9 Effective Ways to Bring Sustainable Design Into the Home

9 Effective Ways to Bring Sustainable Design Into the Home

By Michele Koh Morollo
See if you check off all the boxes when it comes to creating an eco-friendly household.

Now more than ever, having a sustainable home that conserves resources and energy usage is paramount. Sustainable design and architecture has seen tremendous growth over the last decade—as has the number of professionals who specialize in designing and building green homes. While major sustainable features pertain to the initial design, planning, and building stages, there are still plenty of changes to make in your home for a greener lifestyle. Have you covered all your bases?

Recycle Responsibly 

This may seem like a no-brainer, but a recent Pew Research Center study reveals that only 28 percent of Americans live in areas that promote recycling, with education and access varying from community to community. Metals, paper and cardboard, glass, plastics, batteries and bulbs, and electronics all have a place in the recycling bin. Read up on what, and how, to recycle, and encourage your family members to follow suit.

Villa Welpeloo in Enschede, the Netherlands, doesn't look like a recycled building, but Jan Jongert and Jeroen Bergsma of 2012Architects began the design process by first scouting the local area for items to recycle. The "harvest map" of possible suppliers from within a nine-mile radius of the building site included Google Earth scans for brownfields and abandoned-looking buildings for scrap material.

Compost Organic Materials

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste make up 20 percent of what we throw away. Composting organic materials keeps them out of the landfill, which cuts down on greenhouse gases, and enriches the soil. To compost at home, make a pile in your backyard, or introduce an indoor bin for throwaways like apple peels and eggshells.

Composting provides rich nutrients for your home garden.

Choose Eco-Friendly Furniture

Whenever you can, choose environmentally friendly, VOC-free products to outfit your home, whether it be furniture or fit-outs. Look for companies committed to sustainably sourced materials and ethical production practices.

With well-crafted, sustainable products that respect the sustainable teak farming culture, Gloster works with world-renowned designers such as Henrik Pedersen, Cecilie Manz, Philip Behrens, and Povl Eskildsen to create timeless and innovative furniture for outdoor settings.

Harvest Rainwater

You don’t need to have a complicated harvesting tank built if you want to conserve water. A simpler way is to place a rain barrel—found at your local home and garden supply store—under the downspout on your roof to collect rainwater for gardening. Invest in a good water filtration or treatment system, and you can even use your rainwater for bathing, laundry, cooking, and drinking.

In the garden, Mary Henning gives her potted plants a much-needed drink of graywater diverted from the kitchen and bathrooms and filtered by a massive green wall.

Grow Your Own Vegetables

Cultivating a garden not only helps you and your family live a greener lifestyle, but also saves on grocery bills, too. Start a fruit and vegetable patch in your backyard or roof terrace; and if you live in an apartment with limited outdoor space, try growing herbs and even vegetables inside.

"I can’t believe a lot like ours exists, because it’s so beautiful. Our backyard ends on the edge of an 80-foot cliff, and the property line is such that we could conceivably cantilever the new house 15, maybe even 20 feet off the edge. The great potential for me architecturally is to be able to design a space that will bring a whole new level of dialogue between the interiors and my objects. We’ll probably get more animals, too. It’s going to be a total dream."

Insulate Your Walls

One of the most effective ways to conserve resources is to keep your home warm without overly relying on heating mechanisms. A smart way to prevent heat loss is to incorporate eco-friendly insulation materials made with natural fibers such as cork, wood fiber, or sheep’s wool. Though this change may be a little more inconvenient and costly that the others, it will certainly help you save on heating bills in the long run.

Ecovative's Mushroom Insulation is made from agricultural waste that is bound together with fungal mycelium, a naturally fire-resistant material that obviates the need for toxic flame retardants.

Install Efficient Faucets and Showers

Conserve water and energy by swapping your regular kitchen and bathroom taps for more efficient faucets. Two smart options include the IKEA ALESKÄR Kitchen Faucet, which includes a hand spray for easy fruit and vegetable rinsing, or the Nebia shower system, which produces a larger number of smaller water droplets and uses up to 70 percent less water than a standard shower head.

In the updated kitchen, Ernestomeda cabinets are paired with quartz countertops, a Miele cooktop, and a faucet from Dornbracht.

Upgrade Your Home Appliances

Trade in your clunky old washing machines, dishwashers, or refrigerators for newer, energy-saving models such as LG’s smart and energy-efficient Signature Refrigerator, which has a transparent front that allows you to see what’s inside, so you won’t need to open your fridge door so often. Energy Star-certified appliances are a great choice for functionality and eco-friendliness. 

Knock twice on LG Signature Refrigerator’s opaque, glass panel, InstaView door, and the surface becomes transparent, so you can see what you want to cook for dinner without opening the door, and causing cool air to escape.

Swap Out Inefficient Bulbs

Traditional incandescent bulbs give off 90 percent of their energy as heat, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Trading these for newer options will not only reduce your electricity bill, but also make your home feel cooler and more comfortable. Energy-efficient bulbs include halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light emitting diodes (LEDs). To further cut down on electricity output, choose lamps with timers or dimmer functions. 

Made of recycled corrugated cardboard, the Scraplight series of pendent lamps by Seattle design studio Graypants Inc. can be used with low-energy 12.5-watt Philips LED bulb for lighting that is both green and efficient.  

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