Want To Go Green?

By Valerie Lemke

October 2, 2009 5 min read

Want to join the green movement but don't know where to begin?

Take a tour through your house. Every room offers options for greening up your lifestyle.

Joshua Foxx, owner of the Thrive Design Studios in Minneapolis and Boulder, Colo., which offer sustainable designs for homeowners and businesses, recommends starting with the kitchen.

"It's probably the most active room in your home," he says.

When designing a kitchen, Foxx focuses on both reducing energy costs and water usage, and that means concentrating on the dishwasher, refrigerator and stove top.

"Look for the Energy Star logo when you buy," he advises. "This means the appliance has been tested and has met requirements, and they will pay for themselves in three to four years. Important, too, is the fact they are now basically the same price as those without the logo."

Foxx also recommends eco-friendly countertops. Recycled beer bottles make up some of the recycled glass used. "They come in beautiful colors with a great sense of depth."

When you move back into your kitchen, don't forget to put nontoxic and natural cleaning products under the sink. "Look for 'nontoxic' on the label. These products are accessible, comparable in price to chemical-laden cleaners, and are much better for the air quality."

Think water saving when doing a bathroom remodel. The new dual-flush toilets give you your choice of a full flush or a half-flush, and you can save 10,000 gallons a year. Another boon: Some come in at $300, almost the same price as a standard fixture, the green designer says.

When you're redoing the bedrooms, "think paint." But use the zero volatile organic compound, or VOC, paint. "It's nontoxic, fume-free and durable, and it covers and cleans up great," Foxx says.

Consider energy-efficient window treatments in the bedrooms, too. They have backings that actually adhere to windows and are insulated for warmth in cold climes and to keep you cooler in hot summers.

Even the sheets and bedding offer opportunities to go green. "Buy organic cotton," he says. "The cotton is grown without pesticides, so you prevent toxic runoff into waterways, and you're not sleeping covered in a chemically treated fabric."

In the living room, Foxx goes for a combination of old, new and money-saving green approaches that make personal statements.

"I like to look for second-hand vintage furnishings. You save money and resources at the same time, and older, pre-owned furniture is generally really well put together. When it's reupholstered, you'll have pieces with character and charm."

Foxx also recommends LED lighting. "I love working with it. The bulbs cost about $40 each, but they're going to live for 10 years."

Finally, remember you don't have to do everything green. It's not like all or nothing, he says. Every little thing you do can make a difference.

If your budget doesn't permit a complete green remodel, Carter Oosterhouse, host of HGTV's "Carter Can" series, offers some renovation projects that can be done by any weekend do-it-yourself warrior with reasonable handyman skills.

"There are lots of simple renovations homemakers can tackle that will make their homes greener," Oosterhouse says.

No. 1: Get rid of your old bacteria-laden carpets.

"This can be a weekend project. You don't need a professional to install hardwood or laminate flooring in a room," he says. You don't even need adhesive; most of it just clicks together.

Or consider plastic carpeting or rugs. Made of recycled plastic, this floor covering is soft and durable, comes in rolls or can be cut to order, and area and scatter rugs are available. "Best of all, getting rid of old carpet cleans the air," Oosterhouse says.

Changing out light fixtures is another green move this handyman has up his sleeve. You can lower your energy bill, improve your lighting and make a fashion statement all at one time by changing a recessed light fixture over the kitchen sink to a stylish pendant light, for example.

And even the newest do-it-yourselfer can install a low-flow shower head in the bath, Oosterhouse says. "It gives you great water pressure while cutting water consumption in half," he says.

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