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How to Sustainably Renovate Your Home

We’ve got some great tips in order to keep your remodel as sustainable as possible.

Written by
Meredith Skidmore

We're all spending a great deal of time at home these days, and you might be starting to go a little stir crazy. This could lead to an overcritical examination of your home, and the need to remodel or renovate. Like every aspect of our life, it is important to consider the environmental impact a home renovation can have, and how we can help to minimize that impact. Whether it is redoing an entire room, or just some minor DIY projects, we’ve got some great tips in order to keep your remodel as sustainable as possible. 

Big Home Renovation Projects 

Home renovation projects can be a huge undertaking, and not to mention very unsustainable. It is important to make sure when you decide to take the leap and renovate your home,  you know exactly what you want. If you decide to take on a big project, such as expanding the kitchen into the living room, or redoing your bathroom, you most likely will need a contractor. Be up front in the beginning and let them know you would like this renovation to be as sustainable as possible. Don’t be afraid to go over all of the details and keep up with them throughout the process. The more they know what you are looking for, the less chance they have to go back and change something, which saves resources and also your money. 

Deconstructing vs. Demolition

One of the key words when discussing a big renovation project is choosing to deconstruct your home rather than demo it. This means the contractor will go through and take apart the walls, cabinets, floors, bricks etc.  In an effort to preserve the materials. As opposed to demolition which leaves us with piles of rubble that can only be thrown away. If you choose the deconstruction route, those materials can be used to create the backsplash in your kitchen,  your new kitchen cabinets, or even new walls. Reusing your deconstructed materials is a great way to keep your renovation costs down. If you find you don’t need all of your materials look for recycle or construction companies who can use your leftover materials, many will even come and get them free of charge! 

Adding to Your Home

If you aren’t changing anything inside your home, but rather are adding on, look to use are recycled materials. For example if you decided to add a sunroom or back porch, look for used building materials at construction sites. You can also talk to known contractors in your town, they might be able give locations for building teardowns or contact info to see if you can use those materials once they are no longer needed. Another great place to look is online. Let your online community know what you are looking for and see if anyone is looking to get rid of those items. It can be cheap or free, and not to mention a sustainable way to get the materials you need for your home project. If you can’t get reused materials look for more sustainable options such as wood, straw, and recycled plastics. Bamboo is a great sustainable option. It is very strong and grows incredibly fast. It is a great way for you to renovate your home while being friendly to our planet. Another sustainable option is to use straw as an insulator, rather than the more common fiberglass types. Lastly, if you want to dive headfirst into the sustainability pool you can use eco bricks. Eco bricks are plastic bottles filled with used plastic to create a density similar to a brick. It is a revolutionary idea that is creating a way to curb our plastic crisis. 

Minor DIY Renovations

Not all renovations have to be a major construction project. There are small things you can do to spruce up your home and still make environmentally friendly decisions. For example, paint paint paint! Nothing will spruce up a home, or make something look fresh and new, like a new coat of paint. Whether you're just touching up the kitchen cabinets or completely repainting, it is a great way to make the room feel new. Options for repainting could be your front door and shutters, to give the front of  your house a new feel. You could repaint the walls in your living room or the cabinets in your bathroom and kitchen. When picking paints, we need to be on the lookout for paint that won’t have harmful impacts on the environment.  Look for ones that have low Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs), are not oil based and don’t contain ingredients like heavy metal pigments or petroleum. Choosing an environmentally friendly paint helps keep chemicals out of the water and provides better air quality for you in your home. It is also important to dispose of paint properly. When you are buying paint for a new project, really take the time to figure out how much you need. It might even be better to purchase a little less. You can always buy more, but once you have it, it has the potential to be wasted. If you do end up with too much of one color, you can always donate excess paint to your local Habitat for Humanity. Another great use for leftover light colors, is to use them, instead of buying primer, as your base coat for darker colors. 

A few other minor diy projects to spruce up your home can include wallpaper, switching out the knobs on your kitchen and bathroom cabinets and reupholstering your plush furniture. Wallpaper can be a great way to add that pop of color or crazy pattern, without your room feeling too overwhelmed. You can create an accent wall or wallpaper on the back of your built in bookcase. It can also be used as the backsplash in your kitchen. Similar to paint look for wall paper that has low VOCs and uses water based paint for the design. You can also find wallpaper that is made from post-consumer recycled materials. A good label to look for is something that has been Greenguard Certified.  Another spruce idea for your kitchen is to change out the knobs. Head out to some garage sales or thrift stores and find some beautiful new knobs for your home. Lastly, reupholstering your perfectly good couch or chair is a great way to get a new look in your living space without buying new furniture. Again take to online and see if anyone has leftover fabric you can use, or thrift second hand fabric. 

Impacts of an Environmentally Friendly Home

As you can see, there are many options to make your home more environmentally friendly. The key is not to go out and make all of these changes right away, but to make more mindful decisions when they need to be made. Some of these choices could be more costly in the beginning, but almost always turn out to be budget friendly in the long run. Creating a more sustainable future is an idea that has really gained some much needed momentum. It has recently been shown that choosing sustainable options and having a “greener” home can increase its market value and the value of the neighborhood. Also in some places, choosing to deconstruct or use sustainable materials can be used as a tax write off. This varies by town and state, so make sure to do some research in your area before you begin. We are never going to be perfect at being 100 percent sustainable all the time, but if we take a brief pause to think about our next choice before we make it, we just might be able to live in harmony with our planet.