Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Green-ing" Your Home

I suppose the word "Green" is the most famous buzz word of the past 5 years.  Green your home.  Green your new building.  Green your cleaning products.  We have been inundated with the term, so much so, that people outside of the building profession are familiar with the trend.  I know that I have heard it a billion times in the last five years, and while some trends may be just a money making scheme, there are some real merits to making our living spaces more eco-friendly and sustainable. 

Building and being "green" sometimes involve a tricky conundrum - sometimes something very sustainable is the exact opposite of eco-friendly.. take vinyl siding and windows for example.  Their manufacturing process is AWFUL for the enviornment - it's a petrolium based product, which is a finite natural material - but vinyl siding and windows are extremly low, borderline no, maintenance and will last in any installation for well over 50 years.  So which is the better side of this coin, the fact that vinyl sustainable and low mainenance, or the fact that other products are more eco-friendly and use renewable resources?  I guess that's part of the on-going question and really needs to be looked at on a case by case basis.

I am a LEED AP, so I know a few things about making a building green vs. making a building sustainable.  I know a little about what can make the environment happy, and what can just be bought by spending more money... but regardless, taking care of our planet should be in each of our list of top priorities, so I'd like to add a Eco-Friendly Section to this webpage, as well as address ways to make your home more eco friendly.

I will try to stay away from the popular buzz words, but I do think that there are little changes that we can make to make a difference.

One thing that came to mind when going through old emails the other day, was the use of bamboo.  The particular email was from Crate&Barrel, showcasing some of their bamboo accessories (which I will show some of) but there are lots of ways to use bamboo in your home.

Bamboo is a VERY renewable resource.  It has less than a 10-year regrowth cycle.  In fact it can be harvested every 2-5 years.  And there are dozens of ways to use it in your home.

Accessories (as promised from Crate&Barrel)
Bamboo Wastecan, Scale & Hamper from Crate&Barrel

Cabinets:  Bamboo is being used for making cabinets - kitchen and bathroom cabinets.  They are lightweight, sleek and can be stained in just about any color.  They generally have about the same life span of any other wood cabinet.  There is an expressed bamboo "grain" that is a little unlike regular wood that you can see in the photo below:

Photo Credit: Link
Flooring:  Oringinally when you thought of bamboo flooring you thought of the light wood color, lighter than birch almost, however, now they make bamboo flooring in a variety of colors and stains.  There is some debate on whether the product will hold up to wear as well as other wood materials, but because it's such a new material, I think the jury is still out on this one.
Photo Credit: Link

Photo Credit: Link
Sinks:  I found a couple of different places selling bamboo sinks!  To me it looks a little like a salad bowl, but it's beautiful & could be perfect for your sleek bathroom installation.

Photo Credit: Link

Other Miscellaneous Uses:  Clothing and textiles (bedding, towels, clothes, etc);  alcohol; paint brushes, bicycles, cutting boards, fencing, countertops, kitchen accessories, furniture, and hundreds of other items.  We personally have a bamboo cutting board, baskets & have looked into purchasing bamboo sheets - they are incredibly soft!

Now, there is some controversy with the product, like I mentioned before, there is a conundrum.  While this is a very rapidly renewable product, it does have issues.  Bamboo is not as much of a locally grown product as we would like.  There are a lot of labor, transport & subsequent fuel costs involved in bamboo products, especially flooring.  There are very few, if any recycled materials in the bamboo products that you purchase.  Due to area and low labor costs, most bamboo is grown and harvested in China, where there are social issues involved.  Bamboo harvesting can be devistating to the land itself - where short term planing can cause erosion of the nearby soil.  The plant is also considered somewhat of a "weed" branching off and spreading wildly, which becomes an issue when planted near forests, where it has been taking over.

However there are other positives.  The growing of bamboo does not require pesticides, and is considered organic.  For most products there is a long life cycle on the material.  The material is lightweight and does add a lot of weight to your current structure.

For me, using bamboo is one of those things that I can see being a postivie, where less of our old growth forest are being harvested, less of the large trees are being taken down, which to me is more devistating than transport issues.  But you can make your own call.  I vote thumbs up for bamboo.

How have you used bamboo in your daily life?

1 comment:

  1. Go Green...
    This is the slogan for curent age, this is eco-friendly and good for living organisms.
    cork tile flooring