What Makes a Home Eco Friendly

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So you wanna reduce your global footprint and learn more about eco friendly home? Excellent! Not only is your decision great for the environment, it can reduce your monthly expenses and be great for your wallet.

Taking the steps to live more eco friendly is easy if you know where to start. Let’s begin with some background on this catchy “eco” term.

What the Heck is Eco?

Is eco short for environment or economics? Nope. In fact, eco is short for ecology which is the science of studying the earth and environment. Since ecologists have been pushing for a “greener” environment, the term eco caught on and now is used for the whole green movement. Not to mention the Green Party was once named the Ecology Party.

What Makes a Home Eco Friendly Photo credit: PhoTones_TAKUMA

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on.

What Makes an Eco Home?

I’ve got two words for you: energy and waste. Reduce these and you’ve got yourself an eco home. It’s that simple… well, sort of…While the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has developed the Green Building Rating System™, in general eco homeowners use the following:

  • Solar energy
  • Recycled materials (like Environmentally Friendly Green Furniture)
  • Natural light and/or high-efficiency lighting
  • Rooftop gardens (helps with insulation and water runoff)
  • Rain water tanks
  • Non-deforested woods or other materials all together
  • The sun for natural heating
  • Double paned windows and glass doors
  • Fully insulating roofs and walls
  • Dimmer switches for lights
  • Ceiling fans
  • Water heaters wrapped in insulated blankets or tankless water heaters
  • Vegetable gardens
  • Compost
  • Recycling programs
  • And anything that doesn’t create waste or use more energy

Can I Convert My Home to an Eco Friendly Home?

Absolutely! And applaud yourself for taking the next step to a more sustainable future. Most people think that eco friendly homes are built from scratch.

However, that breaks the whole concept of eco-friendly, reducing waste and energy. You can recycle your home into an eco home.

Start Small

Making the eco change doesn’t have to be a major construction project. You can start making these small changes today.

  • Unplug appliances when not in use
  • Air dry sheets on outdoor clothes lines
  • Air dry dishes
  • Change your light bulbs to high-efficiency lighting (CFLs and LEDs are the most popular, but ask a local hardware rep what’s best for you)
  • Buy an insulated blanket for your water heater
  • Visit a weekend garage sale instead of going to Bed Bath and Beyond
  • Start a vegetable garden
  • Start using a compost system (you can buy compost systems out-of-the-box or use recycled wood materials to build your own)
  • Recycle (if your neighborhood doesn’t have a program, contact your local waste management company to get more information)

Think Big When going Eco Friendly

Once you’ve made all the small adjustments around your home, you can start to plan some of the bigger projects.

  • Have solar energy panels installed (you get a huge tax break and will save bundles on your monthly electric bill)
  • Build a rooftop garden (if you have a flat roof, start a rooftop garden to insulate your home, reduce rain runoff, and provide fruits and vegetables)
  • Install rain water tanks to use for the garden or in-home
  • Install roof windows for added natural light
  • Replace old window and glass doors with double paned options to help with insulation
  • Fully insulate roofs and walls
  • Install light dimmer switches and ceiling fans

Going eco doesn’t have to be an overwhelming project. It’s really your day-to-day choices that make the biggest impact. Remember being eco is simply a matter of reducing your energy and waste. With every decision you make, consider if you’ll be consuming or reducing. Have you made any eco friendly home improvements? If so, share a comment below.

Darcie Connell is the co-founder of Trekity.com (a new travel site) and TravelBloggerAcademy.com (an info site for travel bloggers). She’s an eco-traveler who consistently tries to minimize her global footprint. Follow her on Twitter.

For more information on Environmentally Friendly and Eco living:

Environmentally Friendly Green Furniture
How to Make Your Life More Environmentally Friendly
Green Spring Cleaning Checklist: 8 Tips for Your Home
5 Green Laundry Tips to Save Energy and Money
Best Green and Organic Laundry Detergent

Greensburg Kansas Lives Up To Its Name

It’s not exactly a name that trips off every traveler’s tongue, but if you ever find yourself in Kansas, then make sure you take a detour to Greensburg. This is a town that overcame disaster to become one of the greenest communities in the United States. The story of Greensburg Kansas is an inspiration, and a lesson about how green technology can transform the face of a community.

The town of Greensburg lies about 300 miles west of Kansas City – if you pick up a Kansas City limo service, it’s about a four-hour drive, although it’s only about a two-hour trip if you are coming from Wichita. Back in May 2007, the town was struck by an EF5 tornado, which resulted in one of the worst natural disasters in the history of Kansas.

The town was completely leveled – 95% of the town was totally destroyed, and the rest experienced severe damage. Unfortunately, 13 people also met their deaths in the tornado, creating a true human tragedy.

Greensburg Kansas Lives Up To Its Name
Greensburg Kansas Lives Up To Its Name

Most communities faced with such utter devastation would never recover – but the resourceful people of Greensburg took a different route.

Despite the appalling damage to the town, they resolved to turn this tragedy into an inspiring story of rebirth – they set about turning a rebuilt Greensburg into one of the greenest towns in North America, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

So you can understand the enormity of the problem that the community was facing, the EF5 tornado that hit Greensburg was 1.7 miles wide – more than the size of the entire town.

The winds were a searing 205 miles an hour, ripping houses off their foundations and leaving nothing but a trail of matchsticks behind.

Greensburg Kansas

Greensburg’s 1400 shocked and weary residents were reduced to living out of tents, and to receiving medical care out of makeshift trailers. Yet, despite this dire situation, the town council decided that they were going to rebuild the town as a model of sustainability – every city building would be constructed to meet LEED platinum standards.

It took 12 weeks for the city council to come up with a viable recovery plan. Part of the reason for their decision to invest the emergency recovery funds that they received into rebuilding a more sustainable plan was that the town had already been in decline prior to the disaster, with young people abandoning the town in large numbers.

The concern was that unless they did something to reverse the trend, Greensburg was going to die anyway. The council decided that the best way of putting Greensburg back on the map and returning it to its former prosperity was to invest in a sustainable future that would attract new residents.

Not only did the council decree that all the city buildings had to comply with LEED standards, they also encouraged homeowners to reconstruct their homes to high environmental standards as well – with the goal of creating the world’s first planned eco-town.

Homeowners lined up behind this initiative, both out of a sense of town pride, as well as for the opportunity to make significant savings on things such as utility costs.

The town residents spent more than two years living in emergency trailers provided by FEMA, but by the end of this time, the community started to return to normal. Families started to move into their new eco-friendly homes, and even residents who decided the only option was to leave Greensburg after the tornado decided that it was time to return to the reborn town. An even stronger sense of community started to emerge, along with a revitalized economy and a thriving downtown core.

Greensburg Kansas tornado
Greensburg Kansas tornado

The town has continued to maintain its commitment to eco-friendly practices since that time. For instance, it has constructed a wind farm to provide green energy to the town, and has replaced the conventional streetlights that went up after the tornado with energy-efficient LED illuminations.

The town also launched its Chain of Eco-Homes project back in 2009, putting in place a series of demonstration eco-homes, with the goal of creating laboratories for evaluating energy efficiency features, building techniques and green products.

In large part, this was in response to the massive number of inquiries it received from visitors about the energy-efficient homes in the town – in fact, the town is now planning to offer green accommodations to visitors in these new eco-homes that are part of the project. The first home was completed in 2010, and more are in the works.