If you asked 10 people what it means for a product to be “green”, you would probably get 10 different answers.  The truth is, there are many different attributes that allow a product to be called “green.”   This can range anywhere from being made of recyclable material to the cleaner or more efficient manner in which they are manufactured.  Basically, “green” products can loosely be defined as products that lower their negative impact on the earth.

The most recognized classification for green products is whether they are made from recycled materials or are themselves recyclable.  Manufacturers are finding many inventive ways to use recyclable material to create interesting things.  Take for example glass countertops.  There are companies that take particular bottles for their coloring (Heineken for green, Skyy Vodka for blue, wine bottles for red) and use them to create beautiful unique countertops.  These countertops are quite a fitting choice for a basement bar or wet bar area. In many cases you can also remodel your home using items salvaged from existing or demolished buildings such as bathtubs, sinks, and cabinetry. Doing this lowers the demand for having these items manufactured and in turn lowers the strain on the environment from the factories making these items.

Sustainability is a big part of classifying a product as “green”. Sustainability in the remodeling world has multiple definitions.  It can refer to the replenishment of the resource from which the product is made.   This is called “sustainable harvesting”. Many hardwood floor manufacturers have programs to plant a tree for every tree they cut down. Bamboo has become a popular green flooring choice for this reason. Bamboo grows at an incredible rate, reaching maturity in 3-5 years, as opposed to trees which require more than double that time. It is more durable than traditional oak hardwoods and is also a bit more resistant to water. Another popular “green” flooring choice is cork.  It is considered sustainable because one tree can be harvested multiple times. It is a natural insulator, dampens sound, and is hypoallergenic.  Because of its softness, it is great for those who have children or back/knee problems.

Sustainability can also mean being extremely durable with low maintenance requirements.  This longevity keeps it from needing to be replaced in the near future.  Examples of this would be HardiePlank Siding and LVT flooring.  HardiePlank siding will not rot or warp like it’s real wood look-alike and is made to last for many years.  LVT flooring is virtually indestructible, can be cleaned with anything, is water resistant, and does not require any maintenance such as refinishing.  Another example would be using LED light bulbs.  They can last for 20+ years before having to be replaced.  They also use very little energy to create the same output as traditional light bulbs which is another aspect of being a green product.

Reducing energy consumption is another attribute of a “green” product.  Not only does this lower the impact on the earth, but it also lowers utility bills.  There are many products which are aimed at reducing energy costs such as Eco Wraps (an insulating wrap placed around your house before the finish is applied), Low-E Windows, Energy Star Appliances, etc.

A product can also be considered “green” if it does not produce or contain any contaminants.  As of the late 70’s paints with lead have been banned; however, many paints and stains used today still contain harmful substances called VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). VOCs are toxins that are released into the air as the paint cures. They can cause symptoms ranging from asthma attacks and complications, decreases in enzymes in the blood which help the nervous system function properly, and cancer.  The good news is that paint manufacturers have begun to make products with low or no VOCs. They are water-based, which makes for easy cleanup since it is not considered hazardous waste, has little to no odor when applied, and has no ozone depleting contaminants.

As you can see, there are many great products that can be used in your home that can be considered “green”.  Many do not cost you any more than you would pay for a non-green product and can in fact save you money in the long run. Just being aware of the product’s qualities can help you make a more informed “green” decision.