Designing the Eco-Friendly Home of Your Dreams

It’s easy to create a more sustainable home, whether buying, renting, or building from scratch.

What would you say if I told you that one of the biggest contributors to negative environmental impacts are the houses and apartments that we live in?  

The energy we use, the materials they’re made from, and even the items we fill them up with all have negative impacts on the planet.

Luckily, there are tons of things you can do to make your home a little greener, whether you’re building your own environmentally-conscious dream home, modifying an existing house, or even living in an apartment!

 

 
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For apartment dwellers

Interested in sustainable renting? The first thing you’ll want to do is talk to your landlord.

You never know if they’ll be willing to install insulating windows, use more energy efficient appliances, or set up solar panels until you ask. After all, these updates don’t just reduce the costs to the environment, but also to their bank accounts.

Even with the most reluctant landlord, you still have full control over the personal possessions you bring into the apartment. (If you don’t, it’s probably time to move!)

Here are a few ways to make your apartment as eco-friendly as you can, without violating your lease:

 

  • Incorporate eco-friendly housewares. What goes into your home is just as important as what it’s made from. Furnish your apartment with eco-conscious bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenware whenever possible. If you need some inspiration, look no further than DoneGood-approved home goods.

  • Shop secondhand. If you’re having trouble finding a good green alternative that fits your taste or budget, head on down to the thrift store. Buying used is a great way to rescue perfectly good items that may otherwise end up in the landfill. It’s also quite a rush when you finally find the perfect sofa you’ve been searching for all over town!

  • Watch the thermostat. Turning it up or down by just a few degrees can make a big impact on your energy use without sacrificing your comfort. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to use thermal curtains to insulate your windows—it makes a huge difference!

 

 
 


For existing homeowners

Of course, all the tips for apartment dwellers will apply to you too, but as a homeowner, you can make bigger changes for even bigger gains in the eco-friendliness department.

Try out a few of these:

  • Switch to energy efficient appliances. Your appliances make up a big chunk of your home’s average energy use, so switching to more efficient models will reduce your carbon footprint significantly. It will also save you money in the long run, which may help offset the upfront cost a bit.

  • Put up a clothesline. Air drying your clothes is cheap and easy, and it will greatly reduce your dependence on an energy-intensive dryer. On any nice day, dry your laundry outside for free, without using any electricity. Plus, line-dried clothes smell amazing! And did you know sunlight can remove stains?

  • Go solar. Sourcing all or part of your home’s electricity needs from the sun is a fantastic way to reduce your carbon footprint. It may also come in handy in the event of a power outage or other emergency.

  • Be water conscious. Opt for low flow showerheads and toilets to minimize the water you use on a daily basis. Also, make sure that all members of your household are briefed on water-wasting habits like leaving the tap running while brushing your teeth.

 

To make the biggest impact, consider installing a rainwater collection system to supply some of your home’s water needs.

  

For those building a home from scratch

First of all, congratulations! You are in a perfect position to make a huge reduction in the impact your future home will have on the environment. A blank slate is a perfect place to start if you want to have the largest possible effect.

Here are a few things you could do in your new eco-friendly dream house:

 

  • Work with the sun. An architect experienced in eco builds can determine the proper orientation for your home on the lot you choose. It should be facing in such a way as to maximize solar gain in the winter to passively heat your home while minimizing this effect in the summer.

  • Use sustainable building materials. For minimal ecological damage, use sustainably grown and harvested materials wherever possible. Bamboo is a great option for walls and flooring, and sheep’s wool or straw bales can be used as insulation. Precast concrete, recycled steel, and reclaimed wood can all be incorporated into your dream house as a way to repurpose a pre-used material and give it new life.

  • Build smaller. And no matter how conscious you are about materials and energy use in your eco-friendly dream house, a bigger home will always be more environmentally impactful than a smaller one. Be sure that you’re building a home that’s only as big as it needs to be to accommodate your family comfortably.


 

Gabe Jacobs
Head of Good Community, DoneGood

Reformed Hollywood agent turned digital strategist who went on to nurse his karma in the world of philanthropy. 

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Gabriel Jacobs