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green your home

Taking on a building or remodeling project can be pretty daunting in-and-of itself. Making it a green construction project can be downright overwhelming.

Turns out, there are some simple green building techniques you can follow to help reduce your global footprint. Here are some ideas.

Building supplies

Materials should be sought within a 500-mile radius of the building site to minimize the use of fuel for transportation. Other recommendations include:

  • Using wood from the trees cut down for construction.
  • Utilizing materials that are easily replenished, such as bamboo (harvested for commercial use after 5 to 6 years of growth) or cork oak (the tree is preserved because only the outer bark is removed).
  • Purchasing products that are either low in or don't contain formaldehyde, a carcinogen commonly found in pressed wood products. If purchasing a product with formaldehyde, make sure you air out the area to reduce gas emissions.

Temperature

To reduce energy loss, install double-paned windows and well-insulated doors and walls. Also, windows should be strategically placed to allow optimal sunlight and to decrease dependency on your thermostat. Tight construction also helps reduce drafts and energy costs.

Floors

Hardwood floors are preferred, as carpets can emit harmful chemicals and harbor mold growth. Green flooring options include bamboo, cork, and other wood certified by the nonprofit Forest Stewardship Council (the FSC logo guarantees that the wood came from a well-managed forest). If using carpets, tack them down instead of gluing them to reduce toxic emissions.

Paint

Pick paints that are low in volatile organic compounds, in other words, chemicals containing carbon that evaporate into the air and damage the ozone layer. Another alternative is to use recycled paints, which are made of filtered, reprocessed latex. Recycled paints keep harmful chemicals out of landfills, and are typically sold at a discounted price.

Toilet

When low-flow toilets became a federal requirement in 1994, they were initially unpopular. Over the last several years, however, these toilets have improved in their flushing power and are gaining in popularity. To maximize savings on your water bills, look for models that meet the new High Efficiency Toilet (HET) standard, which is 20 percent below the 1.6 gallons per flush norm (or 1.3 gpf).

Light bulbs

Many of us are switching our incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Not only are CFLs lowering our monthly electric bills, they also last 8-15 times longer, which more than makes up for their purchase price.

Electronics

In this tech-savvy age, many of us have a home entertainment center comprised of TV, DVD player, and digital video recorder. Sound familiar? Make sure they're connected to one power strip so they can all be turned off when not in use.

Roof

A pro-green roof is a great example of blending durability with recycling. Many people going green today are building a roof that will last at least 50 years and is made of 100 percent recycled materials, such as rubber and plastic or vinyl and cellulose fiber.

Bottom line is we may spend more money and put a little more thought into going green initially, but we can then rest easy for years to come, thanks to higher-quality products and lower utility bills.