It’s Not Easy Being a Green Home

Green building and green homes are terms that get bandied about pretty liberally these days. Quite often, what passes for green makes strides in one area while backtracking in another. If we’re really keen on going green these days, we’ll need to look beyond labels to find out if what we’re buying will truly benefit the environment. Read on for a run-down of the four biggest magnets for the “green home” label and some of the noxious realities that lurk within:

Recycled Materials

Recycled building products may be considered green because they conserve resources, raw materials and turn post consumer or industrial waste into a valuable and useable resource. These benefits can be nullified however if producing the recycled product requires an undue amount of energy consumption, creates pollution or if the final product leeches toxins into the environment. Rubber tiles for instance put old tires to good use giving them green kudos but when used in an enclosed environment they’ll leak unhealthy chemicals into the air that are decidedly not green.

Conservation of Natural Resources

Building products that use less material than their predecessors, are rapidly renewable or have a high durability factor make the green list because they conserve natural resources. But like recycled products, products that conserve resources may also have qualities or histories that are notoriously not green. For example MDF board can be made from almost any quality wood including sawmill off-cuts and uses almost 100% of the wood in the final product. The result is that an MDF board makes more complete use of natural resources than a natural wood board. But if it has been pressed with urea formaldehyde, as it typically is, it will off-gas and working with it can make you sick. MDF also has a shorter lifespan and less water resistance than natural wood products which means it will need to be replaced sooner and require the use of even more resources.

Clean Air

Natural materials that don’t pollute the environment or leech toxins are legendary for getting green points and keeping it clean. Wood, stone, slate, marble and plant products, for example, don’t require long chains of chemical processing or release cancerous fumes into the lived environment. Natural, minimally processed materials are simply healthier to live with and therefore green. These benefits are eliminated, however, if harvesting, extracting or transporting the materials creates pollution, requires a huge amount of resources or depletes a resource faster than it can be renewed.

Energy Efficiency

Products that affect energy consumption and water use on a day to day basis stand to effect the biggest environmental impact of all materials that go into a home. Those who wish to be truly green will make sure that operating their home requires minimum amounts of energy and water. Properly insulated walls, windows and doors minimize the amount of energy required to heat and cool a building and therefore have a favorable impact on the environment and are fortunately fairly easy to attain. But how will you generate heat and power? Unfortunately, most of us will have to opt for some sort of fossil fuel or electric power limiting our “green” energy options to those that focus on using as few resources as possible rather than renewable resources like solar power and wind power that don’t need to be mined or transported and create no pollution.

Clearly, it’s not easy being green. Though making strides toward reducing our impact on the environment by building and buying green homes is clearly one of the best places to start, it’s important to educate ourselves if we want to do it right. Green isn’t just something we buy, it’s a careful balance between conservation, low pollution and sustainability.