A couple of weeks ago, I took my LEED Green Associate exam and I passed. Woohoo! For those readers not from the U.S. or maybe if you’ve never heard of LEED, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a voluntary, consensus-based, market-driven program that provides third-party verification of green buildings. They have rating systems for all sectors of the building market, including neighborhood development, LEED for homes, LEED for schools, LEED for Commercial Interiors, LEED Core & Shell, and so on. The rating systems have minimal requirements that a building has to meet before it can be LEED Certified. LEED Certified buildings save water beyond baseline building codes, save energy, and overall provide a better environment to live and work in. I hope to get my next certification as LEED AP ID + C (Interior Design and Construction).
Since I’ve passed my exam, I’ve wanted to write something on how to bring green into the home. By bringing green into your home, you’ll be saving water (and money you use to pay the water bill), you’ll be saving on electricity bills, and you’ll just be happier over all.
1. Energy Star Rated Appliances
If you’re in the market to be buying new appliances, choose appliances that are Energy Star rated. They use 10%-15% less water and energy than standard models and you would never know the difference.
2. Save Water
You can install aerators on faucets that aid in using less water but they provide high water pressure. Aerators save about 50% of water. I believe you can install aerators on shower heads too, or you can buy showerheads with built-in aerators, or maybe some of them just have aerators in them. I don’t really know. It is just easier to check the packaging and buy a shower head that uses less water. You can check the package, and if it uses anything less than 2.2 gallons per minute it is more environmentally friendly. I’ve seen some as low as 1.6 gallons per minute.
I always turn off the faucet while I’m brushing my teeth. If you turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth, you can save about 4.5 gallons each time.
3. Green Cleaning Products
They have so many cleaning products on the shelf that it’s ridiculous and half the time you don’t even know what the hell to buy. I’ve found a website that has tons of recipes for making your own non-toxic cleaning supplies that will be much cheaper than anything you buy at the store. If you think about it, it will also save on packaging going to the landfill, because you won’t have to throw away a spray bottle each time you run out and need to buy a new one. Chances are if you’re making your own supplies, you’re probably reusing your containers that you store it in as well.
According to LEED, the biggest consumer of energy in buildings is heating and cooling, and of course lighting. I assume this is probably true for homes as well. Right now they are making a big deal out of these CFLs, saying that they use less energy so therefore they are more environmentally friendly. Well let me tell you, they are not so environmentally friendly. CFLs are toxic because they contain mercury and if you break one, then you have to dispose of it a certain way and recycle it. They are also a fire hazard, and they never last as long as they say they do on the box. They are always burning out in my house.
If you want to save energy, I suggest buying LED A-19 lamp. They are very expensive but they will last an extremely long time. I’ve heard of people who have installed LED A-19 lamps and haven’t had to replace them for a while. They are less toxic (still have toxic metals) and so they are a bit more environmentally friendly.
If you’re doing a new installation in your home, I suggest maybe getting dimmers and controls to control your lights. Lutron has a RadioRa system that will help control your lights, and it can even be integrated with your ipad. You can set automatic controls, for when your lights come on, your shades shut, etc. You will end up with dramatic cost savings from this, and you probably will not have to trouble yourself with replacing burned out lightbulbs all of the time.
5. Heating and Cooling
Since heating and cooling is a big energy consumer, I decided to talk about it. Most people don’t have money to shell out for a new HVAC system, but if you do or you’re building from the ground up then maybe you should read this.
If you’re building from the ground up, or you’re doing a major renovation, and you live in a freeze/thaw climate I advise radiant heat over traditional forced air. Radiant heat are pipes heated by water, that are ran through the floor, that transmit heat through the floor and into the space. Radiant heating is an energy saver because the heat lasts much longer than forced air (so you’re using less), and it’s much more comfortable. It’s not as dry as forced air, which is usually a problem in the winter time.
If you plan on building from the ground-up and you plan on being in your space for a while, I would suggest a geothermal system. Geothermal systems pump heat to or from the ground in an efficient way that helps to heat and cool your house in the summer. They are some of the most energy efficient systems available, and they are also eligible for tax credits so you might consider installing one. A website is listed below that explains it much better than I can.
6. Reduce Plastics
This one is easy. You can have a recycling bin to recycle plastic, opt for paper bags at the grocery store, opt for paperless statements, etc. If you want to go further, I suggest using a natural stone countertop instead of laminate, and also to look at bamboo over laminate flooring. Laminates are durable but they are a pressurized plastic and can leave VOCs and other harmful toxins in your home. If natural stone or bamboo is not in your budget, ask for more environmentally friendly options of laminate or laminate flooring (they are out there!).
There’s a lot more that goes into being green than just these things, but these are just some of the basic things to think about and easy fixes (besides for the heating and cooling). I plan to write on more elaborate environmental topics such as choosing energy efficient homes in the future.