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POLL: Eco-friendly and sustainable design

Emily H
October 5, 2018

Passive House Retreat · More Info

If you could choose just one way to make a home's interiors more eco-friendly and sustainable, what would it be?

Vote and tell us about it in the comments!

Low-flow (water-saving) plumbing fixtures
Energy-efficient appliances
LED lighting
Recycled/renewable materials
Toxin-free cabinet materials
Tankless water heater
Other - Tell us in the comments!

Comments (115)

  • 0737flyer

    One of the best ways to save energy during the daytime is by using skylights. We have 19 in our house that is only 2,137 SF.

  • Janelle

    It doesn't matter whether you believe in climate change or not - the bottom line is, we don't look after the environment as well as we should and we need to do better. One of the biggest irritations for me on Houzz is people who replace flooring, kitchens, furniture, etc. etc. etc. simply because they don't like it even though it is still in good condition. A huge waste of money and resources, and further adding to landfill. What happened to the days where things were used, repaired, refinished or re-purposed until they literally fell apart? Yes we can all add things to our homes to save energy, but how many of us consider the energy used to produce the things we fill our homes with and how often we update/change these things because they no longer match our decor. How hard is it to be satisfied with what we like without having to chase trends to seemingly please others?

    There I've had my whinge for the day. I'm currently on night shift so you will all have to bear the brunt of my fatigue.

  • PRO
    Studio NOO Design

    All of the above plus reusing or repurposing all we can, buying as much local as we can in terms of furniture, lighting, etc...We need to wake up here, do not throw away good stuff, give it to charity at least !

  • sherrainex

    there are three items on my list.

    an indoor greenhouse, or at least one attached to the house, so it is easily accessible for maintenance and use.

    re-use the "grey water" for water for the veggie and flower gardens (our brother Tom had the gutter water run to the street receptacle, which is directly in front of our house; I would rather have had a rain barrel for watering the gardens).

    eventually, when it has matured, we will have solar.

    we have everything else except for the tank-less water heater. my brother Tom had two that did not work out in his house and were replaced with regular ones. for my sister and me, he added a perpetual hot water feature and an upgrade in water pressure, so we can run the two showers, dishwasher and laundry, and outside water for the garden at the same time, with no spikes or cold water drenches. the pain relief of running hot water is incredible.

  • celestina89

    Although the first poster wishes the US to be the most energy efficient country, it's actually down on the list - #10 as of 2018 (US was #8 in 2014 - oops) The most energy efficient country in the world is Germany tied with Italy, then France with UK coming in 4th and Japan 5th. Rounding out the top ten are from 6th Spain, Netherlands, China as #8, then Taiwan and finishing the top 10 with the US.

    Energy efficiency is not just about the home, but all buildings, industry, transportation and national efforts. FYI: Germany has ranked #1 for at least 3 years. In 2012 when the ACEEE (American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy) first began it's world wide reporting, Germany was a close 2nd to the U.K. by one point.

    As for me, I've always tried to be energy efficient from composting, insulation, using less electricity by working mostly in daylight, setting thermostat higher in summer and lower in winter, driving only when necessary and driving logistically to complete most everything within a few hours. I also use tote bags everywhere instead of plastics and try to buy fresh goods that aren't packaged in plastic boxes as much as possible. There's also a lot of little things I do, too, like use both sides of a piece of paper. Make my own scratch pads from "junk" mail and so on.

  • Tony Stevens
    Germany’s currently in a renewable mess; electricity costs are going through the roof. One minute the country has too much electricity; the next minute, too little. It used to be able to offload electricity to neighboring countries but not for much longer. They’re sick of it. The costs are spiraling out of control with no end in sight. France is soon to join Germany with Macron announcing the closure of nuke power stations.
    Japan has something like 32 coal fired stations ready to be built. China and India can’t build coal fired power stations fast enough. Your list might change soon.
  • celestina89

    @Tony Stevens: That's for the recognition, but it's not my list. Frankly I could care less about lists of who's first - who's on 2nd and what's on third! :) - follow the green links, then you can tell them - or better yet, read their detailed reports. :)

  • Tony Stevens
    Don’t care? Then why post the list and the links to it?
  • celestina89

    @Tony Stevens: Considering the people who "liked" the first poster's comment, I decided to do a little bit of research to see how the US obtained the title. I looked through several sources and none indicated what the poster wrote about. Thought people would like to understand how the list was measured, who did it and some of the outcomes. Although I'm not a typical who's on first list type person, many people are. I simply corrected the inaccurate information formerly posted.

