On Fridays, USGBC shares green home-related content curated from around the web. If you see a great article on aspects of environmentally friendly home living such as green building, renovation, energy use or cleaning, please send it our way.

  • As the weather gets colder, you may be wanting to crank up the heat...and wondering if there is a more sustainable way to keep your hosue warm. Take a look at this blog by Joe Borras at The Fix for a breakdown of some greener winter heating options.
  • Looking for some green gifts this holiday season? Check out Inhabitat's list of eco-friendly stocking stuffers for some inspiration, from cute bicycle bells to reusable coffee filters.

  • For World Soil Day this past week, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance released several infographics about composting. You may do your own home composting, but #DYK that using it in overall green infrastructure can create more jobs than the incineration and landfill cycle?

Learn more about composting

This article was originally published on Houzz on Feb. 25, 2013, as "Easy Green: 23 Ways to Reduce Waste at Home," and is presented here with permission. Read the original article

We all know that growing landfill mass and, sadly, even trash floating out at sea are real issues, but it can be hard to know where to start if you want to make a difference. Thankfully, it's actually quite easy to cut way down on your household trash by making tiny changes in your shopping habits and daily routines. If you would like to reduce the amount of trash your household creates, but are not quite sure how to do it, these 23 tips can help. They are all easy to implement and can add up to a reduction in waste that makes a difference. 

Photo credit Butler Armsden Architects; original photo on Houzz.

Living room and entertaining

1. Switch to digital downloads of movies and music, if you haven't yet.

2. Ask for and give consumable or homemade gifts. Think event tickets, dinner reservations and edible treats.

3. Stop junk mail and paper bills, and cancel subscriptions that you don't read.

Bedroom and wardrobe 

4. Be picky. By choosing to buy only what you love and know you will wear, you can slim your wardrobe and love it more.

5. Shop vintage.

6. Bring cloth shopping bags of your own...even to the mall.

7. Mend and tailor instead of tossing. Take a cue from our grandparents' generation and work with what you have.

Photo credit Buckenmeyer Architecture; original photo on Houzz.

Kitchen

8. Buy soap in bulk and decant it into reusable containers.

9. Keep lots of cloth towels on hand instead of paper.

10. As long as it is relatively clean, you can reuse aluminum foil several times.

11. Give old clothes and linens a second life—cut them up and reuse them as cleaning rags.

Buying groceries 

12. Shop farmer's markets, produce stands and natural food markets—you will find the freshest and most local food that's minimally packaged.

13. Avoid buying single-serving packages. Pick the larger containers instead.

14. Keep plenty of reusable bags around. If you have trouble remembering to bring bags, try keeping stashes of them in your car, by the front door, in your office and anywhere else they might come in handy.

Photo credit Garland Mill; original photo on Houzz.

Dining

15. Use real dishes and cloth napkins every day.

16. Try an alternative to plastic wrap. Place a plate on top of a bowl to store leftovers in the fridge or purchase reusable dish covers.

Pets

17. Our pets don't ask for much, but that doesn't stop us from wanting to buy them all sorts of things. Keep things simple and stick with a few favorite toys and accessories.

18. Buy your most frequently used pet supplies in bulk to cut down on packaging.

Photo credit John Maniscalco Architecture; original photo on Houzz.

Bathroom 

19. Simplify your beauty routine—fewer products means less waste.

20. Use microfiber cloths instead of paper towels for cleaning.

21. Buy the biggest packages of toilet paper you can find to reduce packaging

Downtime 

22. Make friends with your public library. If you haven't explored your local library lately, consider giving it another look and borrow a book, movie or music CD instead of buying.

23. Rethink leisure time. Relax in your backyard, cook dinner for friends, walk in nature, go for a bike ride, have a picnic or read a book—from the library!

Going green isn't just environmentally responsible—it's one of the hottest trends in home decor. From insulated wall systems and reclaimed timber floors to recycled glass countertops and nontoxic paints, green materials are making their way into every design element. Making eco-savvy choices in furnishing your home can create a massive difference for your health and the environment.

