How To Make Your Renovation Sustainable & Energy Efficient

With the looming threat of climate change, people are becoming more and more concerned with doing their part to help. For most people, this means making more of an effort to recycle, attempting to reduce waste, and choosing environmentally friendly products. But there’s always more that can be done, especially when it comes to building, remodeling and maintaining a home. Prospective homeowners and builders who are starting from scratch or undergoing major renovations have the opportunity to build or create sustainable, environmentally friendly homes.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of sustainability, you may question your own individual ability to make a positive impact. After all, the topic of climate change is widely contentious and involves major players, such as governments and corporations. It can be easy to get lost in the fray and feel powerless to make any positive change, but you have more power than you think. Building or renovating a home is a perfect time for you to take things into your own hands. It might also help to know that sustainable building isn’t just about positively impacting the external environment, it’s also about creating a safe, healthy living environment for you and your family.

Sustainable materials such as cork flooring are durable, comfortable, healthy, and safe for the entire family. | Photo Source: flooringmagz.com

Sustainable materials such as cork flooring are durable, comfortable, healthy, and safe for the entire family. | Photo Source: flooringmagz.com

So what does sustainable building entail? First, it begins with making sure that the land you are building on is being used appropriately and doesn’t cause undue damage to natural ecosystems and habitats. The building process should also be minimally disruptive and economical. The final structure should efficiently use water, energy, and other important resources and enhance, not take away from the health of its inhabitants and the surrounding community. It also involves minimizing waste however and whenever possible.

This gives you, as a prospective homeowner, a wide range of options for undergoing a sustainable, environmentally friendly renovation. The very first step is to think small. When finances permit, it’s quite tempting to build or purchase a large, lavish space, but it’s important to only utilize the space that you need. Building or renovating bigger spaces requires more materials, and the final space will require more energy for heating, cooling, and lighting. If you have a small family, this may mean forgoing that second (or third!) kitchen or bathroom and opting for a smaller space overall.

Carb2, KCMA- certified stock cabinetry. | Products that are Carb2 and KCMA certified are tested to be sustainable and safe.

Carb2, KCMA-certified stock cabinetry. | Products that are Carb2 and KCMA certified are tested to be sustainable and safe.

Renovations require tons of materials which can mean tons of waste and pollution, from manufacturing to transporting to installation. You can begin by choosing locally sourced materials in order to reduce the amount of energy and pollution created by transporting materials over long distances. You can go even further by purchasing from a company that uses sustainably harvested and recycled products, or even repurposing salvaged furniture for use. As the health of your family is also of concern, look into whether or not your chosen manufacturers use nontoxic products, adhesives or solvents during the building process, as this can negatively impact the air quality inside your home.

Even if you’re only remodeling your kitchen or bathroom, the same rules still apply. As a matter of fact, these rooms are arguably the most important when it comes to creating a sustainable, energy efficient home. When it comes to your kitchen, there are many areas of energy production that have to be considered. Every time the light fixtures, refrigerator, stove, trash compactor or any other appliance is used, energy is being used. Of course, you’re most familiar with what this means for your electricity bill, but it also contributes to our collective use of energy – as a community, as a nation, and as a world. The same goes for your faucets, pot fillers, and other water sources. The name of the game is conservation, and not just because it can save you money in the long run.

Recycled glass and other composite countertops are great for a sustainable remodel. | Photo Source: Sitka Projects

Recycled glass and other composite countertops are great for a sustainable remodel. | Photo Source: Sitka Projects

When shopping for your kitchen appliances, look for the Energy Star seal. These eco-friendly appliances have been tested and proven to utilize energy in the most efficient ways possible. Look for plumbing fixtures that have also been verified to be water-conserving. Products such as recycled glass countertops and composite countertops made from multiple materials can help to reduce construction waste. Even your choice of windows should reflect your attempt at a more sustainable home, as proper manufacturing and installation can make all the difference.

Kitchen made with stock cabinetry. | Stock cabinetry can be just as attractive as custom cabinetry, but is the more sustainable choice.

Kitchen made with stock cabinetry. | Stock cabinetry can be just as attractive as custom cabinetry, but is the more sustainable choice.

When purchasing your cabinetry, stock cabinetry and semi-stock cabinetry are the most sustainable options, as the standardized, mass production helps reduce the waste that comes from constructing custom cabinetry one by one. If you’re removing existing cabinetry and appliances that are still in good condition, you may want to consider donating to organizations that will refurbish and reuse these products in another home. If these products need to be thrown out, be sure to follow proper recycling procedures.

Of course, some of these actions are easier said than done, especially if your remodeling budget is a limiting factor for you. However, doing whatever you can within your limits can go a long way towards creating a healthy, sustainable home for your family and for the generations to come.

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