Ecological homes have been growing in popularity in the past few years. And there’s a good reason for it. We see our world in disarray—we are weathering a global pandemic and witnessing drastic changes in our climate. We all want to be part of the solution, and home is a good place to start.
I always wanted to build a new Eco-home but never had the financial fortitude to erect such a structure from scratch. I purchased a small “cabin” in the woods after the great 1989 Earthquake in Santa Cruz, CA. Over the years, I added additional space that included ecological attributes.
Whether you are building a new home, adding square footage, or you just want to create a more earth-friendly environment, I have a few tips to help you create your Eco-Friendly home base:
Consider your building materials.
One of the most common characteristics of eco homes is that they tend to be constructed as far as possible of natural materials.
Tapping into recycled building materials is a great way to ensure that you’re building in an eco-friendly way. There’s a vast array of recycled materials, including steel, drywall, plastic, glass, and rubber. By choosing recycled, you are keeping waste out of the landfills.
Don’t get stumped by rare wood species that contribute to deforestation.
Instead, consider bamboo as an option for your floors. It’s beautiful and even more durable than many wood species. Bamboo is a fast-growing grass that matures in 5-7 years, making it a very sustainable option.
Another sustainable option is cork flooring. It’s soft to the touch, making it luscious to walk on; yet, it’s quite durable. Cork is fire-resistant and resistant to mold, mildew, and termites.
Using reclaimed wood is another way to prevent deforestation. The seasoned wood from old barns and buildings creates an aged rich ambiance that never gets old.
I know it’s corny, but you could consider a cob.
Cob houses have been built in the south of England and Wales and northern France for hundreds of years. Many of these beautiful homes have stood the time of five hundred years. Cob construction is mainly just compressed mud and straw.
These hand-hewn homes actually breathe; they store carbon and solar heat, and if done right, can be sculpted into some amazing shapes. They are fire and earthquake-resistant, energy-efficient and don’t require expensive building materials.
I stayed in a friend’s cob house in the Sierra mountains, and it certainly was a sacred space, handcrafted of straw, rock, wood and earthen plasters.
Make a power move and conserve energy.
Another hugely central and relevant facet of an Eco-home is that it tends to conserve energy very well. An Eco-home is well-insulated to conserve energy.
Insulating your windows with curtains or shades is a simple way to keep the heat and cold where you want it when you want it, and the investment will pay for itself over time.
Consider using wool for insulation instead of toxic options like fiberglass or sprayed polyurethane foam.
Wool insulation may cost a wee bit more, but it supports sheep farmers and is a 100% natural product that takes a fraction of the energy to produce than its toxic counterparts.
Give green a chance in your home right now.
Even though I have never built a cob house nor any new house for that matter, I have done many things to make my house eco-friendly.
I swapped in LED lightbulbs and cleaned up my act using cloth towels and napkins instead of paper. I wash with cold water and line dry my clothes when the weather suits.
I have low-flow toilets and showerheads to save water and always fix my drippy taps. I water my plants with rainwater.
I do all my banking and bill paying online, so I don’t accumulate unwanted paper.
I set up recycling and compost bins for easy use and always have plenty of cloth totes and bags in my car.
Make organic food the cornerstone of your home
One of the major things about such a home is that you will be growing your own food too, and this is something that you can actually look into at any time, whether or not you have a fully equipped Eco-home to speak of.
If you don’t know where to begin planting an organic garden, my friends at Nature’s Path offer up some simple instructions to grow easy vegetables, flowers, and herbs.
The Organic Trade Association and the Organic Center have some great tips on how a family of four can eat entirely organic on a budget of $25/day or less, and still reap organic’s full nutritional and sustainable benefits.
To show you how, OTA offers menu ideas for all organic breakfast, lunch and dinner, while The Organic Center highlights their scientific benefits.
What will Eco-homes of the future look like?
I can imagine a world where we live in smaller, more energy-efficient spaces. A world where every house is roofed with solar panels that have enough storage to light our families throughout each day and night.
I envision a utopia where collections households share resources to create their own self-generated and self-sustaining energy. Growing food in shared spaces and pooling time for tasks like cooking and cleaning sounds like a way to spend more time doing the things we love.
Let’s dream big and create a world that doesn’t rely on carbon emissions. We need more forward-thinking ideas to help us stride into a future, where we all take responsibility for our planet.
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