Many modern designers have joined the sustainability movement and have started incorporating green furniture, fixtures and flooring materials in their green home plan. Here is a quick rundown of ways to go green:

1) Green building materials in doors and windows

The growing concerns about global warming have revived the recycling concept in home decor. Emerging practices include the use of salvaged lumber and used aluminum recovered from demolished structures. From door panels to window frames, the choice of materials that can be used for construction includes insulated glass, vinyl, aluminum, PVC, engineered wood and bamboo.

2) Furniture made from reclaimed materials

When buying furniture for your home, look for stylish eco-friendly options made from timber and metal. Furniture made from reclaimed materials requires less processing and consumes fewer resources without degrading the quality. Lower your environmental impact with stylish furniture made from reclaimed timber. Furniture made from reclaimed timber is strong, unique-looking and exudes a rustic vibe. 

3) Eco-friendly flooring solutions

There is a stunning array of flooring solutions for those who are environmentally conscious. Cork, bamboo, linoleum, glass tiles, wool carpet and reclaimed hardwood are excellent flooring solutions for a green home design. They are durable, stylish and available in a limitless range of colors and textures to suit your taste.

4) Nontoxic roofing materials

There is a plethora of durable and eco-friendly roofing solutions to choose from. Recycled shingles are made from waste materials like wood, rubber, plastic and post-consumer waste. They are a durable, cost-effective and practical way to reduce landfill waste.

5) Green paints

Eco-friendly paints are an ethical way to give your home a whole new look. Conventional paints can contain toxic materials and heavy metals that are hazardous for your health. Eco-friendly paints do not contain any harmful chemical pigments and are made from natural raw materials. Learn about how to avoid volatile organic compounds in your house paints.

6) Recycled materials

Every piece of furniture that you discard to renovate your home takes a toll on the environment. Be creative and use the resources you have in building a green home. Scrap steel, reclaimed wood, aluminum and fiberglass can be reused to create high-quality home furnishings that will last you for decades. From wall cladding and headboards to cabinets and countertops, the possibilities are endless.

7) Water and energy efficiency

Reduce water and energy consumption by turning off the lights when you leave a room or the tap when not in use. You can also install low-flow bathroom fixtures to lower your usage. Take advantage of solar energy to create an ultra-efficient home that remains warm in winter and cool in summer.

If you are contemplating a green home design, these tips will help you create an eco-savvy home that represents your taste. Global sourcing companies are one resource to procure recycled and repurposed home décor products at low rates. A sourcing agent can procure a wide range of sustainable products and furnishings to complete your green home plan, and a procurement agent can help you pick the best eco-friendly furniture from international suppliers. Follow these tips to achieve a sustainable home design that suits your style and budget. 

This article was previously published on Jan. 14, 2016 on Curbed.com as "Goldtex Becomes Philly's 1st LEED Gold Certified Residential High Rise."

The Goldtex apartment community in the Loft District just became the first LEED Gold certified residential high-rise in Philadelphia. The Post Brothers development company announced the certification for the building yesterday in a press release, noting that Goldtex saves about 15 million pounds of CO2 each year—that's about how much 1,200 cars emit.

OK, but what exactly about the building's redesign earned the nod from the U.S. Green Building Council? Well, for one, Goldtex runs on 100 percent wind-generated power. The building's new facade also creates an insulating thermal barrier by using the original shell as a heat sink, according to the release. Then, there are the windows, which feature electronically-controlled shades, as well as heat-blocking coatings, which help the building both consume and retain energy. Plus, every apartment has Energy Star appliances and LED light fixtures.

Read the rest of the article

The federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program and state Qualified Allocation Plans (QAPs) that guide the distribution of tax credits have an outsized ability to promote green affordable housing in the United State. Global Green, with support from NeighborWorks America, recently released its much-anticipated 2016 report examining green building practices in each state’s QAP.

