Climate change. Carbon emissions. Landfill. We never stop hearing about these blights on the home we all share, our planet. While we cannot change the world, not single-handedly, we can change our little slice of it. How green is your home renovation?
No matter how conscientiously you live, shop and eat, if your home is slowly leaking toxic substances, all that commendable mindfulness is largely negated. Paints and glues can contain harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that become airborne when the liquid has dried. These nasties have been linked to headaches, nausea, allergies and certain forms of cancer. Read the labels carefully, and be insistent when briefing your interior designer or contractor. Use only zero-VOC or near-zero-VOC products.
Go for the good wood
Though wood gets some bad press, it is a much ‘greener’ choice than plastic veneer over cheap particle board, which is choc-a-block full of nasty chemicals. Furthermore, most flat-packed or disturbingly cheap mass-manufactured furniture is not built to last and is destined for landfill within a few years. Well-made wooden furniture, on the other hand, will last for decades. However, if you are using wood in your interiors, make sure that it has been sourced from legal plantations that practise sustainable forestry methods. Also, check the topcoat or varnish and make sure that it contains no VOCs.
Actively aim for passive design
Which way does your home face? Does the morning sunlight wake you up and turn your home into a hothouse? Do you have a corner flat that catches the evening breeze? When installing blinds, sealing or enlarging windows, even planning the allocation of rooms, consider the orientation of your home. Shield it from direct heat with UV coatings on your windows and block-out blinds and, if you have a landed property, awnings over your windows. If you are situated on a high floor facing the ocean, clear a straight passageway through your home to admit the cooling sea breezes. Work with nature, not against it.
Opt for energy-saving appliances
Thanks to our efficient Government, this part is pretty simple. Go easy on the planet and on your pocket by choosing only fridges, air conditioners and clothes dryers that display the reassuring ‘three ticks’ or more – the Energy Efficiency Rating developed and implemented by our National Environment Agency. Save energy, save money – what’s not to like?
Make a friend of technology
Smart homes are green homes. If you can afford it in the short term, installing smart home systems will save you money in the long run. With built-in features that minimise energy and water wastage, such as sensors that switch off lights when no motion is detected inside a room, and smart valves on taps that detect leaks, smart homes make perfect sense.
Green your home, literally
Technology aside, you can improve the air quality inside your home, without the aid of electronic gadgets and gismos, with plants. Potted indoor plants do double duty as décor items and natural air purifiers. They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which is the opposite of oxygen-inhaling humans. (Remember those biology lessons in secondary school?)