Green solutions to home improvement

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2016 was regarded as the hottest year on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization. People themselves are to blame. The climate scientists have claimed greenhouse gas pollution mostly likely contributed to the record, which we created by burning fossil fuels and destroying rain rainforests. This kind of fact tends to paralyse people, since it seems unfathomable that we could solve it. After all, what can one person do? But that is the wrong attitude. After all, this is as a result of collective action – that is, many individual people – and there’s no reason it can’t work the other way, too. To that end, let’s consider one way people can act which is to consider how their homes are being built. We can build greener homes and make efforts toward living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Material

The first way to focus on creating a green space is to think about what we’re making our homes out of. Naturally, the material itself will make a difference since we’re participating in a market that focuses on either good or bad properties. After all, it’s demand that incentivises businesses to cut down forests – if there were no market for harmful materials, then there would be no mass production that leads to the enormous pollution that occurs.

Wood, for example, is often appealed to as one of the best materials to work from. As Forest Foundation highlights:

Wood is better for the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, air and water pollution, and other impacts. Steel and concrete consume 12% and 20% more energy, emit 15% and 29% more greenhouse gases, and release 10% and 12% more pollutants into the air, and generate 300% and 225% more water pollutants than wood, respectively.

Wood makes an ideal material since it can be used for a range of purposes. Everything from walls to decking can be built from wood. Its durability also means that it makes financial sense, since we don’t need to keep buying it. It lasts for a long time. Furthermore, we can rest assured knowing what we’ve chosen to build with is better for the environment.

Sunlight and electricity

One of the biggest drains on resources is electricity and how we produce it. Naturally, homes are some of the biggest consumers of energy. That means we should consider the ways in which we can produce electricity without having to destroy the environment.

First, there are actions we can take. We can use less electricity in our daily lives – turning off lights, purchasing products that don’t require constant or large amounts of electricity and so on. Clean Technica also advises us to watch how we’re using our air conditioners:

Rather than paying a fortune to freeze yourself, or even to keep it cooler than your body really needs, lower your electric bill by simply raising your thermostat. Our bodies are made to adjust to our surrounding environment. Let your body do its job. And if you want to go even further, turn on a fan to keep cool so that you can turn the temperature on the AC up even further, or can even turn it off altogether. Blowing air on yourself takes a lot less energy than turning hot air into cold air.

Another obvious way is to go solar. This means deciding on using solar panels throughout the house. We can usually predict sunlight, since most days in most parts of the world will experience sunlight. Naturally, winter and cold days reduce this likelihood but that still means we can plan for it. Combining solar power with efficient electricity usage means we can do more.

Sunlight also means we don’t need to focus on artificial light. By using free, healthier and less damaging sunlight to light up our homes, we can take some of the stress off lights. Designing the home from the ground up with an eye for the sun’s direction can make a huge difference. Curtains – or blinds – can be lowered or raised, letting light in or blocking depending on what we need. This means, like lights themselves, we have control of how dark or lit rooms are.

Waste and recycling

Homes are obviously big producers of waste, but this can be turned into actual energy. For example, as BioFriendly notes, this is what’s happening in Sweden.

Sweden recycles the items that can be reused and it turns the rest of the country’s waste into energy. In fact, between their own waste and the waste they are importing (yes, importing) from other nearby countries, they are generating enough energy to power a quarter of a million homes.

Naturally, not every country can do this but it is a strategy worth considering. This not only makes waste something that isn’t destructive, but as a source of energy and fuel.

Picture credit: Chris Potter/Flickr