My husband and I are making some updates to our kitchen. The room has not been updated since its construction in 1984, so we thought it was time to replace some of the features. As we are undergoing the DIY renovation, I have thought of some environmental sustainability tips you may want to consider when planning your own home improvements. These suggestions are meant to help you save money and reduce waste.
- First, I must acknowledge that the most environmentally sustainable thing to do is keep using what you already have. If the only thing wrong with your old linoleum floor is its visual appeal, then is replacing it really necessary?
- If you decide that certain things in your house simply have to be updated, try to replace them with secondhand materials. The Habitat for Humanity ReStore is the first place I browse when I am updating anything in my house. You can find great-looking kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, ceiling fans, light fixtures, doors and windows. My friend even found enough hardwood flooring at the ReStore to redo her whole downstairs. You may have to go and look around a few times to find what you are looking for because new materials are donated to Habitat every day. You’ll save a lot of money by not buying first-hand retail. For instance, I just bought a light fixture to go above my kitchen sink. I got it in good shape from the ReStore for $25. The last time I was at a large hardware store, I found the exact same light fixture for $100. I think a 75 percent savings is pretty good.
- One of the kitchen updates my husband and I are undertaking is replacing the cabinets. When you are removing your existing cabinets or any installed feature, resist the temptation to demolish them with a sledgehammer. No matter how ugly and outdated the cabinets, countertops or bathtub may be, take the time to unscrew, cut the caulk seals and remove them carefully so they can be donated to places like Habitat for Humanity. You may be able to make some money by selling the items to a neighbor or placing them on Craigslist. My husband and I put an ad on Craigslist advertising that we had kitchen cabinets for free for anyone who would haul them away. The man who ended up taking them said he was going to install them in his garage to store his tools. If we had busted the cabinets apart during extraction, the only place the cabinets could go is the landfill. The landfill should always be your last resort.
- Most items you buy new, like cabinets, vanities, windows or microwaves will most likely come packaged in lots of cardboard and Styrofoam. The way in which you dispose of these materials is important. Take the time to cut the cardboard down to the size that is accepted by your community’s recycling program. If your community does not accept Styrofoam for recycling, be sure to bag it all up and secure it in your outside trashcan. Don’t let any of it blow out and become litter. Or, instead of throwing them out, you could store the cardboard and Styrofoam in your attic to avoid having to buy as many expensive packing materials when you move.
- When I am picking out features that are expensive and have to be installed, like kitchen cabinets, sinks, light fixtures or faucets, I choose designs that are less trendy and are more neutral, timeless designs. My thinking is that the trendier something is, the sooner I or the next owner will want to replace it. To avoid dull and uninteresting rooms, I add interest by accenting with eye-catching pillows, artwork or curtains. As styles change, these items are less expensive to switch out, they can easily be donated to a place like Goodwill, and the likelihood of unintentionally destroying them during extraction is minimal.
As the weather begins to cool down, it is a great time to start a home renovation. Go ahead and make your home a place you are proud of, but make the renovations as environmentally sustainable as you can.