In recent years, the environmentalist movement has made huge strides in promoting awareness of energy consumption and climate change. Green technology and trends seem to be popping up everywhere, particularly when it comes to the household. Many people are making the push to move into so-called “green homes” that are designed to minimize your carbon footprint as much as possible, while still living comfortably and with all the modern amenities people have come to expect. But what actually makes a home “green?” Are you living in a green home without even realizing it?
The main function and purpose of a green home is to overall reduce the number of resources it requires, and the first opportunity to do that comes with the materials chosen in construction. Many green homes are built with non-traditional materials, typically staying away from wood that wasn’t sourced from already-fallen or responsibly-harvested trees. Instead, materials like concrete are often used for their durability and strength. In fact, concrete is used more than any other manmade material in the world. Many people also opt for strictly natural materials and build their homes themselves, using materials like straw bales, adobe, and even found items like old windows and doors.
Green homes don’t just limit their impact through the methods used for construction; they also aim to reduce energy use once families have moved in. Because of this, green homes of all construction types will generally feature energy-efficient appliances and fixtures. This includes doors and windows as well, though some of them may be found second-hand. Windows that are drafty and let air escape can increase your energy bills by 10 to 25%, so incorporating energy-saving windows correctly and building them in well makes a significant difference in the energy usage of the home.
Lifestyle changes can also turn an eco-friendly home into the basis for a more thoroughly green lifestyle. The items used in green homes tend to last longer and be more durable; this helps to reduce how often items need to be bought new. This then can impact the consumption habits of families living in these homes, sometimes prompting them to adopt a zero-waste or minimalist lifestyle. The average American home has 300,000 items in it, but many of them end up as waste. Instead, living in green homes can encourage more conscious consumption and reduce the amount of waste the household produces overall.
Not all the materials used in the construction of a green home have to be entirely unique; as long as the home is ultimately reducing the number of resources it takes to live in and is keeping energy consumption at a minimum, it could technically count as a green home. One of the main ways this comes into practice is in the maintenance of a home. For example, a green home might still have wood siding, depending on how well that siding is maintained and how long it lasts. Properly maintained, cedar siding may last as long as 75 years; this means that’s an extra 75 years of not creating construction waste from having to replace siding.
All green homes are going to look slightly different, and what’s ultimately the most important is how their design works to reduce consumption and protect the environment. Do any of these standards apply to your home? What sort of impact does your home have on how green your lifestyle is?