Being green doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot of money to get a LEED Certified Building though it is nice to receive recognition for your commitment to having a green building. Being green is reducing waste (energy, trash, water, etc.) and/or using environmentally responsible building processes, etc. You can pick one thing or multiple items as it all helps. A few things you can do are:
- Waste management/Recycle (low cost) – Recycle as much as possible during construction and after occupancy. If space allows, try to have a different dumpster or waste container for each waste material. The more materials that are recycled, the more materials that are kept out of landfills. Examples of common waste materials that are recyclable are wood, concrete/CMU, asphalt, plastics, metals, drywall, cardboard, paper, shingles, etc.
- Wood – Can be ground up and turned into mulch, animal bedding, etc.
- Concrete/CMU/Asphalt – Can be ground up and used as road base or fill material.
- Glass/Plastic – Can be ground up and made into new products such as T-shirts, furniture, new bottles and bags, etc.
- Metals/Aluminum – Can be melted down and turned into other metal products. Most of the steel we buy today is made from recycled metals.
- Drywall – Can be ground up and used as fertilizer in fields.
- Cardboard/Paper – Recycling centers process and turn these materials into recycled paper products.
- Asphalt Shingles – Can be ground up and used in new roads or other roofing products.
- Use energy efficient fixtures – When selecting fixtures, make sure you are selecting ENERGY STAR or energy efficient fixtures. Using these fixtures reduces energy used. We all know energy costs are high and come from power plants that pollute and create greenhouse gasses.
- Invest in alternate power sources (can be costly up front) – Technology has come a long way, and there are number of alternatives to using power plant sourced electricity. In our area, wind and solar are the most common alternate power sources. These can be installed to provide part or all of your power needs. If you produce excess, it can add power to the grid, and the power company will pay you for it. Other alternate sources include geothermal and hydroelectric.
- Reuse or use recycled materials – There are a lot of products out there that can be reused and/or are completely or partially made from recycled materials. Reusing materials or using recycled materials keeps waste out of landfills. Examples include wood from old buildings used as flooring, using cotton (recycled denim) or cellulose insulation (recycled paper fiber) for insulation, anything steel (beams, columns, joists, etc.), crushed concrete for base course or fill, carpet made from recycled materials, etc.
- Rapidly renewable materials – these are products that are made from natural materials that have harvest cycles of less than 10 years. A few examples are cork, bamboo, wool, cotton, straw, natural linoleum, etc. Cork, bamboo, and linoleum are popular in the flooring industry. Bamboo is also popular in other areas where wood is used, such as cabinetry. Cotton, wool, and straw are options for insulation.
- Use low or zero volatile organic compounds (VOC) products – being exposed to VOC products can be harmful to your health and the environment. Common items that contain VOC’s are flooring, glues, adhesives, paints, solvents, etc. There are many alternatives other than using high VOC products. All the items listed above come in a low or zero VOC form.
Everyone making choices to save energy, reduce waste in our landfills, and using eco-friendly building materials helps all of us.