  • PRO
    Bicycle Glass Co.
    I couldn't help but respond to this. I'm a glass half full type of person and I'm encouraged to see this much engagement on this issue.

    3 years ago my business partner and I started Bicycle Glass with the intention of doing our part to address this issue by building a sustainable materials and sustainable manufacturing company. To start with We now use 100 post consumer glass to make all of our products and all our shipping materials are recycled and recyclable.

    As we keep going forward we intend to innovate in a variety of ways to reduce our energy consumption. We have an audacious goal to become carbon neutral as soon as possible because it is the right thing to do and we are always searching for ways to become more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

    It's been a really wonderful experience to sell on Houzz because I think so many people that purchase our products share these values. I'm encouraged that engaged and thoughtful consumers and businesses alike can all individually have a small impact that will add up to a big impact on the environment.
  • PRO
    Diana Bier Interiors, LLC

    For an interesting insight into recycling, read this article:


    It's a bit disappointing that indeed "the path to hell is paved with good intentions."

  • celestina89

    Every major area is different into the recycling game. In my area it is only certain things such as paper/cardboard and certain plastics and tin cans. No glass, no other paper and so on. However 25 miles away, I can recycle old paint and certain non-drinkable glass. Some places nearby only collect metal. My fav auto store takes in batteries. My grocery store takes in this plastic shopping bags and recyclable newspaper bags. The rest I either burn (if burnable) or it goes into the trash.

    I am mindful of the packaging I buy. So if I'm getting some Kale - I'll buy the kale that's organic and not wrapped instead of the kale packed in non-recyclable plastic or plastic film. I buy non-dairy "milk" in a waxed carton which is burnable. Most all my shopping is done with items that can be either recycled or burned. The few items such as plastic tags and plastic film wrappers go into the trash pile. I usually burn about once every 3 months, have a small trash bag once a month and the rest recycled.

    It does take a bit of hunting around but once I got the list figured out, the rest is just organizing then making the recycle runs logistically. When I need to do something with things like electronics, I check out who is wanting the old xyz item. Some repair shops take them and use what parts they can.

  • PRO
    Diana Bier Interiors, LLC

    I'm intrigued by your "burning" trash. Doesn't that pollute the air?

  • carol beachlady

    Many interesting comments - this area is a high end resort town and many of our homes are larger seasonal residences. Builders and designers think nothing of using imported stone and exotic woods, even though this area of the country is known for sustainable, managed forestry, and a good supply of reclaimed lumber. Think multiple spaces to cool and heat, multiple cars at each home. Drinking-quality water is used on golf courses, while the rest of us pay sky-high water bills for this. The small house concept has not caught on here and a "cottage" is usually over 2500 square feet. We have recently banned plastic shopping bags, but fewer than 1 in 10 shoppers bring their own bags. So, many many paper bags are headed for the dump. Not sure this solved anything except keeping some plastics out of our relatively unpolluted waterways. On the good side we have many thriving farmers' markets and abundant sustainable seafood.

  • celestina89

    @Diana Bier Interiors, LLC: Intrigued? Really? No different than cooking or an open camp fire - probably less since it burns maybe 5-10minutes at most - once every 3 months or so - about a half a trash bag. It's basically paper with sensitive information. Why so intriguing?

    Landfills are legal dump sites for pollution - as well as trash dumped in the ocean. Vehicles on the roads especially in traffic jams pollute the air more with chemicals. Manufacturers continue to use materials that cannot be recycled or burned. I should think you would be more "intrigued" about that than a small burn every 3 months or so. But, to each his/her own concerns......