The report identifies leading policy trends, shares best practices and puts forward technical and policy options that can use the LIHTC program to promote human health and address overwhelming utility burdens. The results are clear: more state housing finance agencies are deploying LEED and other third-party green building rating systems as tools to ensure the environmental, economic and social benefits of sustainable building practices are brought to all. 

Twenty-five state housing agencies referenced green building certification programs, including LEED, in their 2016 QAPs to provide direction to developers and confidence at the agency level that green measures are being implemented. In separate research examining 15 recently constructed or rehabbed apartment communities built to LEED or EarthCraft standards in Virginia, these communities were found to use 40 percent less energy than housing built to existing code requirements. These changes saved the average tenant $54 per month on utility bills—over $600 per year.

The new report shows that currently about half of state QAPs commit to help reduce overwhelming energy burdens for those most in need while protecting our environment. We’re pleased that LEED continues to be a key tool to help state housing finance agencies ensure that all residents, regardless of income, may enjoy the many benefits that green buildings deliver.

USGBC will continue to advocate for affordable green housing across the country, so that families everywhere can benefit from reduced financial pressure, a healthier indoor environment, increased comfort and quality housing.

Email us to get involved

On Fridays, USGBC shares green home-related content curated from around the web. If you see a great article on aspects of environmentally friendly home living such as green building, renovation, energy use or cleaning, please send it our way.

  • When you build a greenhouse on your property, you can take advantage of sunlight to grow your own vegetables year-round. Read "6 Tips for Building a Sustainable Greenhouse" from JackandPatty.com to learn how to choose the right spot for maximum solar energy and adequate ventilation and drainage.
  • It turns out you don't have to use plastic containers or bags to freeze food. Try Treehugger's tips for alternative materials you can use to store food in the freezer: glass, metal, paper—even nothing at all! 

  • Energy Star's #RuleYourAttic campaign wants to make consumers think about how they can maximize attic insulation for energy efficiency. Check out their tools and ensure you'll be snug for the winter.

Learn more about home energy efficiency

With a larger percentage of home buyers being made up of millennials than ever before, high-tech and green homes seem to be on everyone’s list these days. “Smart” home features frequently pair well with eco-friendly and green building designs, because many smart features offer you greater control over areas of your home that consume energy.

Take a look at some of the hottest smart and green building features available today. Here are eight of the latest features:

Programmable thermostats

Your thermostat controls the temperature of your home, telling your HVAC system when to go on and off. Older thermostats needed to be manually adjusted, however, so if you forgot to turn down the heat before you left for work, you lost both energy and money while you weren’t there.

Newer, programmable thermostats change all that. Now you can set the temperature ahead of time for the times when you aren’t home. And if your schedule changes suddenly, newer models even let you adjust the temperature from your smartphone, making it possible to lower or raise the settings from your desk at work. This can save you a lot of money on energy bills each month while ensuring that your home is more comfortable.

Smart light bulbs

How often have you left a room, only to realize that you forgot to turn off the lights? Or maybe you want to adjust the lighting in the room you’re sitting in as the daylight wanes. With smart light bulbs, which are controlled from an app on your smartphone, you can get better control over your light usage. Turn off lights in rooms that people have vacated to save money and electricity, or dim the lights to change the mood without needing to get up.

Some smart light bulbs can also be set up with motion detectors so that when people leave the room unattended for a period of time, the lights automatically shut off.

Solar-reflective roofing shingles

Your roof plays a major role in how comfortable your home is year-round. Not only does it protect you from the elements, but your roof could be transferring heat into your home as well. When the sun beats down on your roof, dark-colored, traditional shingles heat up. This heat is then transferred down into your attic, which becomes super-heated in turn. Eventually, the heat makes it down into your living area, raising your energy bills. At the same time, the UV rays from the sun could also be causing your roof to deteriorate more quickly.

