Countless factors go into renovating a home: Cost, style, space, and practicality can all affect where a wall goes or how a kitchen backsplash looks. But as more buyers begin to prioritize sustainability (a 2020 survey by the National Association of Realtors showed more than 5,000 recent home buyers rank environmentally friendly features as most important when considering a property), they are now looking for ways to ensure their space is more energy efficient. Making conscientious, energy-saving choices can majorly decrease your carbon footprint, create real savings in the long run, and even fetch a higher selling price later on.
There’s a misconception that increasing your home’s sustainability means making a major investment or sacrificing style. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Switching to clean energy is one of easiest and most impactful ways to minimize your carbon footprint. Green Mountain Energy offers 100% clean energy plans, both wind and solar powered, which help mitigate the effects of climate change. There are smaller choices you can make, too—like getting creative with keeping the sun—and heat—out of different rooms of your house. Since doing something is always better than doing nothing, we asked four designers for inventive ways to make your home more sustainable.
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Photos: JODIE JOHNSON/STOCKSY
Words by Christina Perez
Five smart solutions for designing a more sustainable home.
Photo: TRINETTE REED/STOCKSY
Don't Take the Heat
A ceiling fan can shave major bucks from your energy bill and reduce your carbon footprint, all without sacrificing style. “Today there are fabulous-looking fans with sleek, streamlined designs that almost disappear,” says DiMare, noting they’re a far cry from the bulky models of the past. Since they help air circulate and keep the room cool, they’re a great option for smaller spaces in the home, like a bedroom or office. If electrical rewiring isn’t an option, replacing your curtains with blackout drapes or roman shades can have a similar effect. “Custom window treatments, while already the finishing touch to every room, are a key way to conserve energy,” says Turner. “Use them while you are out to dramatically reduce the heat that’s able to enter your home.”
Photo: MIHAJLO CKOVRIC/STOCKSY
Consider Insulation Alternates
Remember: What’s hidden within your walls is just as important as what’s on the outside. “Lean toward natural, breathable materials,” says Like Minded Objects’ Elise McMahon, who shares that wool or denim (as seen in actor-philanthropist Adrian Grenier’s eco-minded Brooklyn home) can be used instead of fiberglass insulation. In place of Sheetrock, homasote paperboard and wood are good alternatives.
Photo: JODIE JOHNSON/STOCKSY
Revise Your Routine
Some of the best ways to amp up your conservation efforts involve streamlining your everyday choices. Green Mountain Energy has electricity plans that use only 100 percent clean, renewable energy. Choose from a variety of plans: those that offer access to local solar energy without the need to install rooftop panels, free electricity on nights or weekends, and free conservation products to help upgrade your green lifestyle and become more eco-conscious.
Beyond changing to a clean electricity provider, other systems, like water filtration, reduce both contaminants and waste. Ford says that installing an Elkay filter in her home is one of the best decisions she’s ever made—and stopped her from using “thousands of plastic bottles.” She also recommends changing out incandescent bulbs with LED ones, which can save up to 75 percent more energy. “They now come in beautiful shapes and tones and are even dimmable. That way you get all the same beauty as before, but help the earth out, too,” she notes.
Photo: Courtesy or Leanne Ford
The Power of Paint
For designer Leanne Ford, sustainable design starts with seeing old items in a new light. “Give the pieces you already have a second chance—maybe all they need is a fresh coat of paint to make them work. Instead of trashing an old kitchen in one of our projects, we refurbished it and changed its use by turning it into a butler’s pantry,” shares Ford.
When selecting paint, McMahon recommends using milk paint, which is a nontoxic mixture of casein and lime that creates a velvety matte finish. “No one wants to live in a plastic bag, which is kind of what we do when we encapsulate all our living spaces in latex paint,” she says.
Photo: ALI HARPER/STOCKSY
For countertops, natural stones like marble, dolomite, and quartzite are classic choices that stand the test of time. “They never go out of style and are much less likely to end up in a landfill in 10 years,” says designer Caroline Turner. Or you could take it a step further and choose recycled materials like resin, glass, and paper—those that Deborah DiMare of Vegan Designs says are on the rise: “They’re durable and gentle on the planet.”
Countless factors go into renovating a home: Cost, style, space, and practicality can all affect where a wall goes, or how a kitchen backsplash looks. But as more buyers begin to prioritize sustainability (a 2020 survey by the National Association of Realtors saw over 5,000 recent home buyers rank environmentally-friendly features as most important when considering a property), owners are now looking for ways to make their space more energy efficient. Making conscientious, energy-saving choices can majorly decrease your carbon footprint, create real savings in the long run, and can even fetch a higher selling price later on.