  • PRO
    Final Seal Pros

    My company applies eco friendly, sanitary protective coatings that are non toxic and enhance any surface making it easier to clean, protecting it so it lasts longer. No more chemicals to clean

  • PRO
    Diana Bier Interiors, LLC

    celestina89--I am intrigued as no one burns trash where I live in New York State. Homeowners used to burn leaves and other trash until the state outlawed it. So that is why I questioned it--no judgement implied.

  • celestina89

    @Diana Bier Interiors, LLC: Yes, people do burn in the great state of New York. How do I know? I have some friends who live near Roxbury. And yes, they have a burn area. They don't burn leaves because burning leaves is wasteful. Mother nature makes leaves for composting - they provide food sources for not only trees and other plants nurturing the soils, but also homes for insects and other small critters during the winter months. When leaves are burned, there are chemical changes and a whole lot less nutrients for the soils. So yes, there is a state law against open burning but there is one big exception and several smaller ones according to my friends whom I last visited in the spring of 2018. Heck, they are so far out, they don't even have cell service! LOL

    In our area of SE Texas we do have burn bans because some people don't realize that drought and dry air make conditions that are unsuitable to any kind of burning, including personal trash or tree limbs, etc. So they pass laws about burning on less than 5 acres and during declared burn bans. I am rural and live ¼ mile away from the one public road that is in these parts and that road is 2 miles before you get to a country cross road that takes you to more heavily traffic areas which is 5 miles in one direction and 4 miles in the other. Out here, most folks are respectful of nature, even the hunters. No malice intended.

    Do you know a good portion of lower Manhattan, NY City is built on top of a landfill? At least they no longer dump into the ocean (I think), but do send most all out to other states. However, I have read in the past but don't know if it is still practiced, under to guise of building artificial reefs, some so-called non-toxic materials are dumped in the ocean. Maybe you can clarify what is dumped in the ocean.

    Without checking, I can understand if Cali also has a state wide burn ban and maybe CO and a few other western states, too.

  • ilovebungalows

    We just finished renovating a "fixer upper" in Dubois, WY. I know locals thought we were crazy to buy the place, but we felt it deserved to be saved as it was a historical "tie hack log" home. From when men cut railroad ties and floated them down the river during spring high water. Amazing men did that!! But it had fallen into disrepair and the property filled with old mattresses, car parts, and such...an eyesore to be sure. It was covered with asbestos tiles on the outside and aging dry wall on the inside. The lovely lady next door told us she contemplated buying it to have it bulldozed because she was tired of looking at it!!

    I admit it was a scary place until we exposed those log walls inside and out, they were amazing but too dark on the inside, so I whitewashed them. It was terrifying, but once I did one area and saw that it brought out all of the old circular saw marks, and other distressed marks, I was totally sold on the process! Whitewashing doesn't work on everything, but if you have a rough cut piece of wood it's an amazing thing! Many people who have seen these walls tell me they're going home to see if they have something they can whitewash!!

    We recycled so much of this home, while remembering it was a Wyoming home, and we wanted it to look like it belonged in Wyoming. It had an old barn on the property, built in the early 1940's, that we wanted to save, but it was just too far gone structurally. So we used the exterior boards and put them into the house in the form of sliding barn wood doors, door and window trim inside and out, and light fixtures. It was amazingly beautiful wood, many different colors depending upon which side it came off of, some more weathered than others. It required a good soapy scrubbing, and some oil to nourish the old wood, but sooo worth it. It was kind of funny because we left the barn standing, or I should say "listing," then every time we went to build a door, or trim out a window, we just walked out back and took off a few boards from the barn!!

    We gutted the house because it had to be completely re-wired, re-plumbed, and plumbed for propane. None of that could be reused, except for the copper in the wiring that was recycled. But we made up for it with the lovely beetle killed pine we used throughout. Our forests are being wiped out by insects, it's tragic to see the dead and dying trees in our forests become fuel for devastating forest fires.

