When building a green home, you must first decide which of the green building ideals you wish to embody in your house. Many but not all ideals may be incorporated into the same home. Green is a set of ideologies which often conflict but are generally considered to be kinder to the planet, and provide a simpler, healthier and more natural lifestyle. The specific ideals and philosophies of green building include:
Alternative Materials to Conserve Wood
The Production of the Materials should not Produce Pollution
Promotes a Simple Lifestyle
Off Grid Capacity
Produce Electricity through Solar or Wind
Efficient Use of Materials to Avoid Waste
Recycling of Scrap Materials
Using Local Materials Minimizing Pollution from Shipping
Healthy and Nontoxic Materials
Healthy Air Quality
Non Allergenic Materials
Unique and Creative Design
Reduce Waste Water
There are many materials and fixtures which reflect at least some of these goals, while in some cases flouting others. When shopping for materials it is important to think of which green values are most important to you. Here is a list of just some of the choices.
Insulated Concrete – Durable, easily customizable, energy efficient and low maintenance.
Wheat Board – Contributes points to LEED qualification, and produces no off-gasses
Bamboo Plywood – Strong, rapidly renewable, and produces no harmful off-gassing
Sorghum Plywood – Strong durable lightweight rapidly renewable resource that produces no off-gasses
Palm plywood – Functional, strong and extremely beautiful, this material is a wonderful and under used resource.
Reclaimed or Salvaged Lumber – Salvaged from demolition or remodeling
Linoleum – Biodegradable and made form natural linseed oil
Marmoleum – Natural odor free, and allergy friendly form of linoleum
Bamboo Flooring – Looks like hardwood but more renewable
Palm Flooring – Similar to bamboo but made from palm trees
Recycled Carpeting – Made from discarded food grade plastic, produces no off gasses
Salvaged Carpets – carpet rescued from hotels and large commercial buildings
Brazilian Cherry – Grown in well managed forests, and harder than oak
Incinerator Toilet – neither uses water nor pollutes the water supply, and reduces waste to sterile ash.
Water Saving Shower Heads and Faucets – Reduces the amount of water used without impacting pressure.
Copper Sinks – last for generations, kill germs and are easier to maintain.
There are certain humanitarian economic and environmental concerns that are addressed simply by buying American. For example, it reduces shipping, and since the factories in the United States are regulated by the EPA, they are produced with a minimum about of pollution, compared to world standards. Buying American also creates jobs where they are most needed. Since American made goods are regulated by American labor laws, you are not exploiting child labor or unsafe working conditions.
There are many small American and European companies which make green materials. By using and promoting their products, you are in essence becoming part of the green revolution and encouraging others to use these products as well. Helping small business and workers who hold green values is like making a contribution to promote the health of the planet. Demand determines supply and if these companies are successful, other companies will rise with them to make green materials more plentiful and affordable. Use your buying power to make a political and economic statement for green.
Each Person must decide which of these ideals suit their needs more. They must also decide which of these materials and fixtures suit their goals. If you plan to be living off the grid in a remote location, your green home will be different than if you will be living in a subdivision, and are most interested in saving on your utilities. If your greatest concern is for the planet, your choices may be different than if the major focus is on affordability and a simple lifestyle. Choosing materials that match your ideals in building a green home is sometimes agonizing, because of the complexity, but it should be a labor of love, both for your planet and your home.