Important Considerations BEFORE You Make the Green Plunge!
By now, we’re all pretty familiar with the term “going green.” When it comes to home improvments and remodeling, however, there are a few facts that you may not have considered. Before you decide to undertake a green home upgrade, it’s important to have all the information.
Protected Trees and Tree Farms
The phrase “tree-hugger” has long been used as a slightly derogatory description of an individual who is environmentally conscious. The implication is that people who care about the natural world are against any practice or industry that disrupts organic processes—like cutting down trees. It’s sort of ironic, then, that one of the greenest construction materials you can buy is wood harvested from tree farms. Farmed trees are cultivated and grown specifically to supply American construction demand; this means that indigenous, protected, or endangered trees are left alone.
Think Global, Buy Local
This mantra has been associated with eco-consciousness for some time, but when it comes to home remodeling it’s an important consideration. You may spend months researching the most environmentally responsible building materials, but if those items have to travel by ship, train, and truck over thousands of miles to get to you, what have you really accomplished? The greater the distance a product has to travel, the more energy it takes to get it to its final destination. Measuring the impact of transport is difficult, so it makes sense to shop as close to home as possible.
What’s the easiest way to do this? Compare prices. It seems simple, but often the price of materials is a good indication of how far it’s had to go to get to your local supplier. You’ll pay more for items that have be shipped all over the globe during the manufacturing process, while materials produced and fabricated closer to home will usually cost less.
Green Today, Green Tomorrow?
Maintenance is an important consideration if you’re thinking about green remodeling. While that natural marble countertop you’ve chosen may seem like the most eco-friendly choice now, you’ll have to frequently reapply sealant that contains high levels of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) to keep it looking great. You can buy zero-VOC marble sealant, but it’s significantly less effective than the nasty stuff. Artificially engineered stone, on the other hand, may seem like an “un-green” choice, but it requires no sealant and minimal upkeep, making it the more environmentally responsible option in the long run.
Residential fencing is another area where the greenest choice is not always apparent at the outset. Based on information we provided earlier, it may seem like wooden fencing is the best option. However, wood exposed to the elements has to receive yearly treatments with high VOC sealants to keep it looking presentable; this means you’re releasing harmful toxins into the air year after year. It may seem that aluminum or vinyl fencing takes a bigger toll on the environment initially, but when you consider how little maintenance they need (a spray with the garden hose or a high pressure wash every couple of years) there’s really no comparison.
The bottom line is that green isn’t always easy to figure out. If you are truly dedicated to total green remodeling, be sure to consult a qualified professional who can help you make the most informed choices.
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