Sustainability. It’s such a buzzword these days. It sounds intimidating to many people but in reality, all sustainably is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” What does that mean?
First Things First
Sustainability translates into business and people making decisions with long-term impacts in mind (i.e., protecting natural resources and reducing waste) rather than on short-term gains (i.e., quarterly profits and convenience). The concept of sustainability can be applied to so many areas, including our homes.
A 2018 survey by the National Association of Realtors showed that 61% of its members’ clients are interested in sustainability and are looking for sustainable features in their homes. They want to conserve energy and water, save money, remove toxins from the air they breathe, and reduce their carbon footprint. The younger generation is especially interested in sustainability. A recent Nielsen survey revealed that about three-quarters of Millennials alter their buying habits with the environment in mind, as compared to just a third of Baby Boomers.
It’s important to remember that the most sustainable home is almost always the one you’re already living in! It’s always better for the environment to reuse and improve an existing home rather than start from scratch. Of course, there are many additional options and decisions to be made if you’re building a new home. For this article, we’ll focus on moving into or improving an existing home.
So what are the top ways to make a home more sustainable? Read on!
- Go Smaller. Look for a home with the least amount of square footage your family needs. The easiest way to save on space is to look for a home with small bedrooms, given that most people spend the fewest waking hours in their bedrooms. Look for rooms that can do double duty, such as an office space that can double as a guest room.
- Maximize Natural Light. Natural daylight is the best (and most inexpensive) type of lighting. Try to maximize it in your home. For non-natural lighting, choose LED options and Energy Star–rated products that use at least 75% less energy (and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting!).
- Make Smart Design Choices. When you’re remodeling be mindful of your material and design selections. Look for low-flow toilets and showerheads, faucets with aerators, and front-loading washing machines. Choose sustainable (such as bamboo and cedar), non-toxic building materials (click here for a great list).
- Transportation and Walkability. If you’re moving and buying a new home, look for one that is close to public transportation that works for your habits. Also, aim to live within walking distance of your favorite shops and restaurants.
- Do an Energy Audit. Seal any of your home’s gaps around windows, doors, and recessed lights with caulk. Check on your home’s insulation in key areas such as wall, attic, and basement insulations. Replace poorly-insulated windows with multi-pane, double-glazed windows. If that option is out of your price range, choose thermal-backed window treatments.
- Install a Programmable Smart Thermostat. These devices (Nest is the most popular one) are great energy savers since they adapt to your routine and automatically lowers your home’s temperature when the house is empty. You can learn more about making your home “smarter” here.
- Make Sustainable Landscaping Choices. There are plenty of ways to make your yard sustainable. Plant trees on the right side of the house to block sunlight and lessen the need for air conditioning. Choose local /native plants and plants that require less water and maintenance. You can also harvest rainwater. Lastly, consider a garden with plenty of pollinators and wildflowers to help combat habitat depletion.
- Embrace Solar Energy. The cost of solar panels has decreased substantially and with the federal solar tax credit, solar energy is now a much more affordable option (the current tax credit is 26%, declining to 22% in 2021 and 10% thereafter). Solar panels can be used with a battery storage system so you can store energy on cloudy days.
Needless to say, we should all follow the tried and true conservation tips around the house.
Remember to turn off the lights, conserve water when brushing your teeth and showering, use cold water whenever possible, unplug unused appliances, only run your dishwasher when it’s full, and turn off the televisions when they’re not being watched.
The Bottom Line
With these simple ways to make a home more sustainable, you’ll be amazed at your energy savings and improved efficiency. Not only will you make your home more desirable to future buyers, but you’ll know you’re doing your part to protect our environment and natural resources.
If you want to talk about the ways to make your current or next home more sustainable, reach out today!