If you finally have room in your budget for that home improvement project you have been dreaming of, then you are truly fortunate. Why not share that good fortune by ensuring that your remodel not only enhances your world but that it also cares for the environment? Careful planning is the key to making sure that your remodel is both beautiful and responsible.

Creating the Plan

You should never undertake a renovation project without professional direction. This is especially true in green renovations. Choosing the architect, kitchen designer or contractor who will head up the project is the most important planning decision you can make because this person will lead in choosing sub-contractors, building materials and demolition procedures.

A committed, knowledgeable professional is invaluable in creating the perfect plan. Interview several professionals and ask some of the following questions:

  • May I see an example of your green remodeling projects?
  • What makes your designs eco-friendly?
  • Can you recommend low toxicity products?
  • What natural means will you use to lower energy costs?
  • How do you conduct demolition to reduce negative impacts on the environment?

Purchasing Materials

Look for certified products. A certification from the Forest Stewardship Council, Cradle to Cradle and Greenguard Environmental Institute ensures that the product was manufactured in a manner that protects the planet. An added benefit is that certified products are often better constructed and more durable than traditional products.

As far as construction materials go, buy green. “Green” or environmentally-friendly paints come in a variety of colors. Low- or no-volatile organic compounds (VOC) paints are widely available and minimize the amount of toxins released into the atmosphere.

Help sustain our planet by installing only bamboo or cork flooring instead of hardwood. Bamboo and cork are fast growing and very sustainable. In addition, bamboo is at least as durable as hardwood. Finally, these flooring options are no more expensive than hardwood since most flooring costs are associated with installation, not materials.

Using insulation is a great way to heat and cool your home throughout the year. Insulation helps keep your utilities costs down. It also limits your carbon footprint. You should also think about installing ceiling fans. They cool you down in the summer, and they can be reversed to push down warm air in the winter.

Repurposing Instead of Demolishing

An even better alternative is to purchase re-purposed materials. An old door or window may have more character than a new one. If you love to buy new, salvage yards often have left over tiles and other products available. Using re-purposed materials saves money as well as space at the local landfill.

Some of your own materials may be re-purposed. Instead of choosing a contractor who tosses all demolition materials into a dumpster, choose a contractor who can find other uses for items like tile, wood, bricks and hardware.

Tips to Consider

Our homes are part of a larger equation. By making sure that you conduct an ecologically responsible renovation, you help your neighbors — even those across the planet — live cleaner, healthier lives and you protect the planet from the ravages of quick-fix building and renovation projects.

Brian Sonnier is the owner of Lone Star Patio Builders, Inc. in Houston, TX. They specialize in building pergolas to provide shade in the hot summer as well as increase home value.