Monday, April 27, 2009

How to “green” your dream renovation

Ads for home shows are all around, which gets me thinking about my imaginary kitchen renovation. My plans get greener by the day because every time I do a little research I come across new earth-friendly products.

So far my imaginary reno has a near zero carbon footprint – second-hand home decorating magazines from my mom is about it. In reality though, the environmental cost of many home renovations far exceeds the actual price tag.

This is how it adds up: There is the environmental impact of the manufacturing process for mainstream home renovation products. Once they’re in your home these products off-gas, sending nasty chemicals into your air. MDF and particleboard are big culprits as are paints and other sealants and finishes. As well, most of the practices for gathering raw materials – wood for cupboards, stone for countertops – are not sustainable. But with green options everywhere you can reduce the environmental impact of your renovation and create a healthier home.

Since renovations contribute to the landfill, divert your castoffs (sinks, cupboards, windows etc.) by donating them to the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Revenue from the store is used as a steady source of funding for the homes that Habitat for Humanity builds.

The EcoLogo certification program is your friend when it comes to choosing products required for your renovation. Products certified through this program are “environmentally preferable” to standard alternatives. Visit their website to search for paints, wallboard, kitchen and bathroom tiles and more.

If you’re selecting new appliances look for the Energy Star label. Appliances that earn this recognition are among the most efficient on the market.

For painting projects look for low-VOC or VOC-free paints, now widely available. Eco-House is a Fredericton company that manufactures natural paint and wood finishes.

Ask for wood products that are Forest Stewardship Council-certified. FSC wood products come from forests that are managed to strict ecological and social/economic standards. Both Ikea and Home Depot carry FSC wood products.

Ikea cabinetry is formaldehyde-free (unlike most of the options out there). Other eco-friendly cabinet options include strawboard, wheatboard (actually made from straw and wheat) and bamboo. Or choose reclaimed wood. Or paint your existing cabinets another colour and add some new hardware).

Some green choices for countertops include FSC butcher block, recycled glass and PaperStone (made from recycled paper and resins). Canadian quarried slate and granite are other options but keep in mind that heavy things that need to travel far have bigger carbon footprints.

For your floors consider reclaimed or FSC wood (with low-VOC finishes), cork (a renewable resource and by-product of the wine cork industry) and bamboo. Natural linoleum (the real stuff) is another green option. Look for Marmoleum so you can steer clear of anything vinyl.

I noticed that the The Home Depot flyer has an “Eco options” symbol by many of its home renovation products -- proof positive that it gets easier by the day to add “green” to your dream renovation.

This article was previously published in KV Style (


Mary said...

Thanks for bringing up standards. If you want the biggest picture on a product by product basis, check out which is what the Los Angeles Community College District is using to locate the most sustainable products that provide LEED credits.

Bridget Oland said...

Just checked out the link. What a great resource. Thanks.