Welcome to the year of big inventions, big style, and big changes in the way we see green living. Gone are the days of sacrificing comfort for conscience or style for scruples. Here are five ways to revamp your home and lifestyle to be more environmentally friendly without losing your flair in 2016.
Geo-solar isn’t the newest technology on the block, but it’s certainly the most exhaustive. As the most renewable source of energy on or off the planet, you have countless options when it comes to solar. Start small with a solar water heater. More consumers are choosing to upgrade to these high-efficiency, planet-friendly systems in order save money and reduce their carbon footprint. Once you’re ready to truly harvest the power of the sun, solar PV power systems are still a hot way to combat depleting natural resources and adding to planet pollution, and they’re more affordable than ever in 2016. The federal government has extended big tax breaks for solar PV system installation through December 31, and many states offer their own rebates and tax credits. Even if you’re not the only home on the block with a crown of gleaming solar panels, you’ll certainly get noticed.
Your countertops add instant pizzazz to the heart of your home. Traditional marble and granite might be durable, but true sophistication comes from knowing you’ve got style and a heart for sustainable materials.—something we’re passionate about here at Modernize. The quarrying of natural stones like marble and granite requires massive amounts of high-energy equipment, and the finished products often contain minute fissures that are filled with potentially toxic polyresins. If you can’t live without them, however, look for a contractor who uses reclaimed pieces from previous remodels or seek out the material yourself from a Habitat for Humanity store or other building material salvage yard. Current trends in post-consumer countertop manufacturing have made available what used to be for only the most serious DIYers. Recycled glass and paper composite options keep waste out of landfills and add character to your kitchen. For cooks who who prefer less clutter, you can even have bamboo or marble cutting slabs built right in. Form, function, and more than a little bit of soul.
Add style to your storage by upcycling glass jars and bottles from your very own pantry. Traditional recycling methods—while better than nothing—are still high-energy ventures that produce a carbon footprint of their own. By reclaiming and reusing, you can reduce that environmental impact and put a personal touch your home. If your family has a knack for crafts, mix a bit of Elmer’s glue with a few drops of food coloring, grab a brush, and add instant seaglass effect to any glass surface.
Home color trends come and go—bye-bye, 1960s—but if you’re the adventurous type who likes to take a leap and rock the current trends, this color season holds plenty of options. From transcendent white to indecisive greige and every pop of baby blue, seafoam green, and cherry blossom, 2016 is the year of making it your own. For true devotees of chic, explore this year’s love for two-tone cabinetry.
Whatever your shade preference, stick with zero VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, now available at virtually any home improvement retailer. Because VOCs in paint are emitted at low levels over long periods of time, it’s difficult to measure what the exact damage to your your family’s health could be using traditional toxin-filled paints. When upgrading to low or zero VOC paints, you can either paint over the existing color, creating a barrier to eliminate most of the vapor emission, or you can sand down your walls to the original sheetrock.
Take precautions, though. Early to mid-century builds may still have lead paint under newer layers, so make sure that you wear proper safety gear, or if you’re having a contractor paint, leave the home while they’re working.
If reclaiming textiles isn’t your thing, alternative fabrics are an eco-conscious choice that’s better for the global environment, and they’re better for your home and family, too. Organically grown sustainable fabrics are free of the pesticides and chemicals that plague traditional textiles, and they’re often more durable. Organic cotton, bamboo, and hemp are all more in fashion in 2016—which means they’re easier than ever on your pocketbook, too. Another hot trend this year is to bring traditionally outdoor fabrics inside, so if you’re looking for a tough fabric that’s easier on the earth, opt for a tougher hemp or recycled fibre upholstery in your family room or children’s playroom.
Whatever your brand of chic, this year, the most fashionable decision you can make is being planet-friendly, and you don’t have to sacrifice style to wear that well.