So you just bought an older home that needs some work and you’re thinking of making some eco-friendly renovations. Maybe you rip out that hideous Formica® countertop in the kitchen and replace it with a paper-based countertop made from sustainable tree pulp, or maybe you install a new bathroom vanity with bamboo plywood using a low volatile organic compound (VOC) adhesive. Whether you’re remodeling a kitchen, living room, bedroom, or bathroom, there are several earth-friendly things you can do to transform your home into a living space that is safe on the environment.
Use Recycled Materials
When it comes to making an eco-friendly home improvement, it’s best to use materials that are made from recycled goods. Known as “green building materials” or byproducts, these materials contain fewer pollutants and they help reduce unnecessary waste.
Composite decking, for example, is engineered from both recycled plastics and wood waste, making it a great choice for homeowners who are concerned about the environment. Plus, composite materials won’t warp, crack, splinter, or rot like traditional wood decking.
Other examples of eco-friendly materials include shingles made from quarry waste, driveway pavers made from recycled rubber tires, and masonry veneers made with stone chips.
Avoid High-VOC Products
If you’ve ever driven a new car you probably noticed an unpleasant odor the second you got behind the wheel. This “new car” smell is often a result of sealers and adhesives used in the interior of a newly manufactured car. Known as VOCs, these toxic chemicals are not only found in newly manufactured cars, but they’re also inside the home.
Exposure to VOCs is not only harsh on your nose, but it’s also harmful to your health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to VOCs can have short-term as well as long-term health effects, including:
- Irritation to the eye, nose, and throat
- Loss of Coordination
- Liver and kidney damage
VOCs can emit from products such as wood preservatives as well as paint. For an eco-friendly home remodel, look for kiln-dried lumber and water-based paint, as these products are non-VOC materials.
Repurpose Salvaged Materials
Instead of throwing away old furniture, you can repurpose them for other uses. This is not only an eco-friendly way to reduce the amount of waste in landfills, but it’s also a great way to add character to your home. For example, install hooks onto an old headboard, mount it to the wall, and use it as a coat rack. Or take a bedroom door and turn it into a coffee table for your living room.
You can find salvaged materials at lumber mills and lumber yards for many of your eco-friendly projects. Most of these places have a lot of waste, so it might be a good idea to talk to the yard manager about using some of it for your projects. Pallet recycling centers are another great place to look for building materials, and some of these centers will even make donations.