How to Easily Incorporate Being Green into Your Next Project
Sustainable design is in concert with the planet. When we feel good in our spaces, work and home, we are more productive, healthier and happier. It sounds hippie-dippie, but spending time in a beautiful, sustainably designed and built space is more than saving the planet; it is saving and expanding our “quality of life.”
Being green doesn’t have to be difficult. Every decision in a design project can have a green answer. Every choice can have the overlay of, “Is it environmentally friendly/green = does it work with nature rather than against it? Is it sustainable = does it meet my present needs without ruining my grandchildren’s chances to meet their needs?”
You might be asking:
How can I be sustainable, find the resources, make the choices?
Who works with sustainable materials?”
How can I do this without being overwhelmed?
Here are 5 simple questions to ask about being environmentally friendly and building sustainably:
1. Where do I find the most sustainable materials? There are more and more retail stores, websites and magazines devoted to sustainable and green materials. Individual materials’ websites and product information can tell you a lot about them: Just like the grocery store, check the “label”. Ask questions like, “Is the product made from rapidly renewable resources or is the material I choose depleting a natural source?” “Is it made from recycled or innovative material?” “Is the wood reclaimed or from a managed forest?”
2. Will my choices use less energy over time? Insulation, that keeps heat in and cold out, makes your life more comfortable and helps use less energy winter and summer. There is non-itchy insulation – blown in cellulose (newspaper) and shredded jeans (denim) material! Daylight where you want it (slanting in from the south in the winter and shaded by leafy, deciduous plants or sun screens in the summer) through a double-paned, gas filled window allows us to light space naturally and also keep the heat in and the cold out. Add skylights and the impact is increased. Compact fluorescent bulbs may cost a little more to buy, but they last much, much longer and now can provide a light closer to the “warm” light of an incandescent light bulb.
3. Where do my materials come from? If they are grown, created, produced, manufactured or built within 500 miles of where you live, then you are using “local”, supporting your communities and using less energy (usually fossil fuel) to get them to your home or work. It takes asking a question or reading a label to find out the information and use sustainable materials.
4. Is the product environmentally safe? Ask for paint that is “low or no VOC” It’s the VOCs that make that “new paint smell” and emit Volatile Organic Compounds. Know that you don’t have to be breathing those chemicals and neither do your children. The quality of No-VOC paint has increased and almost every major brand offers one in all colors. It’s an easy choice to make – just tell your painter that you want a No or Low-VOC paint.
5. Do my choices meet the old mantra – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? – It holds true in sustainable design. Reduce the impact on the planet by choosing materials wisely – ask for sustainable products. Reuse, by choosing products like Metro Paint (100% recycled paint – it is not Low-VOC, but it has been produced by mixing useable left-over paint in color batches – paint that would have gone into the landfill.) Recycle materials you are no longer using by donating them to organizations like The Rebuilding Center and waste from your project by making sure that it is separated and disposed of correctly. Each city has regulations for recycling metal and wood, separately from garbage.
I am including a short list to get you started on your sustainable way – it’s easy and it feels good:
I want to be like Portland….. the Office of Sustainable Development
Used/recycled building materials
New building materials – Environmental Building Supplies
Natural cotton fiber insulation
Build It Green (California) – information (cellulose insulation)
Sustainably forested wood
Interface carpet tiles
Wood products and woodworking
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