Green Goals for Your Home | SummitDaily.com

Green Goals for Your Home

Special to the Daily: Caroline Lewis

All people have the right to feel comfortable, happy and safe. After all, isn't that what most seek in a home? However, that shouldn't mean building the most environmentally destructive homes possible, without any qualms or repercussions. An attractive home can also be a sustainable home, as many interior designers are recognizing.

Many homeowners may be unaware of green materials or appliances available, thus the interior designer is in a highly impactful position. The consumer and homeowner are also in a position of great responsibility, whether they are aware of this duty or not.

We all have the potential to take a more active stance in designing our homes. Although the sustainable approach may require more planning and an initial outlay of money, it actually saves a household money in the long run, and is much better for the environment.

Local interior designer Tracey Egolf, of Egolf Interiors, believes each individual or family can set reasonable and achievable goals for their household, such as, "In 10 years I wish to be 50 percent solar in my energy usage." In creating such plans, there are numerous products and practices individuals can implement as they move towards owning a more green home.

"Green design is design that goes beyond being just efficient, attractive, on time and on budget. It is a design that cares about how such goals are achieved, about its effect on people and on the environment," writes the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) on their website.

There is so much more to interior design than stylish first appearances. There is a significant environmental and community impact that can occur through sustainable design practices. In being sustainable, a homeowner can maximize their space, such as using storage ottomans, built-in bookshelves, the underside of a staircase for more storage or even a pull down stepladder, instead of a staircase.

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Small yet crucial choices made when buying everyday products are frequently overlooked. Purchasing energy saving alternatives, such as LED or fluorescent bulbs, may seem ineffective; however, collectively, all conscious decisions towards being sustainable are constructive. A consumer can easily look for the lowest impact products, which have a low footprint and long lifespan of working efficiently and correctly.

In the past it was more difficult to ask an attendant at hardware, appliance or furniture stores for green products. This isn't the case today, for there are many alternatives to everyday appliances, such as low water usage toilets, water-efficient faucets and load-sensing washer machines. "We should all take a sledgehammer to the old toilets," Egolf said of standard water-hogging household toilets.

"If every household in America installed a water-efficient faucet, the United States could save 60 billion gallons of water annually," claims The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) on their website. These small decisions we make as consumers have huge impacts on our environment, and our energy expenditure.

Returning to simple acts — hanging clothes on drying racks, setting our dishes out to dry naturally, and channeling more natural light through skylights and large windows — can lessen our reliance on electricity. Similarly, buying toxin-free brands, such as formaldehyde-free plywood and paints with zero or low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are equally important.

"The building industry as a whole has jumped on the bandwagon of supplying green materials," said Egolf. There are retail producers purposefully making items made with recycled material, such as countertops that are made of ground stone or even paper suspended in resin.

Another local interior designer, Shelley Sims of Thrive Designs, often uses rugs and fabrics made of recycled elements and reclaimed wood for furniture or architectural elements. Consignment stores, industrial warehouses and antique malls are great places to find such objects for repurposing.

Reclaimed crates, buckets and jars can be used for storage, extending their lives past original purchase dates. We have the capability to elongate the footprint of any object or material.

"I have specified reclaimed wood repurposed from old barns or mines in Colorado that were ready to fall down and used hand-hewn structural beams and weathered planks for design accents in clients' homes," said Egolf, who also often uses beetlekill pine in her projects.

"When the tree dies, it creates this beautiful band of grey mixed with the knots and blonde colors of the natural pine wood. It's lovely when it's dead, and can be harvested and milled for use as paneling, tongue-in-groove ceiling planks, cabinetry or furniture," said Egolf of the beetlekill pine.

Not only does this process rely on local material, it also prevents waste by reusing discarded materials. Limiting the buying of new products and reusing where we can goes a long way.

Building new homes and purchasing new design pieces is not sustainable. Although, if those routes are taken, it is important they are taken with a sense of obligation and reasonable thinking. Inevitably, we are surrounded by decisions, so when addressing the designs of our homes, let us make active compromises to ensure the well being of our earth.