Sure, you recycle, repurpose, and refurbish, but wouldn’t you love to really knock your friends’ organic hemp socks off? Turn them green with envy with these sweet, sustainable upgrades and remodeling ideas.
Detached workshops and studios carve out a nifty workspace, but you can make yours a green endeavor with these prefabricated rooms by Kanga Room Systems. They’re made with sustainable, high-quality materials here in the U.S., which means they don’t have to be shipped as far to reach you (as long as you live in America). Prices range from $7,150 for a 8-by-10-ft. room to $13,400 for a 14-by-24-ft. room.
Reclaim Your FloorsRenewable, durable, and versatile, reclaimed wood is recycled — no new trees are chopped down for your floors. For a truly green floor, make sure any adhesive backing is free of formaldehyde and other harmful VOCs. Prices vary depending on the source and how much work it took to transform the wood from its previous use into flooring, but expect to pay about $5-$15 per square foot. Reclaimed wood is a hot seller, so it should be clearly labeled.
Store the Sun's RaysPassive solar design captures the sun’s energy to keep interiors toasty and save you energy costs. Concrete floors and thick interior walls made of concrete, brick, or plaster soak up heat during the day and release it at night when sunlight goes away or your cozy fire goes out. That helps stabilize temp fluctuations and makes a room — or house — more comfortable. If your remodel plans don’t include passive solar design, you can always beef up your insulation.
Chameleon-Like RoofsBlack roofs that absorb heat or lighter-colored ones that reflect it are useful — for half the year. MIT students are working on a solution: color-changing roof tiles that turn light or dark depending on the outdoor temperature, so your indoor heating and cooling system doesn’t have to work as hard. Although they’re not on the market yet, the inventors of Thermeleon tiles claim they reflect 80% of sunlight when they’re white, cutting cooling costs by as much as 20% over a black roof.
Thumbs Up for TerrazzoChips of recycled glass cast into a concrete slab make up terrazzo, a green countertopchoice known for its durability and nearly limitless color options. Recycled components make up the bulk of the material — the glass chips usually come from post-consumer sources, such as bottles and windshields, which make terrazzo a greener choice than granite, but not cheaper. You can expect to pay about $57-$68 per square foot. On the upside, it’s easy to clean, and so tough that you can put a hot pot directly on it.
Righteous Rain GardensRainwater picks up all sorts of pollutants like salt, fertilizer, and oil on its way into storm drains, which then dump the water into rivers and lakes. Rain gardens — plants arranged in a shallow depression — help soak up rainwater. That reduces erosion, improves water quality and decreases the chance of flooding. Costs vary depending on the size of your garden and what kind of plants you use, but native plants are typically cheaper and better for wildlife, too.
Burning CleanWood-burning fireplaces are romantic, but they’re messy, inefficient, and produce pollutants that irritate lungs. A more eco-friendly choice: a direct-vent gas fireplace. Direct-vent fireplaces ($2,000 to $5,000) use outside air for combustion and convert up to 80% of the fuel they burn into usable heat (wood-burners convert only about 10% of their fuel). Direct-vent fireplaces don’t require a chimney, either — they can be vented horizontally or vertically.
Sun Gets In, Heat Stays OutLet the sun shine in with these outswing folding patio doors made of low-E tempered glass, which has a special coating that increases energy efficiency. Sunlight shines in, but low-E glass suppresses heat flow, reducing energy loss by as much as 50%. If new patio doors aren’t in the cards for you, there’s always window film, which essentially adds a low-E coating to glass.
Go Climb a TreeThere is a high-rise hideaway in Kyoto, Japan, built by the nonprofit Japan Treehouse Network, that it is meant to “break down the feeling of separation that exists between humans and nature.” It’s built from sustainable materials and doesn’t harm the tree. For your kids, it sure beats video games. See more treehouses, homemade cordwood masonry houses, and other gratifying, extreme green trends.
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