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Earth Day: Eco-friendly Home Improvement

Earth day is always a great reminder that even in home renovation and construction we need to be considerate of the footprint we leave behind. This can be a challenge, especially if you’re trying to save money. It can be tempting to select a less expensive, lower quality product for the short term cash savings, over the long-term value of slightly more expensive products.

Believe it or not, improving your home in an eco-friendly way is not only good for the environment but also good for your health and wallet in the long run.

And there is real hope for more affordable future products for the home and also for renovation. The industry is full of up and coming startups developing products that are more sustainable and still easy on the budget. It’s an exciting time.

Here are some green renovation tips and products to consider:

Repaint cabinets: If your kitchen or bathroom cabinets are in good condition, consider “up designing” them with a coat of paint. Not only will this save you money, but your reducing cabinet trash in landfills.

Use low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint: Traditional paint can release harmful chemicals into the air, which can be harmful to your health. Low VOC paint reduces these emissions and is a safer option. However, these specialty paints can be harder to find, and you may have to order them online from alternative paint companies. Here’s the difference between VOC and low VOC paints.

Install energy-efficient windows: Replacing old, drafty windows with energy-efficient ones can help you save on energy bills, which can reduce your carbon footprint. Over time, you can see major financial savings as well as a more comfortable indoor environment.

Use sustainable materials: Consider using sustainable building materials like bamboo flooring, reclaimed wood, or recycled glass or tile for your renovation projects. Not only are they earth-friendly, but they can also give your home a unique, one-of-a-kind look.

Choose eco-friendly insulation: Insulation made from recycled materials like cellulose, cotton, or sheep's wool is a more eco-friendly option than traditional fiberglass insulation. It actually takes more energy to produce fiberglass insulation comparatively. Sheep’s wool can be more expensive but will pay dividends over time to your wallet and for the environment.

Install a programmable thermostat: More money is thrown away when it comes to maintaining internal temperatures. A programmable thermostat can help you save energy by automatically adjusting the temperature in your home based on your daily schedule.

Use LED lighting: LED lighting uses less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and lasts much longer, so it's a more sustainable option. Again, some types can be more expensive, but you will buy fewer of them throughout the year.

Consider solar panels: if you're looking to make a larger, long-term investment in your home, solar panels can help you generate your own renewable energy and save money on your energy bills. Most states offer some kind of tax credit for installing solar panels and that’s a great way to incentivize people to do it.

Use water-saving products: Three things can cause an increase in your water bills. Leaking faucets and running toilets can add up over time. Installing low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets can help you save water and reduce your water bills.

Plant trees and vegetation: Planting trees and other vegetation around your home can help absorb carbon dioxide from the air and provide shade to keep your home cool in the summer. Of course, you should consider which are appropriate for your home and be thoughtful of neighbors. If you live in a condo with a deck, plants can offer additional shade from the hot sun in warmer months.

Donate or recycle your old furniture or renovation materials: It’s amazing how many good things end up in landfills. Instead of throwing away your old building materials, consider donating them to a local charity or recycling them, if they are usable or recyclable. In Chicago, the Chicago Furniture Bank takes good furniture and furnishings and then gives them to those in need, because everyone deserves a comfortable home.

Finally, consider making a donation to an organization that plants trees to replace those harvested for construction materials. This is a great list of organizations to consider.

It’s getting easier and easier to find ways to make home improvements and renovations in a more eco-friendly way. And you can feel good about reducing your impact on the environment and creating a healthier home for you and your family.

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