How to Make Your House Green

How to Make Your House Green

Living green, building green and surrounding yourself with green products minimizes the negative impact you have on the natural world. At the same time, you’re creating a healthy environment for yourself and your family. Energy efficient homes cost much less to heat, cool, and light compared to your typical home. The money you save can go towards other things that matter to you. At Shepherd Insurance, we want this for you so the following are ways to the LEED and make your home a green home.

The U.S. Green Building Council has created a program called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which outlines standards for building using natural resources, recycling, and healthy materials. These standards reduce the amount of toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and lung-clogging particles from your home. These green principles not only keep you from getting sick, they also look out for the limited resources of our planet. Here are some recommendations for building, remodeling and living in each part of your home.

OVERALL RECOMMENDATIONS

Air Quality:

  • Remove carpeting and heavy curtains that are caked in dust.
  • Professionally clean ductwork and forced-air heaters regularly to remove grime and dirt.
  • Reupholster couches and chairs that contain polyurethane foam. They can cause developmental harm to animals and infiltrate breast milk. Use organic cotton batting, natural latex and fire-resistant wool in your furniture.

Flooring:

  • Do not use vinyl since it can give off toxic chemicals. Choose natural linoleum, cork, recycled rubber or ceramic tile instead.
  • Use sustainable recycled wood, bamboo or wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council for earth-friendly wood floors.

Cabinetry:

  • Conventional particleboard and plywood can give off formaldehyde. Choose coat pressed woods with a low-VOC sealant instead.

Walls:

  • When using premixed plasters, put primer on immediately after you finish to prevent preservatives, latex, and other VOCs can escape into the air.
  • Select natural plaster made from gypsum, rock and sand mixed with water.

Paint:

  • Have existing paint tested by an EPA-certified lab before removing. If lead is found, hire a professional lead specialist to remove it. When it’s removed incorrectly, the damage could be costly and hazardous to your health.
  • Choose low-VOC natural latex paints for interior walls.

Obtaining Water:

  • Purchase a rooftop scupper to catch rain runoff from the roof. These systems then feed water into barrels and into a drip irrigation system. They also reuse water from washers, bathtubs, showers and sinks by filtering the water with sand, gravel and mechanical and biological filters.
  • Bucket the water that is heating up before your shower or bath to water plants or wash the car.

Obtaining and Conserving Energy:

  • Select a photovoltaic energy system, which draws energy from the sun. If you don’t use all that you obtain, the system gives surplus energy back to the electric company on your grid. This process is called net metering and is available in a majority of areas around the country. Some municipalities even offer rebates on the product after you purchase it because it helps reduce energy costs for everyone.
  • Install a solar-powered water heater.
  • Purchase small air-conditioning systems to cool rooms that are used often instead of using a central system to cool down the entire home.
  • Position windows to maximize sunlight and reduce the need to use electric lighting. Replace old windows with tightly sealed, coated, double-glazed windows which insulate twice as well as traditional windows.
  • Increase insulation in the attic, walls, and flooring.
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) throughout the house to reduce the amount of energy you use and, in turn, lower your electricity bill.
  • Keep the heat low in cool weather. Every degree that you turn your thermostat below 70 degrees, you can save 320 pounds of greenhouse gases or 236 pounds of electric heat.

Exterior:

  • Use modified bitumen made from recycled tires for roof composition.
  • Use a non-VOC mix of Portland cement, lime, sand and water for exterior walls.
  • Select rigid foam insulation covered by building paper, lath and a layer of stucco. This will shield fiberglass which can give off airborne pollutants that irritate the lungs and can cause asthma attacks and migraines. Then, seal with Tyvek or Typar which serve as airtight barriers.
  • Test wood decks and playground equipment for a greenish tint – they may be made from pressure-treated wood and may contain arsenic. Consult a professional if tests come back positive.

Kitchen:

  • Install Energy Star appliances certified by the EPA.
  • Instead of flooring that gives off VOCs which are unhealthy and collect allergens, put in concrete flooring with a low-VOC sealant and polish. This is water-resistant and can be tinted, patterned or stamped to resemble natural stone or tile.
  • Green concrete should be at least 20 percent fly ash, a waste product of coal-burning power plants. This compound gives off significantly less carbon dioxide pollution.

