Regardless of the time of year, many of us spend time pondering all of those tasks (large and small) we’ve been meaning to get to around the house. From replacing kitchen appliances, to installing new lighting, to renovating an entire room or floor, there’s never a bad time to tackle these projects. To help you clean up your renovations, we’ve consulted with a group of experts who specialize in all things ‘green’! Don’t wait until the dust has settled before you consider the environmental impact of your choices. Act now to make your next renovation environmentally friendly.
You certainly can’t solve the world’s energy crisis with one renovation. Nor can you be expected to paint a house ‘green’ overnight. “Instead of getting overwhelmed, start with small, simple tasks,” says Cassandra Dass-Pearce, founder of Toronto-based Green for Life, who works to help individuals and businesses make environmentally conscious decisions. Her suggestions include:
- Install energy-efficient lighting (choose CFL or LED bulbs)
- Have your home tested for indoor air quality
- Ensure your living space is mould-free
- Install a programmable thermostat to regulate indoor temperatures
- Cover your hot-water heater with an insulated blanket to prevent heat/energy loss
- Install low-flow showerheads in all of your bathrooms
Opt for more sustainable products
For Yee Jee Tso, (Managing Partner with Vancouver-based, ArtiZEN Home Renovations Inc.) who encourages his clients to consider the environmental impacts of their renovating decisions, materials like bamboo and cork are an ideal replacement for traditional hardwood flooring. “Bamboo is such a rapidly growing resource and unlike cutting down a forest, bamboo can be harvested again and again,” says Yee. “It also looks great as a floor and is extremely durable.” Perhaps people shy away from cork flooring because they think of the flimsiness of corkboards and wine corks, but Yee raves about this material, which is made from the bark of the cork oak tree (and can be harvested without cutting it down). “Once treated, cork can be waterproof (think: bathroom and kitchen floors) and much more comfortable to walk on than tile.”
Say no to VOCs
Quite simply, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are released as gases from products such as paints, lacquers, paint strippers, building materials, furniture and carpets. These chemicals are released at room temperature and are bad for the environment and your health. “Buy low or no-VOC paints and inquire about eco products when purchasing furniture and other building materials,” says Yee.
Avoid the landfill: Donate what you can
With 58 stores across Canada, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores (www.habitat.ca/restores) help to promote the re-use of building materials, tools, and supplies. With revenues generated from their sales going toward local Habitat building projects and charitable work, you’re not only helping the earth but also supporting the development of affordable housing in your community. Before you demolish your bathroom and leave the rubble for trash, consider what materials (sinks, doors, light fixtures, lumber) can be donated. For larger items, ReStore will gladly schedule a pick-up from your home.
Think and shop locally
Finally, when it comes to choosing building materials, consider the distances these products have traveled to reach your home and the conditions under which they were produced. “I favour local products which help support our economy and create jobs,” says Ken Ruest, Senior Researcher with Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) Sustainable Housing Group. “Remember, the cheapest products are not always the most sustainable or environmentally friendly.”