According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the world population is expanding at a mind-boggling rate. The world reached 1 billion people in 1800; 2 billion by 1922; and over 6 billion by 2000. It is estimated that the population will swell to over 9 billion by 2050. That means that if the world’s natural resources were evenly distributed, people in 2050 will only have 25% of the resources per capita that people in 1950 had.
The world has a fixed amount of natural resources - some of which are already depleted. So as population growth greatly strains our finite resources, there are fewer resources available. If we intend to leave our children and grandchildren with the same standard of living we have enjoyed, we must preserve the foundation of that standard of living. We save for college educations, orthodontia, and weddings, but what about saving clean air, water, fuel sources and soil for future generations?
Some of the greatest threats to future resources come from things we throw away everyday. Household batteries and electronics often contain dangerous chemicals that may, if sent to a local landfill, leak through the bottom barrier and pollute the groundwater. This can contaminate everything from the soil in which our food grows, to the water which will eventually come out of aquifers and into our tap water. Many of these chemicals cannot be removed from the drinking water supply, nor from the crops that are harvested from contaminated fields. The risks to human health are tremendous.
Throwing away items that could be recycled diminishes energy, water and natural resources that could be saved by recycling.
Did you know...
üFor every ton of paper that is recycled, the following is saved: 7,000 gallons of water; 380 gallons of oil; and enough electricity to power an average house for six months.
üYou can run a TV for six hours on the amount of electricity that is saved by recycling one aluminum can.
üBy recycling just one glass bottle, you save enough electricity to power a 100-watt bulb for four hours.
The more we throw away, the more space we take up in landfills. When a landfill becomes a “landfull”, taxpayers have to build a new one. The less we throw away, the longer our landfills will last. The amount of taxpayer money we save by extending the longevity of our landfills is an important community benefit.
New construction and remodeling the “green” way means using methods and choosing materials that have a smaller impact on the environment. Green homes use more materials from natural and recycled sources and they use fewer resources such as energy and water by being more efficient. A green home is healthier for its inhabitants and less wasteful and polluting for the land, water, and air around it. By 2010, some 50% of all builders in the U.S. plan to produce at least some homes with green methods and materials.
Green Building Materials
As with new construction, use recycled materials and those with low VOCs. Check to see if demolition waste such as concrete, carpet, plastic, pipe, drywall, metals, brick, paper, cardboard, and yard clippings can be recycled in your area. Build a deck from the lumber of a demolition building, old railroad trestles, or harvested trees from an urban area. Use a deck surface that does not need to be stained, such as plastic lumber. Plastic lumber cannot bear heavy loads as well as wood and may need steel reinforcement, but it will degrade slower and last longer without the use of a stain.
Consider the following materials in all new construction and remodeling: UseMaterial LumberFSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified FlooringBamboo or cork Flooring and countersRefurbished tiles or stone Decking and fencesPlastic lumber RoofingRecycled shingles PaintRecycled paint Carpet and paddingRecycled and low VOC AppliancesEnergy Star certified
Economics of Green Building
Implementing green products and practices reduces operating costs, and have a clear economic advantage after calculating the overall cost of construction, use of tax rebates and other incentives, installation, operation, maintenance, repair, replacement and disposal over the life of a residence. Sustainable materials and systems are becoming more affordable because demand is increasing by builders and occupants. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) indicates that if the up-front costs are significantly higher, then it is most likely due to inexperienced builders, architects, and other industry professionals who are uninformed about how to cost-effectively design and construct green homes.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, the average home spends about $1900 annually on energy bills. Half of this energy use is due to heating and cooling.
üA well-insulated home with energy-efficient equipment that is properly sized and installed and maintained correctly could further reduce heating and cooling costs 20-40% annually.
üPeople who live in green homes use 50% less water than standard homes.
üHome insurance in the future will most likely be less for green homes as compared to standard housing. A precedent has been set by the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company which already offers a 5% discount for LEED certified commercial buildings.
üThe value of green homes is greater than comparable homes on the market. In Rocklin, CA, a 144-home development, which has every home LEED-certified, outsold competitors 2 to 1.
üWith improved health, there are fewer visits to the doctor.
üMore durable materials are used in green building, thus requiring fewer repairs.
Beyond the health and environmental benefits of living in a green home, many local and state governments, utility companies and other entities across the country offer rebates, tax breaks and other incentives for adding eco-friendly elements to your life. Following are just a few of the many resources to help you find those incentives in your area.
üFind local incentives for building LEED buildings, including homes, at this searchable database.
üThrough the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the U.S. government offers several tax breaks and incentives for efficiency upgrades to homes.
üDSIRE, the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, connects you to local, state, federal and utility incentives available for switching to renewable or efficient energy use. It is a nonprofit project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through the North Carolina Solar Center and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.
üThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency links to many of the sources of funding for green building that are available nationally and at the state and local levels for homeowners, industry, government organizations and nonprofits in the form of grants, tax credits, loans and other sources.