep in mind that, with just a bit of creativity, you’ll be able to reuse the majority of materials you’ll be left with.

Choose the Right Materials

No matter the scope of the remodel, you should always make sure you choose the right materials. Apart from being sturdy and durable, the materials you choose should also be sustainable and green. So, when choosing, the best option would be to go with materials that contain no (or have very little) components that are potentially toxic—like asbestos-free insulants, low- or zero-VOC materials, as well as eco-friendly materials, such as cork or bamboo—these grow pretty fast and are good alternatives for wood—as well as reclaimed hardwood.  

Important Considerations

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Photo via Unsplash

Finally, once all the hard work is done, it’s time to choose the right elements to implement in your freshly remodeled home. When it comes to these, durability and quality are your two top priorities. So, make sure you go with stainless steel, stone and marble in your kitchen; browse ceramic bathtubs and sinks, as well as ceramic or stone tiles for your bathroom; and lastly, choose fabrics made of high-quality materials for your bedroom and living room.

Finishing Touches

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Photo via Unsplash

Finally, check out all the ways you can make the most of the natural resources. For example, positioning the windows on the right (sunny) side of your house will reduce your electricity bill, since you’ll be using more natural light as opposed to having to use artificial light. Next, by opting for the right insulation (cork or insulation made of recycled materials), as well as window and door treatments (double-glazed options) you will reduce your heating bill. Also, implementing solutions like solar panels, systems for rainwater collecting, and smart irrigation systems will only additionally lower your monthly expenses.

Going green, and not just when remodeling projects are concerned, is never a bad idea. Opting for eco-friendly alternatives whenever possible will allow you to not only reduce your bills and carbon footprint, but also lead a healthier and more fulfilled lifestyle, knowing that you are doing your best to do something nice for Mother Nature in return for everything she’s offered to you.

The Incredible Health Benefits of Houseplants

Getting healthy can seem daunting, with so much advice and varying opinions, how do you even begin? Luckily, adopting a healthier lifestyle doesn’t have to be as confusing as one may think. There are plenty of ways to become healthy without having to start a new diet or workout regimen.

In fact, simply adding new plants into your home can ignite a multitude of health benefits, and without sweat. Plants are truly the ultimate health supplement, healing our bodies, providing cleaner air, reducing our stress, and keeping us calm. Here are some of the amazing benefits houseplants have to offer.

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Photo by Jackie Tsang

Breathe Cleaner Air

90 percent of our time is spent indoors, and the air we breathe is likely polluted. In fact, indoor air is more polluted than the air outside. Thankfully, many houseplants act as air filters removing toxic chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde from our air supply.

In the 1980s NASA completed a study of a variety of houseplants finding more than 30 that act as filters, such as the Snake plant, Boston Fern, and Peace Lily. If it’s good enough for NASA and the space station, it’s good enough for us.

Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Do you find yourself feeling calmer in nature, surrounded by trees and plants, compared to the hustle and bustle of city life? Well, it’s not just due to the quiet of your escape.

It’s been shown that plants have the ability to boost mood as well as decrease stress. Participants in a 2008 study who had indoor plants in their hospital rooms reported less stress and a better outlook on their prognosis.

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Photo by Dan Gold

Heal Faster

In addition to reducing stress, plants can actually improve healing time! Studies have shown that patients recovering from surgery who have a view of a garden or plants actually recover quicker than those who face a wall or have no windows overlooking plants and trees. Don’t forget to bring your loved ones plants whenever they’re sick.

Increase Focus

Do you have trouble focusing on tasks or work? Get yourself some plants. Research has shown that plants in the workplace boost productivity and morale, often by as much as 15 percent. If you’re working on a deadline, bring in some green power to help you perform better. Plants can be a big boost when it comes to concentration and performance.

Plants are more than home décor. They’re life-giving, immune-boosting, stress-reducing miracles that we encounter every day. And while not everyone enjoys ingesting these powerful foods, why not start by bringing them into your home and start your healthcare journey right, one houseplant at a time.