Solar-reflective roofing shingles prevent both of these things from happening. Instead of absorbing the heat and UV rays from the sun, they reflect them. This keeps your roof cooler, making your attic and the rest of your home cooler as well. Solar-reflective shingles may also help prevent UV-related deterioration of the shingles over time. 

Bamboo lumber

Considering the amount of lumber that goes into building a home, and the way that most traditional lumber sources are produced and treated, it’s difficult to find a truly green home made in customary ways. This is what makes bamboo lumber so appealing for homeowners wanting to build a truly sustainable, eco-friendly home. Bamboo is a very fast-growing grass that can be planted and harvested in a fraction of the time that trees can. Made into structural supports, decorative interior lumber, flooring and even furnishings, bamboo is sustainable and produces long-lasting, durable homes.

Monitoring systems

One of the most attractive ideas in the smart home industry is the monitoring system and the ways it can improve your home’s efficiency, energy usage and security. There are many different types of monitoring systems out there. Some use sensors to determine where you are in the home at that moment, and adjust lighting, temperature and other areas to suit.

Other monitoring systems allow you to get a peek into your home even when you’re away. With an in-depth monitoring system, you can

  • Unlock your door to let your kids in.
  • Check in on security cameras.
  • Adjust the thermostat.
  • Turn lights on and off.
  • Set and receive reminders from appliances, such as retrieving your grocery list right from your refrigerator.

Monitoring systems make your life easier, and they also allow you to save energy by helping you use light and heat only when you’re home, shutting off automatically when you’re not.

Get a smarter, greener home

Both smart home technology and green building design are on the top of many homeowners’ must-have lists these days. As companies strive to make improvements in both fields, the options keep getting better and better. Check out the latest in smart and green home technologies to build a better home for yourself and for the environment.

This article was originally published on Houzz on July 6, 2016, as "Living Roofs Put Down Roots," and is presented here with permission. Read the original article.

By now, we know that the first step to a sustainable home is insulation that maintains the interior at a comfortable temperature, no matter how hot or cold it gets outside. The next step on the journey is water management—collecting rainwater to supply toilets, washing machines or the garden. But equally important is minimizing water runoff (from concrete, roofing and paving) into increasingly overburdened stormwater systems. A green roof—with plants growing in an insulating substrate atop the roof of a building—helps solve both problems: insulating the house while absorbing water. It’s cooling, too, since it doesn’t have a surface that reflects the sun’s rays.

Up until now, it’s been a fringe option, expensive and complicated. But with more and more suppliers bringing what they’ve learned in commercial applications into residential projects, it is becoming more accessible. Start with these inspiring projects from around the world.

Living Roofs 1: Schulze Poursoltan Architects, original photo on Houzz.

Living roofs on commercial buildings are often intensive and expensive. With full-size trees, room for paving and seating, and deep soil (sometimes up to 5 feet), these create a heavy load and require expensive engineering for support.

But for houses, what are known as extensive green roofs generally need a substrate of only three-quarters of an inch to 6 inches, and are cheaper to install, because they don’t need as much engineering support. (Consult local building codes for requirements.)

This beach house near Auckland, New Zealand, shows the most common planting: hardy grasses that can survive in a shallow substrate with very little maintenance or irrigation.

Living Roofs 2: Contemporary Exterior, original photo on Houzz.

Because green roofs can weigh more than 30 pounds per square foot for about 4 inches of substrate when planted and wet, the roof supports and walls must be designed by an engineer. You also need to think about drainage, as you don’t want soil runoff to clog drains and pipes and flood the roof. Designers recommend having a foot-wide band of stones or pavers around the edge of a green roof. Vents ensure that condensation does not build up in the ceilings below the roof.

For this Australian project, the designers at Objects also had to ensure that the substrate would not slide down the sloping roof. They used a compact, well-rooted turf.

Gardens may take time to establish, and bald patches may need replanting, as growth will be uneven on parts of the roof that don’t get sun or rain.