    But at least Dubois has a small locally owned sawmill, and Frank Cole and his family quickly grasped what we wanted and provided us with beetle killed timber in the form of blue-pine boards for shiplap walls, and in thick, live-edge slabs which we built into a lovely kitchen island, and both bathroom vanities--from the same old gnarly tree they found for us! We couldn't have done what we did without them, and their willingness to find for us the unique pieces they did. They even brought us a blue-pine board with a bullet in it! Which we placed next to the Master Bath light switch...we're just sure it belonged to Butch Cassidy when he lived in the area! : )

    We took down a wall in the house to open the dining to the living room, it had been built of wide planks, so with them we built a sturdy double door for the barn, while it stood for 2 years, then after we had to finally give up the barn we took those doors and used them in the house. So they came from the house, were used on the barn, then came back into the house.

    Even the turquoise bench I made for out front is recycled, it was an old bed headboard! We also used an old oak bed headboard for a small countertop in the kitchen. Any doors in the house that weren't made from barnwood were bought at the Habitat for Humanity store in nearby Jackson Hole, WY. Including the French doors we added to the living room. Killed me to cut that big of a hole in that lovely log wall but I wanted the light. Then we used the log pieces elsewhere so they didn't go to waste.

    We added some beams, and there were original ones, nothing matched--so we simply recycled more old boards into facing all of the beams so they all worked together. Easy peasy!!

    We added the covered front porch because, well, I love porches and when I first saw the photos... it looked like a half-eaten gingerbread house to me. We put up rusty tin wainscotting on the porch, salvaged from a local metal guy who had it left from a roofing job. Old logs and rusty tin. Then we used what was left on the fireplace surround as well, barn wood and rusty tin. Made us happy campers for sure!

    We had an old door we had gotten from an old guest ranch in nearby Moran when they remodeled the lodge, I salvaged the door and we were able to use it as our front door on this house. After taking off umpteen coats of dark brown paint that is. I couldn't believe how beautiful that wood turned out, and the old brown paint that was too deep into the weathered wood to be removed... just made it more so.

    During the two years we worked on the house, we constantly had neighbors stop by to tell us how happy they were that we were helping the house...and their neighborhood. We always walked them through the house, and it was very gratifying to have their support, and enjoyment of the work we had put into the old girl.

    We recently put the house up for sale, that was hard, but she was always an investment to be reclaimed and sold. We're very proud of saving this old girl from being torn down, we think her recycled parts are the best parts of her. Certainly the most interesting!! Anyone who'd like to see more photos of her recycled transformation, she's listed for sale: 205 Mercantile, Dubois, Wyoming. Bert Milton Realty. There are a lot more photos on their website. I'd love to hear any comments. I'm always looking for better ways to do something.

  • PRO
    Diana Bier Interiors, LLC

    Wow, great job, ilovebungalows!!

  • PRO
    Diana Bier Interiors, LLC

    And to celestina, again, I live in a very close-in suburb to NYC, and no one burns trash, but I can't speak to the rest of this very large state! Whatever works and is legal is ok in my book!

  • celestina89

    @ilovebungalows: What a labor of love. Those boards came out beautifully. Is the insulation the wood itself or is it SAP between the outside boards and inside boards? You and your team did a wonderful job. Was wondering where the stove goes - I presume to the left of the sink counter top? Did you have a propane hookup for it or is it electric? I was also looking for that bullet hole but couldn't find it! I hope you sell it soon to a wonderful family who enjoys history. What a treat!

  • ilovebungalows

    Ms. Bier, Thanks for your comments, we appreciate it! Celestina89 Yes the kitchen range is to the left of the stainless counter top. It's plumbed for propane, unfortunately our area doesn't have access to natural gas. We had the stainless bent for our counter top in Jackson Hole, had to buy a whole sheet but what was left over we placed behind where we wanted the stove for easy cleaning.

    The logs are their own insulation, log homes in the west are very popular and there are a wide variety of styles and sizes. We just think the history of the "tie hack logs" in this area is wonderful. The main part of the house is all log but the previous owners had added a sun porch with traditional stick-built walls.