A Tale of Wood and Stone: Perfect Inspiration for Your Natural Bathroom Design

Summer is almost around the corner, and if you're planning to renovate your bathroom in the near future — now is the time to get it done! A combination of stone and wood is definitely one of the most wanted trends these days, especially when it comes to bathroom décor, so stay with us if you want to learn how to incorporate it into your own bathroom. Just check out our tips and enjoy!

Natural Bathroom Design
Photo by Getty Images/KatarzynaBialasiewicz.

Amazing ways to use stone in your bathroom

A lot of people nowadays turn to natural materials and start incorporating them into their own homes, and we have to say that stone is definitely one of such materials. More and more homeowners opt for it when it comes to their bathroom renovation, so keep on reading if you're thinking about that, too. Here are three fantastic ways to use stone in your bathroom:

Use stone on your walls for added texture

The first and one of the most common uses of stone is adding more texture to your bathroom, which is exactly why you should use it on your walls — or at least one of them. Even though a lot of people may think that stone walls seem way too cold and unwelcoming, that's everything but the truth, especially when combined with decorations made of wood which significantly contribute to an even better visual effect.

Stone floors are never a bad idea

On the other hand, stone floors are also a fantastic idea, as these can give you an impression of walking somewhere in nature, where human feet have never walked before. Needless to say, matching stone floors with stone walls is a good idea if that's your cup of tea. However, if it isn't, you should go for one of these only and give your bathroom a complete makeover. Giving stone floor a try is probably one of the best things you can do for your interior, but if you worry that there may be a bit cold for you to walk barefoot, you can always buy a soft, fluffy rug that will keep your feet warm whenever you enter your perfectly decorated bathroom.

Wash sinks and tubs made of stone as the ultimate bathroom pieces

If stone walls and floors are way too much for your taste and you have a limited budget for your bathroom renovation, you should know that there are other amazing ways to incorporate stone into your interior. Wash sinks and tubs made from stone often look really luxurious and powerful, and these will inevitably transform your bathroom in more ways than you can possibly imagine. So, if you aren't really sure what to do, just opt for a stone wash sink and you won't regret it!

Fantastic ways to use wood in your bathroom

On the other hand, wood undoubtedly provides a warm, welcoming, and charming atmosphere, which is exactly why a lot of homeowners love to use it in their bathrooms. Here's how you can incorporate it into your bathroom, so check out our tips and make a final decision:

Tubs made of wood are also a great idea...

If stone tubs aren't really your thing, why wouldn't you opt for one made of wood instead, while keeping your stone wash sink for a fabulous contrast? Seriously, the stone & wood combination can look really luxurious and royal, but quite natural at the same time, too, and that's why millions of people adore it so much. A long, hot bath in a wooden tub will help you achieve a peaceful state of mind and allow you to relax to the max, so take advantage of that and install such a tub right away. Of course, you shouldn't do that on your own under any circumstances, so call a trusty bathroom renovator and get it done in no time!

... As well as romantic wooden floors

As already stated, wood is a material that can make the whole interior feel a lot warmer and more pleasant, and wooden floors are exactly what you need if you want to accomplish that. These aren't as cold as stone floors, but we strongly recommend getting a fluffy rug here, too — especially if you have small kids who are a bit messy when it comes to their bath time. After all, your rug is much better for soaking up all that water, rather than your wooden floor, right?

You can't go wrong with bathroom decoration made of wood

Last but not least, there's a wide range of bathroom decorations made of wood which can transform even the most ordinary interior and make it appear much more cosy and pleasant. You can always opt for a couple of wooden shelves where you can keep your bathroom necessities, as well as towel and bar soap holders made from this material. One thing is certain — you won't make a mistake whichever you pick!

As you can see, both stone and wood are at the top of our list of most wanted materials when it comes to bathroom renovation. All you have to do is to stick to our tips and choose features made of stone and wood, and once that's done, you'll be able to enjoy your natural bathroom décor like a true pro!