10 Green Home Updates

Make sustainable living easier with these eco-friendly choices.

Eco-friendly home updates are a great way to increase your home's value, save money on energy costs and improve your impact on the environment. Try these 10 green updates on your home, but remember: sometimes less is more when it comes to eco-friendly remodeling. For instance, don't replace perfectly good hardwood floors with bamboo floors. Stick with what you have to reduce waste.

Get a cooler roof. A roof that reflects heat instead of absorbing it allows you to keep your home cool with less energy. Metal provides a cool roofing option that lasts for decades and can mimic the look of materials like wood, tile and stone.

Save on heating costs. While it's pricey to purchase, a solar water heater will save you money in the long run by reducing hot water bills up to 80 percent. For best results, install the heater where there's an unobstructed southern exposure.

Be counter intuitive. Granite is great, but explore other eco-friendly countertop options, including counters made from recycled paper or hemp. These durable surfaces are easy to clean, but color selection can be limited.

Encourage recycling. Make recycling convenient for you, your family and your guests by having a designated spot for recycling in the kitchen.

Explore green flooring. Hardwood floors make for a great home investment, but you can get the look and feel of hardwood with sustainable wood options. Cork flooring, made from leftovers at bottle-stopping factories, is one eco-friendly option. It's durable, warm and resistant to spills, making it an especially sensible option for homes with kids or pets.

Choose natural wallpaper. Conventional wallpaper options often contain harmful chemicals and synthetic materials, but natural alternatives exist. Consider wallpaper made of sea grass, an abundant, sustainable resource found in saltwater marshes. Sea-grass wallpaper gives walls a natural, textured look.

Reduce water waste. Replace pre-1994 toilets, showerheads and sinks to instantly save water. Federal standards now require that these fixtures use less water. An upgrade to a low-flow toilet can also trim about $90 a year off your water bill.

Go for a gas fireplace. Gas fireplaces provide heating with less indoor and outdoor pollution than the traditional word-burning style. The most efficient option is a direct-vent model, which vents without a chimney. Increase the efficiency of a traditional fireplace by installing a wood stove or using natural gas or pellet inserts.

Reject a traditional deck. As an alternative to a hardwood deck, try composite decking made from wood waste and recycled plastic. In addition to being eco-friendly, composite decking outperforms ordinary wood decking; it lasts longer, requires less maintenance and won't warp, crack, splinter or rot.

Try recycled mulch. Recycled from scrap tires, rubber mulch serves as an eco-friendly substitute for wood mulch, especially useful as a playground safety surface. The mulch also hinders weed growth in gardens without rotting or blowing away. However, some gardeners are reluctant to use it because the rubber can contain zinc and other heavy metals harmful to plants.

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