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What to Look for In a New Home to Ensure Sustainability

August 13, 2019

By Lori Melton

Today’s eco-conscious home buyers are interested in purchasing a home that’s good for the planet. With the growing popularity of green initiatives, it’s not too hard to find eco-friendly features in the current housing market. Plus, environmentally friendly elements in a living space usually save money.

Whether you’re buying or building, here are some things you should look for to ensure sustainability in your new home.

Energy Efficiency

Energy-efficient aspects of a home help conserve energy usage. As such, they also help reduce monthly utility bills. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR Program applies to both newly constructed as well as existing homes.

Using ENERGY STAR certified kitchen appliances, washer and dryers, heating and cooling systems, lighting, programmable thermostats, and more will help reduce the amount of energy homes use. In 2017, ENERGY STAR reportedly “helped Americans save 370 billion kWh of electricity with associated emission reductions of 290 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, 190,000 short tons of sulfur dioxide, 180,000 short tons of nitrogen oxides, and 21,000 short tons of fine particulate matter (PM2.5).”

Well-Insulated Windows and Doors

Older homes with older windows and doors may lead to heat loss in the winter. This type of draft drives energy usage up as heat escapes and the furnace works harder to heat indoor spaces. Investing in high-quality double- or triple-pane, argon-filled windows will improve insulation and help keep heating costs down.

Once again, ENERGY STAR certified windows and doors help lower household energy bills. In fact, they can reduce energy costs by 12 percent. Furthermore, home energy conservation reduces greenhouse gas emissions at home and at local power plants.

Fair Trade Home Décor Products

Looking for the Fair Trade Certified seal on home décor products supports sustainability. The leading Fair Trade organization, Fair Trade USA, is committed to doing what’s right for “families, global citizens, and the planet.”

Choosing Fair Trade Certified products promotes income sustainability for producers, farmers, workers, and fishermen. It also supports empowerment for these groups, as well as individual and community well-being, and environmental stewardship.

Companies like Pottery Barn, Mark & Graham, Birch, and more offer Fair Trade Certified furniture, rugs, bedding, and many more décor items. Filling your new home with these products is a creative way to beautify your home interior while promoting sustainability.

Natural Resources

Many eco-friendly homes harness natural resources for sustainability. For example, skylights and solar panels enable the sun to help heat or provide natural light to a home. Small electric wind systems can power homes (and reduce power bills by 50 percent). Additionally, harvesting rainwater for yard applications and storing it or future household needs helps conserve water in regions affected by drought. A huge benefit to leveraging natural resources is that they are available in unlimited supply. Plus, they help reduce the carbon footprint which is produced by other manufactured forms of power.

Green Building Practices Affiliation

Many home builders are following Green Building practices. Researching them in the buying process can help you make informed, eco-friendly decisions in the home building process. In New York, programs like OneNYC Green Buildings & Energy Efficiency promote sustainability in homes, businesses and schools.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) lists all sorts of examples of sustainable home features including resource conservation techniques (like using recycled building materials, wood alternatives, sustainably harvested lumber and more), optimizing indoor environmental air quality (like using formaldehyde-free finishes, effective HVAC equipment, among others), preserving open space in site design, and more techniques.

Overall, becoming familiar with Green Building programs in your area and implementing these efforts in the construction process will help you achieve your home sustainability goals.