In New Zealand, there are two main systems for roofs. One uses an applied substrate such as Nuralite, a waterproof membrane similar to that used on flat roofs under decking or tiles. It requires an appropriate foundation substrate (usually concrete or engineered plywood), and skilled workmanship by licensed installers, so there is no risk of the roof’s leaking and failing.

Polythene, foam insulation and a drainage layer (a cupped product called Plazadeck to catch water, and a geo textile to prevent soil clogging) are applied before the special soil-growing medium and plants are installed.

Alternatively, New Zealand company Stormwater360 has pioneered LiveRoof, a pre-vegetated, modular, hybrid green roof system. The plant modules are pre-grown so the green roof is already established, and there aren’t the usual maintenance costs to tend the baby plants and address soil issues until the roof matures.

Mike Titchener of Stormwater360 says the right mix of low organic and high inorganic planting mediums, and at least three months of intensive care before the roof is installed, mean there will be no weeds and no dying plants in the hot, wet and dry microclimates on the roof.

The company has numerous New Zealand native and sedum planting options. A showpiece for the technology is the Tuhoe Living Building project, for which the modular roof ensures that clean water enters the stormwater system (and there is up to 80 percent less runoff).

Living Roofs 3: Code Green Pty Ltd, original photo on Houzz.

Green roofs are not just for rural settings. The roof of the international award-winning Forest Lodge Eco House by Code Green is in the heart of Sydney. The green roof was installed on top of structural steel crossbeams and a concrete roof, braced against the neighboring historic buildings. Plants were tested off-site to ensure they needed no human support to survive. There is also a 26-foot-high vertical garden. Both gardens are fed by underground water storage tanks.

 

Living Roofs 4: Meditch Murphey Architects, original photo on Houzz.

In a tight urban site in Maryland, the architects at Meditch Murphy Architects wanted to bring the outside indoors, and the owners wanted to be able to use the roof as living space, nestled into a canopy of mature trees. 

The architects engineered the roof to carry planters large enough to support 50-foot-high trees and soil deep enough to grow a vegetable garden. The roof also has solar panels and insulates the house.

Living Roofs 5: Studio Schicketanz, original photo on Houzz.

In coastal California, Studio Schicketanz used a green roof to conceal this home from neighbors above it. The building shelf was cut into the grassland, and the uphill land was extended as a green roof over the underground parts. The gently curved roof is the living room. The system is supported by a 15,000-gallon underground water tank.

Living Roofs 6: Kassow Arkitekter, original photo on Houzz.

And in Denmark, possibly the ultimate green roof can be seen on this summer cottage by Kassow Arkitekter. Roofs planted with the same tussock as the surrounding paddocks blend the house beautifully into its landscape. 

Related articles

Actor and environmentalist Ed Begley, Jr. is determined to build his house to LEED Platinum standards. The video series "On Begley Street" takes a droll and informative look at the journey he and his wife, Rachelle Carson-Begley, along with their 12-year-old daughter Hayden, are undertaking in building their ideal sustainable home. 

With an eye to the balance between comfort and environmental responsibility, the lighthearted episodes share the Begley family's successes and mistakes, as well as tips for others who want to build a green home. Follow along with their quest to "build the greenest home in America."

See more episodes of On Begley Street

On Fridays, USGBC shares green home-related content curated from around the web. If you see a great article on aspects of environmentally friendly home living such as green building, renovation, energy use or cleaning, please send it our way.

  • If you're into DIY, check out this how-to video and list of steps involved in caulking your doors and windows, courtesy of Green Living Ideas. Seal those leaks ahead of the cold weather and save on energy costs.
  • Wondering how you can celebrate Thanksgiving in a greener way? The Nature Conservancy has some tips on how to go local and reduce food waste, as well as offset carbon emissions from long-distance travel to see family and friends. 

  • Top 5 Green Insulation Options, from How Stuff Works, talks about sustainable insulation options for your home that you may not have considered before—from original sources as unexpected as sheep's wool, scrap denim and castor oil. 

Learn more about making insulation choices for your home