published in Home Improvement Resource May 2008
As the days grow longer and our thoughts turn to spring and all things "green", make sure your indoor home improvement project is as environmentally friendly as the outdoors...
You don't have to be a "tree hugger" to realize that our natural resources are being stretched to new lengths on a daily basis. While we may not see clear cutting of forests in our backyards, we do feel the pinch at the gas pump and when we purchase any petroleum-based products. The climate crisis is now a household term that has us looking for ways to help reduce, reuse and recycle.
Fortunately, product developers started looking at the increasing trend to go green and are developing/reusing new and better products every day. As the public demands more eco-friendly products the supply will rise to the occasion. The January and February editions of Green Builder a magazine by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) outlines several questions to ask when choosing sustainable products for building.
- How will the building material contribute to a home's energy efficiency? This starts with products used on the exterior of your home all the way down to choosing Energy Star appliances to use in your home.
- Is the building product made from renewable, recycled or recyclable materials? Exotic woods may be beautiful for flooring, but bamboo is renewable resource the can be harvested every 3-5 years. It is harder that most hardwoods and looks beautiful.
- Pollution prevention: with every purchase you make think about the potential risks to human health and the environment. This is particularly important in the adhesives we choose for projects. Many types of plywood contain formaldehyde-based adhesives. Franklin International Titebond has a heavy-duty construction adhesive that contains no ozone-depleting chemicals (www.titebondgreenchoice.com). Wilsonart PVA adhesives and wood glues are Greenguard Indoor Air Quality Certified.
The American Society of Interior Designers has partnered with the U.S. Green Building Council to compile: REGREEN Residential Remodeling Guidelines 2008. These guidelines are available on the ASID website www.asid.org. The guidelines cover a wide variety of categories. There are several categories of products that I want to specifically speak about. The first one is paint.
Remember when you could walk into a friend's house and smell the paint they used to paint the kid's room - a week ago? What you smelled are called "volatile organic compounds" or VOC's. The VOC's help the paint to roll on better and are also part of pigments used in darker paint colors. Paint companies (Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore in particular) have come out with new lines of paint that greatly diminish and in some cases eliminate the VOC's while maintaining ease of application and great color. In addition, a company call Kelly-Moore has a line of paint that is made of post consumer recycled paints. (www.Kelly-moore.com)
The next category is countertop and tile. Granite is beautiful, durable, not a very renewable resource and it takes a lot of energy to get it out of the earth, transported to a fabricator, polished, cut to exact specifications and finally delivered to your home. A new product on the market is called IceStone and it is made of 100% recycled glass in a cement matrix. According to GreenBuilder February 2008, IceStone can be shaped, water jet cut and used vertically or horizontally. It has the same heat resistance as stone and is less porous than marble. (www.icestone.biz) another product is from Klip Bio Technologies. It is a countertop made of a 50/50 blend of bamboo and recycled wood. It is scratch resistant and has a low water absorption rate. (www.kliptech.com)
Glass tiles are an increasing trend in backsplashes and bathrooms. There are a number of exciting glass tile products made from recycled glass. The glass is salvaged from landfills and reused. Placing glass tiles as accent pieces or using them all over on a bathroom floor creates a modern and updated look.
The final category is flooring. As I remarked, Bamboo is a great product for flooring as it is a renewable resource. Cork is another renewable resource for flooring. Cork has great sound absorption properties, and a cushioned feel underfoot. Surprisingly it is also very durable and is 4 times stronger than a wood finish.
When we talk about carpet there is a new product on the market by Flor. However their carpet tiles do not contain the compounds that give off the new carpet smell after it is installed. In addition they have a high percentage of recycled content. Flor has been a manufacturer of commercial grade carpet for a number of years, but the modular tiles are great for kid spaces, basements and contemporary settings. Flor is available through interior designers. (www.flor.com)
The other big news in carpet is the fact that Shaw carpet is recycling nylon fibers to make new carpet. Shaw is collecting old carpet and taking it back to the fiber stage and reusing the fibers. Nylon fibers don't really degrade in the landfills, so repurposing them in new carpet is a boon for the environment.
As you approach your home improvement project, make sure you can answer these questions about the products you will use. How will the building material contribute to a home's energy efficiency? Is the building product made from renewable, recycled or recyclable materials? Pollution prevention, what are the potential risks to human health and the environment. Choose those products that meet your needs, price point and leave a light environmental footprint and you will soon be on your way to a "greener" indoors.<< Read more articles