From the bones of a building to the final decorative flourishes, here are seven things to consider when giving your home a sustainable makeover.
We’ve all been spending a lot of time in our homes recently, so after months and months of staring at the same four walls you’d be forgiven for wanting to make a few changes. Plus, spring is on the horizon – a time of year synonymous with rebirth and revival.
Whether you want to make a major structural change or just fancy giving a room a new lick of paint, you’ve got countless options when it comes to methods and materials – home improvement is a multibillion pound industry after all! However, with our homes responsible for such a large proportion of our carbon footprints, make sure that whatever you opt for is the sustainable choice. Here’s what to consider for an eco-renovation.
The best time to renovate and save energy
The weather in Britain is unpredictable to say the least (and it’s only going to become more unpredictable as the effects of climate change take hold), so it’s certainly a challenge to pinpoint the perfect time of year to carry out any home improvements. That being said, common sense dictates that renovations usually involve lots of open doors and windows, which potentially means a lot of energy loss. As such, you’re best off doing major home improvements in the summer months, when you won’t be so reliant on heating to keep you warm (and paying for it all to whoosh out the door!). It’s also worth improving the fabric of your home through insulation, to ensure it stays warm and cosy in the winter months.
Like fast fashion, the home improvement industry is no stranger to the concept of ‘cheap and cheerful’. Major renovation projects that were once wildly beyond budget for most homeowners are now enticingly affordable, thanks largely to mass production and cheap materials from environmentally-questionable sources. But redoing the kitchen or laying new flooring is a big undertaking, and you want the work to last.
That’s not to say that you can’t have a good quality, durable job done on a modest budget, but you need to ask questions before making decisions. Where have these materials come from? Do they use natural fibres such as wood? Is there a more hard-wearing option? How long will it be before they need to be replaced? More importantly, are they up to task? There’s no point laying a new floor in a kids’ playroom if the materials aren’t tough enough to withstand rambunctious everyday use – you’ll only have to replace them again, which is a big waste of energy, resources and money.
Getting rid of waste materials
Whether you’re replacing the kitchen cabinets or retiling your bathroom, all the materials you get rid of need to go somewhere. It’s certainly convenient to simply hire a skip to lob everything into, but more often than not everything within it will end up in landfill, which is a big environmental no-no. Some items, however, such as wood, old units, sinks and tiles can – if handled carefully – be recycled, sold or simply given away for free, giving them a new home instead of meaning they rot away in landfill for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Sustainable paint choices
Paint is a crucial part of any home renovation project, but there’s more to consider here than choosing colours. A lot of paints and adhesives contain Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. These are chemicals that are released by paint as the wall dries, which can be harmful to your health and the environment. There is legislation in force to help limit the amount of VOCs used in products, but some brands are better than others. Look for ‘low VOC’ ‘on the label. Farrow and Ball, Earthborne and Little Green are just a few companies that offer environmentally friendly paint.
Let there be light
And while we’re on the subject of paint, remember that the colours you choose will have a big impact on how light or dark a room appears, and it follows that the darker a room, the more reliant you’ll be on artificial lighting, which incurs additional energy and money. Go for lighter paint colours in small or dingy rooms, and use carefully-positioned mirrors to help bounce light around. And when it comes to artificial lighting, always choose LEDs. Read our guide to LED lighting here.
Reuse, recycle, renovate
You don’t need brand new stuff to breathe new life into your home. Do you really need new kitchen cabinets, or could you update the ones you already have with a fresh coat of paint and new handles? Similarly, check out vintage fairs, flea markets and preloved websites for new (to you) furniture, or repurposed items such as, floorboards, sinks and fireplaces.
But if only new will do, choose companies that boast solid environmental credentials and styles that can make sustainability a talking point for your home. Companies like DesignFinger, for example, turn waste concrete into stylish functional worktops, while the Eco Friendly Tile Company manufactures carbon-neutral, porcelain tiles made from recycled television screens and car windscreens.
Choose the right appliance
A new kitchen or bathroom could mean it’s time for a new oven, washing machine or toilet, so take the time to investigate your options for these, too. Check out our guide to choosing the right appliance, and make a choice that will reduce your impact on the planet, as well as reducing your water and energy bills.
The bottom line
Renovating your home can be a fun and exciting way to switch up everyday life a bit, and who doesn’t want to live in their ideal vision of style and comfort? But it’s important that we don’t forget the planet – our wider home, our one home – in the process. Making sustainable choices in our individual homes means we can all continue to enjoy our global home, too.
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