There’s one common bond that homeowners share: saving money on the upkeep and maintenance of your home is a pretty good thing. And being in the same boat as the rest of you, I look for the cheapest and easiest ways to make my home hum more cost effectively. But one thing I seem to find often is that there’s always a product that’s got the green label, claiming it’s safe for the environment, it’s nontoxic and butterflies with rainbow colored unicorns on their wings will come flying out the bottle as soon as you open it up. Are these green materials for real?
Unfortunately, the answer is sometimes no. It’s called “green washing” and it’s runs rampant in the building industry, and many others. If you’re looking for a more substantial green building product to help improve or maintain your home, check out these ideas and you’ll get a cheap, green and effective home improvement that will make Al Gore look like the owner of a coal powered factory that makes baby seal skin shoes.
Interior Shutters or Blinds
This easy to install home improvement project is a great way to save energy on your heating and cooling bills. New window replacement can cost you a fortune and give you very little ROI. Wooden shutters are great for keeping the hot or cold air at bay without the high price of new windows. Simply build a wooden frame using some 1×3’s around your windows and install wooden shutters on a brass hinge for a great looking and cost effective alternative to new windows. Even Wood Blinds available on Amazon can help insulate a window.
If you’re looking to replace your old shag carpet or disco vinyl floors with a durable and cost effective green material, then bamboo can be a great choice for updating your shag pad. Bamboo can be stained or colored to mimic just about any wood flooring material, so you can be sure to get a suitable match for your wife’s design theme. Even though bamboo looks like wood, it’s really a fast growing grass with wood-like properties. It takes decades for conventional wood materials to grow to a harvestable age. Bamboo takes four years or less. And because it can be grown just about anywhere in the world, bamboo is the ultimate local building material. Yes, most bamboo products are truly green and sustainable.
If you don’t have a gutter system on your home; get one. They help to increase your home’s curb appeal, they prevent erosion around your home’s foundation and they also can help stop water infiltration into basements and crawlspaces. With the addition of a rain barrel, you can funnel a huge amount of water and store it for later use. An airtight lid and water spigot make sure your rainwater stash is safe, debris free and easily accessible for watering the garden, washing your car or squirting the neighbor’s dog when it comes over to poop in your yard. You can find a wide variety of Rain Barrels on Amazon, from traditional to modern styles with prices mostly ranging from $100-$200.
If they had a wood hoarders TV show, I’d probably be on it. I save every little piece of wood I use, because eventually, I’ll use it for something else along the way. I also like to pick up thrown away materials that others discard; whether they come from a Craigslist ad, a yard sale or off the side of the road, I use it, and use it well. There are a ton of websites out there that trade or give away materials too. After all, one man’s (or woman’s) trash is another man’s treasure.
Paints and Stains
Most of today’s paints and stains are transitioning to water based and that’s a good thing. Some oil based paints release volatile organic chemicals (VOC’s) in a process known as off gassing. Dangerous chemicals break down over time and release toxic gasses into the air. If your home is filled with not-so-green oil based paints, they can release dangerous gasses for years after application, ruining indoor air quality. Use a low or no VOC paint or stain on all your projects. Or take it one step further and make your own. I use white distilled vinegar and some old rusty nails to create a natural stain that looks good, costs very little and is about as toxic as a salad.
While setting up a huge solar farm on your roof isn’t going to be cheap, attractive or please fossil fuel-centric utility companies, smaller and more efficient solar powered devices are an easy option to get your green feet wet. Solar powered walkway lights, landscape lights and security lights are all affordable and easy to install additions to your green home improvement project list. Best of all, you don’t need to be an electrical engineer to install them. A single screw gun is about all it takes to harvest the energy of the sun and light your home’s exterior for free. Find a large variety of Solar Lighting on Amazon.com.
Have green tips of your own to share? Let us know in the comments below!