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Updating your home is always exciting (and sometimes a little stressful). Whether you’re updating a room with some fresh paint and new décor, or taking on an entire renovation, there are several ways you can minimize your impact on the environment when decorating your home.
Thinking about the earth in everything we do is always important, so consider these tips when you’re planning that next big home improvement project:
When selecting products for your home, you have a lot of options that are good for you and the earth. If it’s a simple redecoration project, you can choose curtains or throw pillows made with hemp, which is much more sustainable than cotton or wool. If you’re going for decorative pieces, consider items made from recycled glass or plastic, or even reclaimed wood.
If your project is bigger, you still have many sustainable materials to choose from. When it comes to furniture, cabinets or flooring, bamboo is one excellent sustainable choice. It’s one of the most sustainable hardwoods out there, maturing in 5-7 years and having less impact on the environment where it grows. Bamboo flooring is just as sustainable as it is strong: bamboo is as sturdy as steel, hardier than concrete, and beautiful to boot.
There are also great choices available when it comes to countertops and sinks. Recycled glass comes in different colors and marbling styles, and can be made to look like natural stone, giving your home a refined look without using dwindling supplies of marble or granite. In the bathroom, tiles made with recycled glass or plastic are stylish and help keep bottles out of our landfills.
VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are found in many home improvement supplies, including paint and floor finishes. These carbon-based chemicals evaporate at moderate temperatures. Some VOCs have no odor at all, but each and every one is dangerous when inhaled.
VOCs have been linked to a number of health issues, including asthma, allergy symptoms, headaches and even vomiting. In the long-term, VOCs have been known to contribute to cancer, liver and kidney damage, and nervous system damage. These effects are stronger on babies, small children, pets, the elderly, and those with existing immune system or breathing issues.
If you have pets or small children in the house, it’s very important to make sure you minimize their exposure to VOCs. Luckily, there are a lot of low-VOC paint options available, as well as low-VOC flooring finishes.
Energy Stars, that is. Many people are under the mistaken impression that Energy Star is a privately owned company that is paid to give endorsements or to work with certain brands. . Energy Star is actually the brainchild of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and they use a set of rigorous standards to qualify appliances as energy efficient.
Minimizing our energy consumption is a good way for us to lessen our impact on the world around us. Energy Star ratings can play a huge part in this, especially since outfitting your home to utilize solar energy can be very expensive. If you’re in the market for new appliances, lighting fixtures, or even light bulbs, just taking a moment to look for the energy star sticker can make all the difference.
If you are hiring a professional or utilizing a contractor, take some time to look into their business practices and philosophies. Sometimes you’re limited by local options, but if you have the ability to hire someone who shares similar views on the environment, it’s definitely worth the time it takes to find them and any extra money it may cost over that bargain-bin big name company.
Many contractors are now taking the time to recycle and reuse materials they remove from homes. If you purchase a new product and hire the same company to install it, try to find a company that is green. This can mean many things, but in the end, a factory that takes steps to decrease its carbon footprint is healthier for the environment, and probably makes some of the safest products you can use in your home.
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