Monday, October 15, 2007

Environmental Blog Day

Today, hundreds of blogs are uniting around the world to focus on environmental issues. As a house blog, I thought I'd highlight some of the environmentally friendly things that can be done to renovate a home. Rehabbing an old home is at the core of a environmentally friendly lifestyle-just think of it-what sounds better-restoring the old, or trashing it, and starting a new?

Of course, not everything can be restored or rehabbed. In those instances, there are a number of "better" options than just whatever you can get at the local store. I wished we knew about some of these items when we started:

1. Recycled products-We have been amazed at the wide variety of renovation items made from recycled products. In Chicago, we have Greenmaker's Supply which has a show room with a number of environmentally friendly options. They have a quartz like counter that has flecks of recycled glass in it. They also have recycled glass tiles that can be used for backsplashes.
2. Salvage yards- We've spoken at nauseum about our radiator foibles. We've gone to our local radiator salvage yard for the new radiators we've needed. There are salvage yards around for basically anything-old doors, hardware, molding. Of course, a lot of what you find might need a little elbow grease to use, but the work is worth it. Not only do you preserve some of history, but you cut down on items heading to the landfill or prevent a tree from being cut down for your remodeling purposes.
3. MDF v. solid wood. If you are planning on painting your trim anyway, instead of getting solid hardwood, you can buy trim in a number of different styles made from MDF. As a bonus, the MDF is cheaper. It's not recommended for high moisture areas.

For the garden, here are a few things we've learned.
1. Rain barrels: Instead of wasting water from the tap, why not collect rain water and use that in the garden? In Chicago, the city offers a program to sell rain barrels for $40 (regularly $80+) in its efforts to encourage residents to disconnect their downspouts (that otherwise head into the sewer system prompting flooding in torrential rain storms) We have one that we plan on hooking up to our (to be installed) gutters on our garage. I'll then use that water for the back yard plants.
2. Native landscaping- Depending on your yard, a rain barrel may not cover all your water needs. An even better thing to do is to make sure that you plant native plants. Native plants have adjusted to the water expectations of your environment so are more likely to be able to survive without outside watering. I'd like to incorporate native landscape in our backyard when we get to it.
3. Green roofs-We really would like to do this, but don't know if/when it will happen. The city offers many incentives to install a green roof, but still its an expense we aren't ready for right now. The concept of a green roof is to add plant material on the roof for insulation and a natural water user. Instead of a lot of rain off from rainstorms, the plants would use the water to drink. Special soils are lighter than regular soil. By having a natural insulator, the temperature stays more temperate inside the home, decreasing energy costs.

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