10 Ways to Make Your House Greener
Everybody’s talking about the importance of eco-friendly living. We found some of the coolest and smartest products - at every price point - to help home owners do their part for the environment.
By Wendy Cole | February 2009
As chic as it is eco-friendly, the EcoSmart Fire system gives you the pleasure of a fireplace without the pollutants. The self-contained unit is fueled by clean-burning denatured ethanol, a renewable resource. These portable fire boxes can be placed anywhere inside or outside a home since they require neither a utility connection nor a chimney. To make this green product even greener, the company will plant two trees on the buyer’s behalf for every unit purchased. Cost: Models range from $2,100 to $11,500. www.ecosmartfire.com
Old wine bottles and other recycled glass get a new life as exquisite, glossy tiles suitable for kitchens and bathrooms. Glass donated by the public is sorted by color, ground into granules, and turned into tile by high-temperature fusion. Bedrock Industries introduces no colorants or oxides to the production process, which has saved hundreds of tons of material otherwise destined for landfills. Also, 100 percent recyclable material is used for shipping. Cost: Tiles start at $36 per square foot. www.bedrockindustries.com
Instead of tossing food scraps in the garbage, NatureMill’s fully automatic and odor-free composter will recycle up to 120 pounds of kitchen waste, including paper, per month. A built-in computer on the 17-pound unit (20 by 20 by 12 inches) controls the mixing, heating, and aeration process. After two weeks, a red light pops on as a reminder that your composted fertilizer is ready for immediate use on your garden or lawn. Compost can also be piled outdoors until you need it. A NatureMill composter can recycle its weight in waste every 10 days, diverting more than two tons of waste from landfills over its life. Energy use is just 5 kilowatt-hours per month. Cost: Prices start at $299. www.naturemill.com
You’ll never overwater another houseplant with the Botanicalls system. Digital sensors in the soil let your African violet or potted palm text message you when it needs water or light. The unit will also send a texted “thank you” after the plants’ needs have been met. The do-it-yourself kit offers a connection to your leafy green pal via Twitter. You can view status updates online or have them routed to your mobile phone. Botanicalls comes with all necessary parts to set up a soil moisture sensor communication system, even a leaf-shaped circuit board. While human intervention is necessary for the actual watering, the reminders are a novel means of keeping houseplants healthy so they can help reduce levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Cost: $99. www.botanicalls.com
A bigger water savings may come from Cyber-Rain XC, which lets you hand over the chore of watering your lawn to your Windows PC. Here’s how it works: Your sprinkler system receives information wirelessly from your PC about local weather conditions and uses this information to calculate the right amount of water needed for as many as eight yard zones. Households save 30 percent to 70 percent on their water bills annually, according to the manufacturer. Cost: $349. www.cyber-rain.com
Hardwood cabinetry can be beautiful and eco-friendly if it’s made from formaldehyde-free plywood. Columbia Forest Products’ cabinets are made from wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which guarantees that responsible timber industry practices, including the maintenance of the ecological functions of the forest and respect for indigenous peoples’ rights, were followed. The company also uses an innovative soy-flour resin system to comply with leading green standards programs. Cost: $150 to $450 per linear foot. www.cfpwood.com
The relatively constant temperature of earth a few feet below ground enables geothermal heat products to heat and cool homes using 40 percent to 70 percent less energy than conventional systems. In the winter, the pumps draw heat into a house through a series of underground pipes and an electrically driven compressor. In the summer, they pull the heat from the home and discharge it into the ground. Cost: The typical home requires a three-ton unit costing roughly $7,500, or nearly twice the installation price of a standard heat pump system. Drilling costs can add upwards of $10,000. www.geoexchange.org
You can bake, boil, or steam your family’s next meal using a the sun’s energy. The outdoor Sun Oven can cook food at temperatures up to 400 degrees and can be used during all seasons. The device is affected more by the brightness of the day than by the outside air temperature, meaning that cooking times can be slowed by the arrival of pesky clouds. But Sun Ovens help keep homes cool in the summer by keeping cooking heat outside. Cost: $279. www.sunoven.com
It’s stunning, energy-efficient, and unlike any lighting technology you’ve seen before. Planilum is a light-emitting glass panel developed by two French companies, Saazs and Saint-Gobain Innovations. Less than an inch thick, each panel consists of four layers of glass infused with nontoxic gas and phosphorous compounds. Planilum lights can be incorporated into shelves or tables or can stand alone, Each light is expected to last about 20 years if used eight hours a day. Saazs’ One, a four-foot high panel featuring rows of doughnut-shaped light circles. Cost: About $3,400. www.saazs.com
Belgian-based Ecover began marketing phosphate-free washing powder more than 25 years ago, long before most people even realized that phosphates were an environmental hazard. Today, the company’s extensive indoor cleaning product line, designed to safely sanitize everything from glass to toilet bowls, has been expanded to include a plant- and mineral-based car wash and wax. The product, which includes coconut, citric acid, and carnauba wax, will help your hybrid or hot rod shine naturally. The packaging is 100 percent recyclable as well. Cost: $5.70 for 500 milliliters. www.Ecover.com
These plush pieces may look like family heirlooms in the making, but the swanky chairs and couches from Montauk Sofa are, in effect, built for the compost heap. Using lumber harvested from sustainably run forests, uncoated screws and nails, latex foam derived from rubber plants, and organic fabric coverings, Montauk uses manufacturing and distribution principles dedicated to limiting the company’s environmental footprint. When you’re ready to redecorate, Montauk will take back its old pieces, strip them, and recycle the wood frame and spring systems. The lumber will be reused in new sofas. Cost: Chairs start at $2,600, sofas at $3,800. www.montauksofa.com
Wendy Cole is a senior editor of REALTOR® magazine. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine, February 2009 with permission of the
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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