Bathrooms:

  • Since toilets use 27 percent of your household water supply each year, use a 1.6 gallon-per-flush toilet. Another option: purchase a composite toilet which breaks down human waste into nutrient-rich substances that can be used to fertilize inedible plants.
  • Never buy a multi-head shower system, which uses more water than the federal mandate for shower pumps. They should only pump out 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) or less, but this mandate does not apply to units with multiple heads.
  • To test your showerhead for water consumption, pour 2.5 gallons of water into a bucket and mark the water level. Dump out the bucket. Then, fill the bucket for a minute in your shower. If the showerhead sprays more than 2.5 gallons, replace it with a design that uses less water.
  • Buy a tankless water heater to avoid wasting 6.35 gallons of water while waiting for the shower or bath to heat up.
  • Select a 1.5 GPM aerator for your bathroom faucet to decrease the amount of water that goes down the drain.
  • Use recycled, chlorine-free toilet paper and facial tissues, and petrochemical–free cosmetics.
  • Use organic bath towels and robes, sold at many major retailers.
  • Use baking soda as a scouring powder, vinegar as a disinfectant, and tea tree oil as mildew cleaner instead of normal cleaning products.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and shampooing. Only turn the water back on to rinse and repeat.
  • Use a timer while taking a shower to ensure that your showers are short.
  • Fix leaky toilets and faucets immediately.

Laundry Room:

  • Choose detergent and bleach that contain the simplest ingredients. Fragrances, dyes and brighteners do not have any effect on how clean the clothes get or how well stains are removed.
  • Select products that are “chlorine free” or “contain no NPEs” (nonylphenol ethoxylates). These chemicals are toxic but are added to many cleaning products to remove dirt. Also, do not be fooled by labels claiming that the products are “non-toxic,” “biodegradable” or “organic.” These labels only apply to food.
  • Purchase an Energy Star washer, which uses half the amount of water that a traditional washer uses.
  • Use powdered detergents instead of liquids. Liquid detergents are between 70 and 80 percent water, which is unnecessary since your machine provides water anyway.
  • Line dry your clothes to save 2.6 kW of electricity and 3.35 pounds of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere. If this is not practical for your lifestyle, select a dryer with a moisture sensor. It shuts off automatically when the clothing is dry. Or, opt for a dryer that offers a cold air-dry feature.
  • Set your washer to clean on the fastest spin cycle which reduces the amount of water used.
  • Avoid using dryer sheets, since they are made from synthetic petroleum-based chemicals and cannot biodegrade in a landfill. To reduce static cling, dry natural fibers and synthetic materials separately or add a quarter cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle.
  • To eliminate the tedious task of ironing and avoid consuming the 1,800 watts of energy that irons use in a two-hour period, line dry your clothes, air dry with cold air or remove clothes from the dryer immediately to eliminate wrinkles.
  • Carry your clothes in non-synthetic, petroleum-free laundry baskets and bags.

Bedrooms:

  • Use only certified organic cotton bedding. Traditional bedding is made from synthetic cotton and petroleum-based fabrics which can emit formaldehyde.
  • Instead of down, use a blanket made of hemp. It is naturally antibacterial and warmer than down because it is heavier in weight and has a hollow core.

Nursery:

  • Select an organic mattress to place in an all-hardwood crib covered with a wool pad. Pressed wood cribs emit VOC gases.
  • Recycle clothing, toys, and cribs (borrow, lend and shop second-hand stores).
  • Use baby bottles made of tempered glass or opaque plastic instead of soft PVC plastic. These products contain phthalates which are released into the air and bind with dust. They are linked to childhood asthma, reproductive harm and allergic reactions.
  • Make sure the mattress fits snugly in the crib.
  • Select organic cotton sheets and organic cotton or wool changing pads.
  • Instead of disposable diapers, use organic cloth or wool diapers.
  • To bathe the baby, use a non-PVC tub in padded polyester.
  • Choose paraben-free unscented shampoos, soaps, and diaper creams.

For more information on going green, contact your local Shepherd Insurance agent.