Most home-owners love a bit of DIY, especially in those early stages when you’ve just moved into a new home and are all enthusiastic about redecorating and making it ‘yours’. It’s easy however to dive straight in and start on the home improvements without actually considering whether they’re any good for the environment.
Below I’ve listed 4 common home improvements that are damaging our planet, and given some eco-friendly alternatives you might like to try out instead:
Air conditioning is pretty much a standard feature in US homes and even in the colder climate of the UK you’ll find it in most offices. However, air con is actually terrible for the environment, contributing to global warming as it cools home interiors!
Air conditioning not only adds to the urban ‘heat bubble’ effect by pumping hot air outdoors, disrupting local ecosystems, it also tends to pump out HFCs that are a powerful greenhouse gas.
So, how to keep cool the ‘green’ way? Ceiling fans are the obvious choice, simply circulating the air and creating a cooling breeze without actually changing the temperature of the room (the hot air simply hangs around by the ceiling ‘til the fan is turned off’).
Plants won’t do anything to cool the air, but having big pot plants in the home will make the air fresher and easier to breathe. Oh, and you could just fling the windows wide open!
Hardwood flooring looks absolutely gorgeous, but there’s a lot of debate about whether or not it’s an eco-friendly option. Why do people think it’s bad? Well, quite simply, wood is made from trees and too many of them are being cut down!
So are you supposed to live in a retro-style plastic home, or a futuristic metal one? No, wood is perfectly fine to use, but be sure you buy it from a sustainable source. Bamboo is generally touted as being more environmentally friendly than traditional hardwood flooring because it re-grows super fast, but you can’t pin eco-friendliness down to one particular type of wood.
Instead, check that the manufacturer follows practises that are good for the environment, such as re-planting new trees as they cut down old ones to make their products.
When the summer heats up and your lush green lawn turns dry and brown, it’s easy to nip to the shops in search of a sprinkler system.
Sprinklers use an extortionate amount of water however, which is not great for the environment or for your water bill!
Instead, keep your lawn looking lovely with a drip-irrigation system, or spray it with a hose from time to time – even this will use less water than a sprinkler system that’s continually on. Spray the water late in the evening or early in the morning so that it has the best chance of sinking deep into the soil – at midday, the sun will evaporate it before it gets a chance to do much good!
Gas Central Heating
Gas central heating seems quite high-tech on the surface, but the reality is it’s pretty primitive – all you’re doing is burning a fossil fuel, which creates carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that’s contributing to global warming.
Electric heating can be much better, but it depends on how the electricity is produced in the first place. Why not spend the summer installing solar panels to your roof, or small wind turbines, and have your own renewable source of electricity?
Alternatively, rather than heating your home you could try to minimise heat loss – invest in thick curtains and keep them closed in the evenings, insulate your loft and replace old, draughty windows. You might still need additional heating in the winter, but you’ll use much less when less is escaping!
Do you know any other home improvements that are bad for the environment? Please let me know!
Estelle Page is an interior designer and DIY addict who’s constantly renovating her home! She blogs for Alert Electrical, an online retailer of electrical products in the UK.