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Squeezing More Function in Green Home Improvement

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pot plants by kaboompics via pixabay

When you think about changing your home design, do you think about how it can affect the planet? Probably not. Chances are that when you’re in home remodeling mode, you’re too worried about things like the cost and other practical considerations to think about environmental impact. And you’re probably not alone: according to National Geographic’s Greendex Survey for 2014, people’s consumption habits aren’t changing in pace with their growing awareness about their impact on the environment.

Many may think that green home improvement will lead to a more inconvenient or impractical life, but that doesn’t have to be true. Saving the world doesn’t have to be an act of martyrdom. Little tweaks to your home renovation project can add up to big changes, letting you improve your home while keeping your carbon and water footprint light and small.

Keep Cool with Smarter Shade

A big factor in eco-friendly home design is energy conservation. The world is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels to produce energy despite their costs. Clean energy is not yet universally accessible, so we have to do our part by lessening consumption.

If you live in someplace warm with harsh sunlight coming in, consider having double-pane or tinted windows installed to decrease your dependence on the AC. Even something as simple as having the right window blinds and curtains can really help.

Insulate Your Home with Safer Stuffing

While keeping your place cold can be a serious energy drain, keeping it warm can also be a heavy load. The furnaces and heaters you use to keep comfortable on cold days can use a lot of electricity, especially if your home isn’t insulated well. Many homeowners looking to winter-proof their home are now choosing earth-friendly materials such as hemp, cotton, and sheep’s wool. Using those sustainable materials can help you stay toasty warm while keeping your carbon footprint at a minimum.

Live Life without Wasting Water

Also, think about how much water you use. Water should be a sustainable resource, but because of pollution, we have less water that we can use safely. To maximize the value of your green home improvements, you can install water-saving shower heads or high-pressure sink faucets (having aerators in your faucets to increase the pressure can actually help save water).

Pots and Plants Aplenty

Maybe for health reasons, you need to purify the air in your home. Rather than buying an expensive air purifier that will consume electricity, try using houseplants. Certain house plants can absorb volatile organic compounds and convert carbon dioxide into healthy levels of oxygen. Taking care of them can also be a stress-relieving exercise.

Bring New Life with Recycled Materials

If your home makeover involves installing new flooring or countertops, then go for recycled materials. Look for tiles that are made from recycled glass or plastic. Not only will you renew your space, you will also help give thrown-away materials a second life.

Turn Something Old into Something New

Among many possible green home remodeling ideas, one that doesn’t get enough attention is upcycling. It’s too temptingly easy to just throw away garbage, but with a little creativity, trash can be turned into treasures to transform your home. Make lighting fixtures out of old jars and shelves out of old crates. Whether you’re renovating a house or doing a green condo redesign, repurposing old materials is a great and simple option.

Doing Your Part with Smart Materials

Aside from recycled and upcycled materials, consider sustainable, long-life, or low-maintenance materials for your green home renovation ideas. Wood, bamboo, and cork are good sustainable flooring options; linoleum flooring, on the other hand, is durable and easy to clean, increasing the time between flooring replacements and decreasing your use of chemical solvents over the long run. Don’t be fooled by retailers calling plastic tiles “linoleum.” Genuine linoleum flooring is made from all-natural materials.

Go Green with Eco-friendly Colors

If you’re treating your home to a fresh coat of paint, consider its composition. Many conventional paints use VOCs that pollute the environment. For more eco-friendly home renovations, choose eco-friendly paints. Not only will they smell more pleasant,  they’ll also be safer to manufacture (have you ever thought about all the chemical waste generated in making traditional paint)? Take note that these products have different degrees of earth-friendliness, so take special care in reading the label: watch out for any hazardous or toxic components that were not declared up front.

Lessen Your Impact with Lighting Options

Another simple way to reduce your carbon footprint is to use more energy-efficient lighting. Using compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or LED (light-emitting diode) lighting will help brighten your home using less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs. Another plus: CFLs and LED lights generate less heat, so your home cooling systems don’t have to work twice as hard.

Use Filters for Freshwater

Maybe you’re concerned about the quality of your water supply, but you don’t want to rely on bottled water; think about all the plastic you’ll use if you do. In that case, you might consider getting a home water purifier installed. While not all water filtration systems are created equal, having one can definitely help you say “no” to plastic bottles more easily.

Let the Sunshine In

While the heat of the sun can be uncomfortable, you can use it right to have a more earth-friendly home. A growing trend in green home development is passive home design: the idea is to use as much solar energy as possible for your everyday needs, such as electricity and heating. Solar panels can be used to generate some clean energy, while solar heaters can help you get hot showers without having to plug in. More simply, you can use natural light for your space: bigger or more strategically placed windows and mirrors will light a room with beautiful sunshine.

So you see, it’s totally possible to come up with a functional home design while keeping the planet in mind. With the right attitude and thinking, anyone can be successful in maximizing their green home improvement efforts for a practical and earth-friendly home.

 

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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