    We replaced the exterior on that with T1-11 wood siding on that addition so that the horizontal grooves would more closely resemble the original log part. I stained the wood to match the logs then painted the grooves so it would look more like the chinking of the log part of the house, and it did! Darn I wish you could have seen the bullet in the master bath by the light switch. I thought one of the photos from the Realty site had a view of that part of the room.

    We had a lot of fun with people coming through, seeing the bullet, and I'd ask them to guess what some of the light fixtures were made of. People loved my bedspring lights!! I was able to really let my imagination roll with fun!! Thanks for your interest!

  • shea42
    Diana Bier, just open burning is not environmentally friendly and hell on neighbors using a clothesline. However high-efficiency incinerators that generate electricity in the burning process is what should be used in most countries. They are 99% clean burning. Saw a documentary on a Northern European country, forgive me, I can't recall which one, but it worked so well, it had to import garbage from its neighbors to keep the units supplied with fuel. A great solution for products where recycling creates more waste than disposing of the product in the first place.

    Also a word on tankless hot water heaters...they should all come with a small 8 litre booster tank because the length of time it takes to get hot water, even just a short distance, wastes so much water it negates their efficiency, especially since we pay per litre of water used.
  • Sheila Smith

    While not commonly recognized as a major threat to environmental sustainability, water scarcity is actually one of the more significant and immediate concerns that will affect our lifestyles directly, especially in the western U.S. Learn more:





  • ilovebungalows

    I agree about the water issues facing our country. 50 years ago I was growing up in rural California where my aunt and uncle were ahead of their time. They practiced water conservation before I remember even hearing about it.. I can remember the gray water being routed here and there, and used to water all of the bushes and trees around the house.

    My grandmother said every farm they moved to, the first thing they would do is put in a shallow ditch for the gray water from the wringer washer that was destined to be a fixture on the open back porch. With a large, hard working family of farmers to wash for, that washer was used a lot and that water would be routed here and there to water the yard and beyond. My grandmother especially loved hollyhocks and would plant them, along the gray water ditch, at every place they lived.

    I don't know how many of you have ever been around the old wringer washers but they were the epitome of water conservation as they used the same water for several batches of clothes, the rinse water as well. Then it went out and gave life to bushes and trees. They never wasted water on lawns.

    Consequently I learned water conservation by example. So when we worked on our fixer-upper in Dubois, WY recently, one of the things I did was to remove the scraggly grass. And cover the whole area in a gravel compound that packs down and makes a lovey outdoor space. No more mud!! i planted water-hardy bushes of Russian Sage, which were all recycled so to speak, as they came from a property where the owners tore them out and threw them into a pile with broken concrete and other debris.

    I found out where they had dumped them and managed to dig many broken pieces out from under the rubble. I wasn't sure if they'd survive, because they'd been laying in that pile, roots exposed or mangled, for 3 days before I found them. But with a great deal of TLC they survived, grew, and even bloomed!!

    My poor husband took one look and asked me why I was planting ugly sticks?. But he was the first to brag on them, tough little things, as they put out leaves and bloomed. You never know unless you try!

    Every other plant I used was given to me from friends who were sometimes giving me back cuttings off of the very plants I had given them years before!! Which I love, the circle of life. Pretty cool. One friend gave me Hollyhocks, I think of grandma June every time I look out the new French Doors, at the back fence where I planted them. She would love that. Continuity.

    Since the place is for sale I'm really hoping someone will appreciate what we did, the conservation and recycling that is such a part of the place, inside and out, and want to carry on with what we began.

  • Sean Rice

    Geothermal heating and cooling!

  • celestina89

    This is what it takes if you want an incinerator to burn your trash and produce electricity.

    P.S. Don't forget to bring your marshmallows and graham crackers! :)

  • Lizzy L.

    I thought this would be a good place to air my grievance about plastic bags. I have seen people in the produce section of the grocery store use way too many. For instance, they put 1 apple or 1 onion in a bag, or a bunch of bananas, or something that's already bagged into another bag. Then when checking out, they use more plastic bags. My environmental fear is that after putting away their groceries at home, they throw all those bags away. I guess this all comes down to a grievance about one-time plastic bag usage. I wish they were banned everywhere.

