Home remodeling isn’t just good for the planet—rejuvenating your home to be more eco-conscious is beneficial to your family’s health and your home’s bottom line. These days, with the majority of homeowners preferring to go green, there are more options than ever to appeal to both your conscience and your aesthetic.
Banish the Beige
Home color trends come and go—hello, 1970s—so if staying neutral is more your style, consider the serene vitality of shades of gray. You can go as light or dark as you’d like, keeping it cool with bluish-gray, or a warmer option with what design experts are cleverly calling “greige.”
Whatever your shade preference, stick with zero VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, now available at virtually any home improvement retailer.
Because VOCs in paint are emitted at low levels over long periods of time, it’s difficult to measure what the exact damage to your family’s health could be using traditional toxin-filled paints. When upgrading to low or zero VOC paints, you can either paint over the existing color, creating a barrier to eliminate most of the vapor emission, or you can sand down your walls to the original sheetrock.
Take precautions, though. Early to mid-century builds may still have lead paint under newer layers, so make sure that you wear proper safety gear, or if you’re having a contractor paint, leave the home while they’re working.
Lovely Lumber and Friendly Floors
Replacing wood components like cabinetry and flooring instantly spruces up your home with an earthy and inviting look. Bamboo has long been used as a sustainable wood in home design. A fast-growing grass rather than a tree, bamboo is a versatile and durable choice that can be stained any color. This year, however, has seen a rise in some other resource-saving materials, as well.
Cork flooring is growing in popularity and accessibility, thereby decreasing in cost, and has the added advantage of both soundproofing and thermal insulation properties. If the look of exposed cork is a bit too classroom-reminiscent for you, consider embellishing this eco-friendly flooring with area rugs—you’ll also muffle the sound of little feet and avoid the need for wasted heating and cooling energy, too.
If ancient grains are part of your regular diet, you’ll be impressed by this next relative newcomer on the market. Kirei board, manufactured in California by Kirei USA, is made from reclaimed sorghum straw. What’s left over from processing 2016’s quinoa is now being used in home decor. Kirei board is a low-impact and visually stunning alternative to resource-draining traditional wainscoting, and it can also be used for cabinetry and flooring low-traffic areas.
For rooms where you just need a little plush comfort under your feet, pull up your old allergen-hosting carpeting and replace it with carpeting made from hemp fibers or even recycled plastic bottles! Yes, even the bottle caps and labels are recrafted and used in the manufacture of this lovely looped floor covering.
Your countertops can add instant pizzazz to the heart of your home. Traditional marble and granite might be durable and give your kitchen an air of sophistication, but the quarrying of these natural stones requires massive amounts of high-energy equipment, and the finished products often contain minute fissures that are filled with polyresins. If you can’t live without them, however, look for a contractor who uses reclaimed pieces from previous remodels or seek out the material yourself from a Habitat for Humanity store or other building material salvage yard.
Current trends in post-consumer countertop manufacturing have made available what used to be for only the most serious Pinteresters. Recycled glass and paper composite options keep waste out of landfills and add character to your kitchen. For cooks who prefer less clutter, you can even have bamboo or marble cutting slabs built right in.
Solar Lights the Way
Even in cloudy Chicago, solar panels are a smart and cost-effective choice. Going all the way and installing a one-hundred-percent solar PV system is even easier than it was at the start of the green home revolution, and thanks to ongoing tax breaks and rebates, you’ll have even more to spend on the more charming upgrades. Both federal and state programs are available. For a different approach, check out the Chicago-based solar co-ops, which reduces costs in favor of shared resources.
From cute eco-friendly tote bags to sleek rooftop solar panels, you can cut back on your family’s dependence on fossil fuels without sacrificing style. In 2017, it’s time to bring that style home.
About the Author: Courtni Wisenbaker-Scheel is a mother of two, and lover of all things Danish modern. She enjoys writing professionally for the Illinois solar experts at Modernize, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home remodel projects with confidence.