Environmentally-friendly Construction

Environmentally-conscious homeowners that are considering building their next home should consider that it is always easier to construct a house in a manner that is ecologically-friendly from the start than to go back and make it eco-friendly at a later date. This is especially true when you consider that remodeling a home in order to implement eco-friendliness into it at a later date will only create more waste; so much so, in fact, that it may even negate the positive effects that it restoring the home has created. Because of this, it is crucial to plan ahead to make sure that the construction is completed with environmentally-sound building techniques the first time. Prospective home-builders will want to consult with construction companies that utilize construction techniques and materials frequently and correctly.

Toxic materials have been used in construction for a long time. Almost all of these techniques were implemented before more environmentally sound materials and techniques were introduced as a result of a greater awareness of construction’s impact on the environment. While manufacturers and builders seldom (if ever) use lead-based paints or asbestos in construction anymore, there are lesser-known environmental and health-hazardous materials that remain to be in widespread use even today.

Paints are, by and large, one of the largest areas of construction material that can have undesirable environmental effects. Oil and latex paints can wreak havoc on water treatment facilities if they find their way into drains and are difficult to otherwise dispose of properly. Milk-based paints are becoming a popular alternative to these harsh chemical paints and feature an ingredient list that excludes any carcinogenic.

Traditional insulation is manufactured from virgin, harsh materials that are also difficult to dispose of properly. Newer insulation developments include insulation materials that are made of recycled materials and are bio-degradable. These materials include newspaper, old blue jeans, and recycled fiberglass. Proper insulation can make or break the energy efficiency of the home as well and these “alternative” insulation materials have been thoroughly tested to meet or exceed the effectiveness of more outdated, harmful materials.

Finally, many new homes as well as existing homes are becoming increasingly energy-independent of “the grid” with the use of solar panels. Solar panels capture the sun’s rays and store that energy into cells so that it can be used even at night. Solar energy panels can cut energy consumption dramatically, saving money on heating and cooling costs and making a much smaller energy footprint on the environment

Eco-Friendly Flooring

One of the most visually striking parts of the home is the flooring that is chosen. For this reason, most people do not hesitate to make choices for the flooring in their home that will complement the rest of the house as well as withstand years of walk-thru traffic. Contemporary flooring choices consist of materials such as hardwood flooring, hundreds of styles of carpeting, linoleum, and tile. Most of the materials for these types of flooring installations are manufactured using virgin materials, which takes its toll on the environment and discourages future recycling of materials. Luckily, however, suppliers are offering more eco-friendly solutions in flooring to consumers so that their home can be beautiful as well as environmentally-friendly.

Expensive hardwood flooring often promotes methods to gather the materials that can be environmentally devastating such as harsh logging techniques. Instead of perpetuating the harmful cycle of cutting down more trees for our wood needs, consumers now have better options available. Bamboo has exploded in popularity for flooring needs in the last few years and is only gaining momentum. Bamboo grows quickly because it is a grass, not wood, and is more readily available. Additionally, many homeowners have found that cork creates an inviting atmosphere and serves as a beautiful as well as resilient flooring option. Some homeowners have found that concrete is a solid option for their flooring needs and, depending on the way that it is poured, can create a lasting, beautiful option for nearly any room.

Tiling is frequently used in several areas of the house including the bathrooms, kitchen, foyer, and even for outside decking. While most tiles are used from materials such as ceramic and glass, many forward-thinking companies are taking recyclable materials and turning them into tiles that are nothing short of works of art. These materials include ceramic and glass as well, but also materials such as granite and aluminum. Any time that recycled materials are purchased, it promotes the market and helps it grow to hopefully become the leading manner that these materials are produced.

Finally, nearly every home has carpeting. Carpet creates a warm, soft environment for rooms such as bedroom, living rooms, and family rooms. When looking for carpet samples, find ones that are manufactured from natural fibers and where the manufacturer uses very little chemical treatments (if any). The adhesives that keep the carpet in place can also be toxic so keep that in mind when carpet shopping as well.

Now, What About Recycled Furniture?

Furniture manufacturing is one of the largest consumers of virgin wood that there is.  Since the average person spends upwards of 90% of their day inside and that time is typically spent utilizing some form of furniture or another, the market for new furniture is always going to be large.  However, the damage that furniture manufacturing has on forests can be devastating and ranks as one of the leading causes of deforestation along with paper production.  For the ecologically-savvy consumer, it is a great relief to know that there is now no shortage of alternative solutions for eco-friendly furniture production solutions.  No matter whether the furniture is made from metal, plastic, cloth, wood or other material, there are now viable and affordable alternatives offered by companies around the world.

Trees are one of the Earth’s most cherished resources because they produce oxygen, consume harmful carbon dioxide, help cool the atmosphere, and prevent erosion.  In short, it is no secret that keeping as many trees growing as possible is in everyone’s best interest.  In an effort to stave off rampant deforestation, sustainably-harvested tree farms, sustainably-harvested forests, and reclaimed wood have become the main sources for wood in eco-friendly furniture production.  However, new technology has allowed companies to use reclaimed and recycled materials as well.  Reclaimed wood comes from old houses, recycled furniture, “flawed” wood (discarded by other companies due to its perceived imperfections) and other sources.  Recycled wood products include paper used in bedding and other sources. 

Bamboo is another important natural material that serves as a very reliable alternative to wood.  Bamboo is not wood, but is instead a very stout strain of grass that can range in color from maroon to lime green.  Bamboo is an extremely resilient plant that grows very fast and can be grown in varying geographical locations.  Some of the more abundant furniture uses for bamboo include armchairs, couch frames, tables, chairs, and even window blinds.  Bamboo is usually grown in China without the use of most (if any) pesticides, however harvesting bamboo requires a relative great deal of water, especially if the plants are grown too quickly and replanted without proper soil treatment. 

Finally, both plastic and metal have been used in furniture for years.  Since both materials are very recyclable, they have the potential to be as eco-friendly as other solutions.  This is only if the materials are, indeed, recycled, however.

When you look for furniture of any kind consider not only where the material came from (recycled, organic, etc) but how easily it can be disassembled and recycled after you are ready to replace it.  In order to keep the cycle of reusable materials circling, we all have to consider where our consumed material is going; not just where it’s been. 


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