    Also, McMansions are atrocious and buying/eating meat from factory farms. Even better would be to go vegetarian, as I have been since 1984.

  • Toronto Veterinarian

    " I wish they were banned everywhere. "

    Banning them is no answer until we come up with something better to replace what plastic bags are used for. There's a reason we don't use cracker barrels any more, and a reason we line garbage cans with plastic bags - going back to older systems usually won't work in today's world. Things and people simply aren't what they used to be, and trying to force them to be won't work. (Of course, you can make whatever personal moves you like, but I'm talking about affecting change in others). Progress is relentless and will never stop, so better to find a way to work with it than wish it weren't there (or, worse, trying to prevent it). An educational campaign on the smart use and reuse (and recycling) of plastics will do better and go further than simply banning something that has good use when used appropriately (like plastic).

  • PRO
    Diana Bier Interiors, LLC

    You make a very good point, Toronto Vet. The problem with recycling is that there is currently no market for recycling plastics. It's very expensive, and many municipalities are abandoning it due to the cost. In addition, China, which was a big buyer of our garbage and recyclables in the past, no longer wants them. So where do they go? Perhaps the solution is a different type of material that has the benefits of plastic, but is more easily re-used and recycled at the point of use? Something for the chemical engineers to think about?

  • Toronto Veterinarian

    " The problem with recycling is that there is currently no market for recycling plastics. "

    Actually,. the market for selling recycled plastics is growing (more for some types of plastic than others), but I agree it isn't a cheap endeavor to recycle. That's all the more reason to push for actually investing in the recycling of it, and not brushing it off as a waste of money......One of the major issues is that recycling plastic generally does make money (i.e. cost of selling the plastic is greater than the costs of collecting and recycling), but because that money isn't all spent and saved in the same place, people lose sight of the bigger picture.

    Edited to add: here's an example (from a university study) of how the costs and benefits work against it, not because it's an effort that wastes money, but because the benefits often don't go to the people who paid the (financial) cost: " In the majority of instances, municipalities are responsible for delivering recycling services to residents – they incur the costs associated with material management. These costs may be recovered through property taxes, extended producer responsibility schemes, or some combination thereof. However, the benefits of recycling – reduced emissions, job creation etc., are generally accrued by parties external of the municipality. "

  • celestina89

    They replaced paper & cloth bags years ago (1979), so manufacturers went to plastic bags. Reason being was waste of trees (resources). :)

    And yes, one person can effect changes of others - albeit one at a time is not changing the masses, but it starts somewhere. Even grocery stores are beginning to make changes. They offer reusable bags for example. They take in plastic bags to be recycled, They offer a discount on your total grocery tab if you bring your own reusable bag. Another grocery store uses compostable bags for fruits and veggies. California in August 2014 became the first state to have a statewide ban on plastic bags at large retail stores along with a small charge for recycled paper bags, plastic bags and compostable bags. (they weren't free to begin with). Not sure how their law exactly reads but one can look it up easily enough. Hawaii has also followed suit. Kroger is working to stop using plastic bags by 2025. France started banning plastic bags in 2014 and produce bags in 2017. And individual cities and other countries are also banning plastic bags including Australia, UK, Kenya, India, China, Italy, etc.

    I give reusable tote bags to everyone during the Christmas holidays or birthdays. All are now using them at various stores and love the bags. They are heirloom type and will not decay in a lifetime and have many, many uses. The company I buy them from is called RedOxx of Montana. They are owned by Vets. I also have several of their luggage pieces and accessories which have come in handy for me. I use their tote bags (size of the original years ago paper bags) for anything and everything. I keep them in my truck, ready to grab when I need a bag.

  • Wm. C. Wmson

    Red interior walls are not ECO or visually friendly. High blood pressure in and outward bound in a hurry Thank You !!!!

