Make Your Next Home Design a Little Less Harmful to the Planet

Environmentally-Savvy and Sustainable Home Design

Make Your Next Home Design a Little Less Harmful to the Planet

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The new year is a great time to think about a potential home renovation and with all of the climate issues at hand, it’s also a good time to understand the impact your home has on the environment and how you could reduce that footprint.

Creating a more sustainable (although we hesitate to use the word because it’s essentially diluted to nothing at this point) home doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. There’s a ton of great research available now about what could actually make a difference and, in many cases, doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

So consider the below not as an exhaustive list, but a starting point on your planet-positive home design journey. As with many things, every little step matters and what better way to start than in your own home?

RELATED: Eco-Friendly Grooming

Choosing Better Furniture

If you’re thinking about home design, one of the first things you’re inevitably looking at is your furniture.

The furniture industry is one that’s long on tradition and short on innovation. Americans throw out more than 12 millions tons of furniture annually and that’s in large part due to a general acceptance of “fast furniture”. The big box-stores are easy and cheap compared to the alternative and offer a relatively low barrier to disposal when moving or renovating, which leads to an immense amount of waste.

Plus, those cheap tables and chairs are likely made using chemicals that “off-gas,” which could directly impact the quality of the air in your home.

So what’s the solution? Well, depending on your budget there are a couple of options.

“I would first consider your living situation and preferences,” says Sabai co-founder Phantila Phataraprasit. “Do you get bored with your furniture easily? Do you have pets? The answers to these questions will help guide your decisions.”

Sabai’s commitment to a range of planet-positive practices is an example of how furniture can last longer and do less damage. Generally speaking, look for recycled or upcycled materials and brands that make their material and chemical usages clear. A little bit of research can go a long way.

A second option for furniture or other non-permanent pieces is to go secondhand. The resale market has exploded with options like Kaiyo, where you can buy gently-used pieces at a substantial discount. Buying a piece that’s already in the world as opposed to something new is a great way to tangibly lessen the impact of your design, potentially as much as flying a commercial airliner for an hour.

The Conversation Around Gas Is Heating Up

For a long time, gas stoves were considered the luxury standard in a kitchen.

Now, newer data highlights the potential internal and external impacts of gas, causing many home builders and designers to think about if electric or induction is the next best move.

“Induction takes a little getting used to, but it doesn’t create flames or other gasses,” says Turett Collaborative founder Wayne Turett.

He notes that ventilation is becoming an increasingly important trend in homes and there are emerging options to help homes keep in heat and remove some of those potentially harmful pollutants like the output from a gas oven.

The solution may lie in switching to induction stoves, which are typically more expensive, and then there’s the conversation about where your electricity comes from to begin with. Certain regions rely heavily on hydroelectric power, which has a much smaller footprint than electricity that comes from coal or other fossil fuel-combustion situations.

Automation Through Electricity is Becoming Commonplace

Speaking of electricity, smart homes are already old news, but it’s the continual evolution of this automation that could be a new option for your home design.

“By automating your appliances and other parts of your house with devices like smart thermostats and smart light bulbs and switches, you’re able to have more efficient energy usage,” says Whitney Curry, Chief Marketing Officer of second home platform Pacaso.

There are myriad directions to go with this, but an often overlooked option is to start with the source — where your energy actually enters your home.

“When you’re looking at several paths of potential energy coming into your home, you can’t have a solution that assumes there’s only one path,” says Schneider Electric director of strategic customers and programs Brad Wills.

Schneider’s offering is more involved, but essentially helps a home diversify its electrical sources and prepares it for power outages, surges and more. Wills is quick to note that something like solar won’t work if the batteries connected to it won’t charge (which could happen in an outage), so planning for some of those what-ifs now and building diverse energy resiliency can also serve as a way to lower a home’s impact.

“It’s one thing when you can’t watch Netflix, another when you can’t do your work,” he adds.

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