While we all want to reduce our environmental impact, it’s often said that sustainability equals sacrifice. But there are a few additions that can make our homes work smarter, not harder. From native plants to reclaimed materials, these eco-friendly upgrades are standing ready for your next renovation. Here are five ways to reduce your carbon footprint without skimping on modern conveniences.
1. Install Energy-Efficient Windows
More comfort, smaller carbon footprint—two things you can count on when updating single-pane windows to their energy-efficient counterparts. Whether you’re renovating in a region with four seasons or an environment with tropical temperatures, bolstered panes work to optimize and regulate a home’s temperature. By sealing in warm air during the winter and keeping out the heat come summer, double-pane windows lessen the need for fossil fuels, like those required for natural gas furnaces. Framing materials can also make a difference—consider the eco-friendliness of fibreglass when making your selection, as did the designers of this contemporary Halton Hills, Ontario home.
2. Use Local Flora for Landscaping
When it comes to designing an eco-friendly landscape, choosing native plants is the way to go. By being naturally acclimated to a region’s weather and rainfall conditions and resistant to local pests, they require minimal maintenance and less use of pollutants like insecticides and pesticides. From a design standpoint, they work to deepen the sense of place—which can feel particularly restorative in a vacation home such as this orchard home in Malinalco, Mexico, where homeowners can escape the stresses of day-to-day life among plant varietals that are local to the area.
3. Invest in Solar Panels
For those looking to sell, solar is one eco-upgrade where you may see a return on your investment. As with a recently renovated kitchen, many buyers are willing to pay a premium for a solar energy system, meaning a 3.1 kilowatt system is capable of upping a property’s resale value by roughly $18,000.
In cities like Scottsdale, which receives an average of 299 sunny days a year, solar energy is becoming the norm. But many are surprised to learn that even areas with heavy cloud coverage receive an average of two hours of sun per day. While four hours is ideal, solar panels make it possible to live nearly off the grid in a region as overcast as the Pacific Northwest.
4. Bring Natural Stone into the Kitchen
The kitchen is often one of the most-used rooms in the home, so it only makes sense to choose materials that are built to last. Natural stones such as marble, quartz, and granite are virtually indestructible as kitchen surfaces, making them one of the most sustainable options in the long term. Fortunately, they’re also some of the most beautiful—as revealed by this breezy beachfront Aruba estate.
5. Lay Reclaimed Wood Flooring
In the age of mass production, nothing beats the authentic character and rustic charm of reclaimed wood—just take a look at the 100-year-old oak barn flooring in this California abode. But beauty isn’t the only thing upcycled wood has in its favor. Whether it was used for an ancient ship or centuries-old barn, most reclaimed wood comes from old-growth trees and is stronger, more resistant to rot, and more dense than new-growth. What’s more, reclaimed wood effectively traps air, making it a natural insulator when used as flooring.
Whether buying or selling, it’s more important than ever to consider the environmental impact of a home. Thankfully, it’s possible to reduce our carbon footprint without sacrificing style or comfort—all it takes is some smart strategizing and renovating to help us live a little more green.