  • havingfun

    I am beginning to think on even smaller scales i think. maybe attacking one or 2 things, everything has to be of recycle material. period. all medicine bottles and caps must fit each other and be the same. same with soda bottles and cans and provide small amounts as payment for collection. many poor families used to survive this way. straws recycle and we grind them at tthe garbage can.

  • Sunny

    We have low flow toilets in our home and love them!

  • felizlady
    In a water-deprived place like the Pacific Southwest, low water toilets are extremely important. And a low-water that actually works in one flush is very important. As we remodeled or replaced toilets, we chose Toto toilets for minimal but functional low-water usage. No regrets. They cost more to begin with but save you in water expense.
  • celestina89

    Several states have enacted to limit gpf for toilets, urinals, bath faucet, kitch faucet and showers. Those what sets max flow rates for toilets to 1.28 are CA, CO, GA, TX, Several are at 1.34 gif and the average is 1.6. No, you won't get a ticket or fine, but it allows companies to sell, offer, distributed or import to that state. Some have changed their building code to require installation of high efficiency plumbing fixtures in new construction or renovation. Some include commercial and industrial. Look for the WaterSense tag on the toilet or other water use fixtures when shopping.

    Several companies test and rate these water-saving toilets. American Standard, Delta, Kohler and Toto are all rated high along with Caroma of Australia as b being the top sellers. Overall after looking at 5 different reviews including Consumer Reports and The Toilet Throne as well as places that sell the fixture, in no particular order, Kohler, American Standard, Delta and Toto are all ranked the best low flow 1.26 WaterSense compliant toilets in 2018. American Standard, Kohler and Toto are the top sellers in the US.

  • TBL from MA

    I would opt for flooring with no offgassing. Pie in the sky would be post mounted giant solar panel that tracks the sun.

  • coppertops

    Radiant floor heat.

  • Amber Webb
    tankless water heaters are my vote, but my second choice is LED bulbs. I do not like CFLs and they are not good for the environment because they contain Mercury.
  • Janis Doucette

    Celestina89, not all burning of leaves is wasteful. I do compost but not aggressive non-native plant parts - those need to be burned or they will survive in a compost pile and live to threaten the biodiversity of our region.

  • celestina89

    @Janis Doucette: Yes, that is true. I think of natural forest fires started by nature's lightning and mankind. Anyway, burning replenishes the forests. In fact, forest fires are a part of the ecosystem as it goes through dry underbrush. It clears a lot of thickets so sun can beam onto the forest floor. This begins a cycle of growth of native plants. Not all trees burn to the ground, even in raging fires. The fire tends to move fast. It's part of the natural cycle (excluding mankind causing the fires).

    Did you know that trees in fire areas such as Colorado and California amoung others have thicker back to protect them. Take a good look the next time you are hiking amoung the trees. Adapted or non-native species are generally killed by forest fires. Many native plants re-sprout from fire due to extensive roots. The buds are protected under ground. Nutrients stored in the root system allows for rapid re-growth and sprouting. Certain cones holding mature seeds only come to life when a fire goes through the woods. The fire melts the resins surrounding the cones and they open up, drop seeds. Pines are a great example of these traits.

    How your non-native plants reproduce depend on if it's through their leaves or not. If so, then yes, composting the leaves (colonization) doesn't help the native ecosystem.. Just make sure burning doesn't trigger regrowth, particularly if you burn the plant.. After a forest fire - the ash of all the undergrowth becomes nutrients for the survivors.

    Best way to get rid of invasive plants is to know their weaknesses. Every plant has it. It could be shade intolerant or perhaps require acidic soil of a certain type. Alter those and you destroy the plant, naturally. Some can be controlled by pruning or cutting, then immediately plant native plants that are fast growing (aggressive) to take over. There are many ways to attack the invaders. But then you probably are already aware. :)

  • Lisa Tramontana

    My "other" would be adding solar panels...

  • Diane Chen

    I would also include a eco-friendly kitchen cabinet in my home. I found one in the Bay area, Alice Cabinetry which is Green Guard Gold, using water based finishes.

