Green Living : Minimising your Carbon Footprint
With global carbon levels relentlessly on the rise, green living is becoming increasingly popular and environmentalists continue anxiously monitoring the vital signs of our planet. Many industries and governments are finally being forced to recognise that our reliance on fossil fuels is unsustainable and threatening to the health of our world as well as the health of our lungs. Homeowners are increasingly aiming to offset the damage caused by daily life in the modern age. We’ll be looking into how the architectural industry is addressing environmental and indoor air quality concerns with some exciting eco home examples, and showing simple ways each household can become more environmentally friendly and minimise its carbon footprint.
Ultimate Green Living : Eco Homes
As technology continues to develop alongside growing environmental awareness, green architects and interior designers are coming up with innovative ways to address the interdependence between architecture and environmental systems, while creating eco-friendly functional buildings. Research shows that going green has incredible mental and physical health benefits, which is so important when you consider how much time you spend at home. In fact, children who have asthma living in green home environments experience 63% more symptom-free days on average. People typically spend 90% of their time indoors where there can be between 2-5 times the number of common pollutants compared to outside. Making use of natural lighting, using eco-friendly natural materials, and improving indoor air quality all contribute to your happiness, health and productivity.
Green architects and home designers take care to boost indoor air quality by:
Decorating with low or zero-VOC paints – VOC stands for Volatile organic compounds, or in plain English, gases which certain solids or liquids emit, such as conventional household paint. VOCs include a variety of chemicals that could be hazardous to health especially when concentrated in an indoor environment. Many homeowners are choosing to detox their interiors with respiratory friendly paint options that don’t put so much stress on airways and immune systems.
Installing ventilation systems – getting rid of stale or polluted air is a breeze if your home hosts a mechanical ventilation system. Newly constructed homes are built to save as much energy as possible, this means they are carefully designed with better insulation and fewer cracks for fresh air to flow through. On the plus side, a tightly sealed home has many benefits including bringing costly energy bills down and reducing airborne irritants, like allergens and dust. However, it does make it more difficult for moisture and chemical toxins to escape. Whether opting for cheaper spot ventilation systems which work by removing moisture and pollutants at the source, or whole-house ventilation, having clean air to breath is a must for green homeowners.
Using cork in interior design – Unlike most hardwood flooring options, cork can be sustainably produced making it an excellent material for the eco-friendly household. It is harvested by removing only the outer bark layer on cork oak trees and has the added health benefit of absorbing certain toxins making it an excellent option for the allergy prone. It is naturally anti-microbial meaning it kills or halts the growth of dangerous microorganisms, like mould which can compromise respiratory health if left untreated in a home. Not only is this natural wonder waterproof and fire-retardant, but it is also extremely durable and biodegradable as a building material.
Space efficiency – While many people may dream of owning a lofty mansion on a magnificent estate, the reality is that a bigger space means a larger mortgage, greater furniture expenses and higher utility bills, not to mention all that extra housework and building maintenance. Eliminating excess space when constructing new homes makes the buildings more affordable for first-time buyers and more efficient for the future. Having extra space isn’t necessary to get that feeling of escapism we all sometimes need, as multifunctional designs and convertible furniture can transform tiny spaces without adding to the carbon footprint of a household.
What is a carbon footprint?
A carbon footprint is the total amount greenhouse gas produced to support the activities of an individual, organisation, event or product. In the UK the average carbon footprint per person is around 9 tons of CO2 per year. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) take detailed data reports from countries around the world on carbon emissions to calculate how much greenhouse gas for which the average individual is responsible. While things such as travel, household waste and heating our homes are apparent contributors to our carbon footprint, the calculations also include broader, less obvious factors, such as emissions from a country’s military, hospitals, schools and other services.
Cheap and Easy Ways to make your House an Environmentally Friendly Home
1. Use a home energy calculator
Making your home more energy efficient has the bonus of saving you some cash on energy costs as well as reducing your carbon footprint. Home energy calculators require extensive data about appliances, insulation, and thermostat usage to provide estimates of how much energy is consumed over a period of time. The results can highlight the most cost-effective ways that consumers can conserve energy and make their homes more efficient.
2. Appliance awareness
Energy consumption in homes can be slashed by simply unplugging devices when they are not in use. Most electronic appliances still use power even when switched off or hibernating; you’ll need to completely disconnect them, switch off the socket at the wall or the power strip to adequately prevent energy wastage.
3. Switch to LEDs
Old incandescent light bulbs are hugely inefficient wasting up to 90% of their energy as heat. Within a few months, the upfront cost of replacing your old bulbs with LEDs will have paid off and its a savvy investment as LEDs last approximately 35 times longer than older incandescents.
4. Create Compost
Whether you have enough space in your garden to make massive amounts compost out of general kitchen waste, or just a small spot on your countertop to recycle your food scraps, composting is one small way you can help to offset the environmental cost of globally produced food. According to the World Resources Institute, almost a quarter of all calories created for human consumption is lost or wasted, and the average US household contributes around 7.6 metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents) each year through food production and transportation alone. By composting waste food and planting at home, people can break the cycle of environmental abuse and keep food scraps out of landfills where they build up methane gas as they decompose in plastic rubbish bags and contribute to global warming.
5. Cold Clean
When you use your washer, select the cold water function to prevent up to 90% of the energy from being wasted on unnecessarily heating the water for a wash. There are many detergents on the market that can clean your laundry in cold water without using harsh chemicals and artificial perfumes which can be harmful to the environment.
Green building and environmental awareness aren’t just passing fads. As sustainable home design and eco-friendly lifestyles become more mainstream, we can begin to correct the mistakes of the past and start to enjoy healthier living from the comfort of our homes.