Several companies manufacture rubber roofs from recycled tires. These products are durable (many come with 50-year warranties), as well as fire and wind resistant.
With a long life, metal roofs keep composite material out of our landfills. Also 100% of the material used is recyclable.
Solar-Powered Attic Fan
Make your home more energy effcient and save money too. Attic fans operate by solar power from sunrise to sunset at no extra cost. It’s possible to reduce the workload on cooling and air conditioning equipment by as much as 50%. No hard wiring required. Easy to install by the DYIer.
Examples of sustainable products that can be incorporated into the walls of a house include formaldehyde-free insulation, double-paned glass windows, and recycled or certified lumber. The Forest Stewardship Council certifies growers, manufacturers, processors, and retailers who comply with its criteria and principles for social responsibility, sustainable forestry, employment practices, and economic responsibility.
Low-VOC paint and stone are sustainable exterior covering options. Durable and sustainable cement and fiber siding with a 50-year warranty is now available. Strategically planted trees and plants can help decrease heating costs and improve air quality.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health risks in the United States. Paints, glues, and synthetic fabrics are among the leading contributors of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the home. Many low-VOC paint and carpeting products are now available for interior construction projects.
Natural clay plaster controls climate by regulating arid and humid air. This interior finish is a 100% natural earth plaster — a unique combination of clays, aggregates, and natural pigments used to create the colors and textures. Low inherent energy used during the manufacturing process produces less waste than many other options. Clay absorbs and releases moisture in response to environmental changes; it is warm to the touch in winter and cool in summer, and it can be used over existing or new surfaces.
Inspect-ny.com publishes a list of 255 medical conditions and complaints attributed to mold exposure. Controlling moisture is the primary means of preventing mold. This includes proper drainage, use of dry wood (green wood is estimated to contain 20% more moisture) and careful construction of doors and windows. Composite woods (such as particleboard, waferboard, oriented strandboard, and medium density fiberboard, or hardboard) treated with calcium borate are mold-resistant. Calcium borate is particularly suitable for treating wood products and is considered environmentally safer than alternatives because of its low solubility. Drywall faced with a glass fiber mat that resists mold, instead of the usual paper facing, is also available.
Recycled Glass Tile (as a rule 87 to 100% recycled material, depending on color) can be used as a kitchen and bathroom wall covering, for back-splashes, and floor covering. Glass for this product generally comes from post-industrial door and window scrap glass, and is produced in kilns using an emission-free process.
Other sustainable wall coverings and countertop materials are manufactured from sunflower seeds and agricultural waste materials such as wheat straw and sorghum stock.
Finally, room darkening blinds and draperies can be utilized to reduce cooling costs.
According to Energy Star, “the average home consumes $1,900 worth of energy annually…Products in more than 50 categories are eligible for the Energy Star. To earn the Energy Star, they must meet strict energy efficiency criteria set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the U.S. Department of Energy.” They use less energy, save money, and help protect the environment by reducing harmful power plant emissions. Installing appliances with high Energy Star ratings, such as clothes washers, dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, refrigerators, and freezers can significantly reduce consumption of electricity. Convection ovens and gas ranges are also energy efficient and cost-saving appliance options.
Cork, bamboo, recycled/reclaimed fir, and hardwoods are all examples of sustainable flooring products. These products are available to installers from local sources. Some companies specialize in salvaged wood floors. Carpeting can be manufactured from a variety of sustainable materials, such as wool, cotton, sisal (agave), sea grass, and jute (burlap). Recycled-content padding and cushioning are available, as are non-toxic adhesives. Several manufacturers produce either entirely Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)-free carpet and/or PVC-free backing. Linoleum tile is made from linseed oil and wheat flour with a jute backing.
Kay Newell of Sunlan Lighting, Portland, OR, says, “Fluorescent lighting provides four times as much light as wattage consumed. Compact fluorescent bulbs with a standard screw base are designed to replace standard incandescent lighting. They are available in a variety of colors, ranging from soft or warm white to daylight. Colors are a matter of personal preference. They are available in a multitude of wattages, sizes, and shapes. These bulbs last longer and save money in consumption costs but are not appropriate for all applications and must be disposed of properly because they contain small amounts of mercury.”
In addition to appliance ratings, Energy Star also rates light bulbs and fixtures. According to their web site, “Energy Star-qualified lighting provides bright, warm light but uses about 75% less energy than standard lighting, produces 75% less heat, and lasts up to 10 times longer. If every American home replaced their 5 most frequently used light fixtures or the bulbs in them with ones that have earned the Energy Star, we would save close to $8 billion each year in energy costs, and together we would prevent the greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from nearly 10 million cars.”
A number of environmentally friendly toilet options are available. These include low-flush, dual-flush, waterless, and composting toilets. These are designed to save water and reduce sewage.
Low-flow fixtures, such as showerheads and faucets, as well as tankless water heaters, can further reduce water consumption. Overall, installation of “green” plumbing fixtures can reduce water consumption by an estimated 20 to 30%. Dual-flush toilets can save up to 80% of previous annual water usage.
Recycled sinks and faucets, which reduce demand on local landfills, are available from recycling specialists.
Heating and Air Conditioners
Products awarded the Energy Star label significantly enhance energy savings while providing a healthy environment. Using these products helps you save money on your utility bills and works to protect the environment by conserving energy.
When you buy an Energy Star labeled air conditioner or heat pump, you are acquiring a product that is in the top 25% for efficiency. Depending on the age of your existing equipment, you can save from 15 to 40% on your utility bills by choosing an Energy Star qualified product. Energy-efficient, bio-fueled heating is another “green” option.
Rain Water Recycling
Collecting the rain that rolls off your roof to use in the garden preserves natural resources and saves money on your water bill. One affordable way to capture hundreds of gallons of rainwater every year is to make and install rain barrels from simple plumbing fixtures and recycled food grade containers. All necessary supplies can be easily obtained from local hardware and plumbing suppliers, or you can hire a specialist to build a system for you. Want to make your own rain water collection system click here.
Solar panels can be installed and utilized to produce up to 100% of electricity and hot water for a residence. Energy Trust of Oregon provides incentives for installation of solar energy systems, and federal and state tax credits are also available. The combined value of all of these incentives can amount to up to 50% of the cost of installations.
The cost of installing solar water heating alone has 100% added value — that is, it can pay for itself in home value appreciation.
Tankless Water Heaters
These compact systems provide hot water on demand and eliminate standing unused hot water. Energy Trust of Oregon offers incentives for tankless systems, and federal and state tax credits are available. For more on tankless water hearters click here.