  • PRO
    Wacheke Eco Fold Studios
    going green life is a call to action to all, a be to action for all and a drive to action by all....we are all called upon to commit to sustainable standards and Change in lifestyle....
  • poppiepink
    Tankless Hot Water heater!! its the best thing ever.. have you ever seen the gunk buildup in the bottom of a tank water heater? disgusting!!
  • l pinkmountain

    I actually did some research on this, and of course energy consumption has the biggest human negative impact on the planet overall. And yet is is essential for life, so the best thing you can do is plan your life around efficient energy use. The largest uses of energy in the US are transportation, agriculture and heating and cooling.

    It starts with living close to work and shopping and other community needs. Living in communities that have viable bike paths and public transportation. Buying cars with high gas mileage when it is time for you to get a new vehicle. Make your old one last as long as possible.

    Create viable local food pathways by developing farm markets and becoming patrons of local farmers. Grow and preserve some of your own food in a small garden or edible landscaping if you have the time. Don't eat a lot of out of season foods that have to be shipped long distances. Work on the waste stream coming out of your kitchen and minimize it. Find the right sized appliances for your tasks. There are many approaches to saving energy with appliances, including repairing the one you have, and using it judiciously.

    When it come to heating your home, pick an efficient system. The most efficient heat is radiant, not forced air. There are lots of options. Then, keep the heat in and only heat areas of your house you are using. Zoned heat is very helpful. Insulation helps with heat and cooling. Landscape your home to maximize the effects of natural shade. Keep blinds drawn during the heat of the day so insulated windows are very important. Many ways to achieve that. Pick the way that uses the least resources to achieve.

    Lots of retrofits to help with water use and heating. Grey water can be saved and used. (water from dish cleaning, showering and laundry, as opposed to flushing). You can install rain barrels to help with watering the garden. In some places even an old cistern would be great. Minimize paved surfaces in your home and yard and use rain gardens and other natural landscaping to absorb water and save water. Plant native plants and minimize use of petro-chemicals on lawns.

    We are terribly wasteful in the way we build, repair and tear down homes. So many things if carefully salvaged could be reused. But no one wants to pay anyone to take the time. Plus we have limited distribution systems for used stuff. Many cities are creating used building supply distribution centers though, I have been to a few.

    None of this is hard to do, and a lot of it is quite fun. I have done some version of most of it. I feel I have good quality of life and we are not super well-off either.

  • celestina89

    I pinkmountain: Excellent post and so true. If one person does one thing to save energy consumption, and other one does one thing and another and another, it's amazing as to how much humans can do to create a positive world rather than a negative one.

    The only thing I would add to your comments is regarding gray water. One can water their garden with gray water, but would you eat vegetables and fruits that contain chemicals? Of course, not. So if you do use gray water, make sure the sources are clean. Instead of using soaps, hair conditioners, dishwasher items and cleaners that contain chemicals, check the labels for ingredients. If they don't have one, then look online. Change up your soaps, detergents and cleaners that you use that go down the drains of the bath, sinks, showers, dishwashers. Use products that do the job, yet won't accumulate poisons in the soils for plants and fish to utilize. For example, I no longer use the laundry detergents and softeners that you see on the grocery shelves. I use castile soap, borax and distilled white vinegar (rinse cycle - for conditioner). In the dryer, I dry only to "damp" and use wool balls instead of "dryer sheets". All my clothes and horse laundry come out clean, smell fresh and with no static. I do pretreat when necessary. As to dirt, well, working on a ranch does get my clothes a mite dirty and smelly - more so than typical daily wear whether to the office or casual or date nite.

  • l pinkmountain

    Yeah, that's another thing I do, try to use the least toxic cleaning compounds possible. I was just trying to stick to home design. I don't have a greywater watering or storage system, but I do use rain barrels. We are retrofitting our home a little bit at a time to be more sustainable. The rain barrels save our well pump a bit too. I get most of my produce from nearby farms, I don't really have a good space to grow much in my yard but I am also gradually working on some edible landscaping. But I'm lucky to live near a lot of produce farms.

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