With spring in the air and green buds starting to sprout in the garden, it's the natural time to size up all those projects that made it to your to-do list this winter. In addition to thinking about how you'll get to it all, it's the perfect time to think about ways to do your part to regenerate the planet. You are already reusing bags for your grocery shopping and carpooling whenever possible, but did you know that you can also tread lightly on the planet by being green as you approach your home improvement projects?
Spring into green this year with these helpful but simple and easy tasks that will make the planet a better place for all of us.
- Use eco-friendly paints. Ever wonder why paint smells so stinky? It's because of all the harsh chemicals, such as benzene and formaldehyde, which, even when dry, can trigger allergic reactions. Look for paints with low VOC (volatile organic compounds) and for labels with a green seal which means they are certified safe. EPA, OSHA, or DOT seals mean the paint contains hazardous materials that are monitored by the government. Eco-friendly paints come in every color imaginable and contain pigments from charcoal, or even foods like milk. (Some even smell like milkshakes.) Look for paints made by American Clay, Real Milk Paint, Benjamin Moore Eco Spec, and Olympic paint. American Pride Paints are particularly recommended for people with allergies. (Having problem choosing a color? Click here.)
- Buy only the amount of paint you will need to complete your project. A gallon of conventional paint will pollute 250,000 gallons of drinking water if it seeps into the water system. This is why it is so crucial that all excess paint be disposed of properly. Check your local town ordinances for information on where to dispose of paints and other toxic chemicals. Search Google under "paint calculator" to find several sites which will help you figure out how much paint to purchase.
- If you are about to start a major renovation on your house, recycle as much material as you can. If your cabinets, sinks, tubs, countertops or toilets are still useable (even if they are somewhat dated), there are people in this world who would be thrilled to receive them. Check out www.redo.org, a national and international organization dedicated to recycling the world's resources by managing surplus and discarded materials. This site will direct you to one of many organizations and nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity that will send your discarded materials to families in need. They will even pick up large donations and give you a tax write-off for your donation.
- Think Bamboo. If you are planning to replace your floor, think about using sustainable alternatives to oak, a tree that takes a long time to grow and replace. Bamboo, on the other hand, re-grows in less than three years. (Join our forum on the value of bamboo floors.) Cork, recycled rubber and flooring made from a combination of aggregate from quarrying and fly ash, a waste product of power plants are all choice non-wood alternatives. If you must have wood, make sure it has a FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label, indicating that it is grown responsibly.
- Shop at the salvage yard for windows and doors. If you are planning to replace windows or doors or add French doors to a room, check out your local salvage yard. Many of these places go to houses that are being torn down and remove doors, windows, light fixtures, tubs and sinks. (Click here for advice on installing windows.) You will amazed at what you can find, often at prices that are far less than what you will pay at the home improvement store and you will be recycling material that would otherwise take up space in a landfill. It's good for you and good for the planet.
- Check out eco-friendly cleaning products. If you have never tried using products that are organically based, why not try one bio-degradable product this week? Choose from a wide range of products: laundry detergents, toilet bowl cleaners, stain removers, carpet cleaners, window cleaners and many others that smell much nicer than their toxic equivalents and do the job just as well. You may get hooked on cleaning well and doing good. You will never know until you try one.
- Check out idealbite.com for more eco-friendly ideas.
A user forum allows you to submit new ideas and share your love of the planet with others.
Whether you are a budding new spring flower or the Wicked Witch of the West, green is always gorgeous, especially in the spring. Tap into the beauty of nature and the good feeling that comes from doing something for planet earth.