Green Living

In the world of green housing, there are some surprising eco-friendly options available for building materials. From 3D printed concrete houses, to houses made out of straw bales, to recycled plastic homes, people keep coming up with unexpected creative ways to build their homes while helping the environment. One example of this ingenuity at work: steel shipping containers. These containers can be turned into unique, eco-friendly homes; read on to learn more about these creative container homes.

Why Shipping Containers?

Out of all the options for building materials, why choose steel containers? The first reason for using these often overlooked materials for building is simple; they’re durable, and made to withstand a wide variety of conditions. Steel shipping containers average a 25-year lifespan and require minimal maintenance when used for their intended purpose. But when incorporated into a home, where they will stand up against fewer rough conditions, they can last even longer.

Additionally, shipping containers are already stable and require little reinforcement to be turned into a functional home. They can either act as a small home when using just one, or they can be stacked together like building blocks to form larger, more complex buildings. Some people choose to use a single container for a small home of only a few hundred square feet, while others have used them to create shipping container mansions out of dozens of old containers.

Green Homes From Recycled Material

Because there are plenty of used shipping containers for sale that would otherwise go to waste, shipping container homes are eco-friendly because they’re making use of what would be waste material. These recycled containers also require little additional material to turn them from boxes to houses, meaning that there’s a serious reduction in scraps and waste material during the building process when compared to traditional housing.

If you’re looking for an unusual housing option to go green in your next home, do some research to see if shipping container homes could be right for you. Be sure to check local zoning laws, though; not all places allow for container homes yet, but with the increasing popularity, you’re bound to see more of them in your neighborhood soon.

A recent survey concluded that around 57% of American consumers are interested in vintage furniture and decor elements, a fact that is supported by just about every episode of every TV show that airs on HGTV. The style — perceived as elegant, romantic, and offering an air of antiquity that is reminiscent of a classier era — has become increasingly popular as the younger generations have turned to flea markets and thrift shops to find their furniture.

However, not all vintage items are created equal: you definitely wouldn’t introduce, say, a wood-paneled air conditioning unit into your home. Generally, the vintage style includes trends from between the last 20 to 100 years, so the horrors of the ’70s do technically count. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you wouldn’t want to bring in a hulking piece of high quality, 2018-designed-and-manufactured technological marvel that cools your home but destroys its aesthetic.

The tech of the 21st Century has come a long way in functionality and design, but if you’re looking to combine two somewhat opposing ideals, you have to think outside the box. Or maybe, perhaps more accurately, deep, deep, inside the box.

That’s right, modern day appliances can be hidden from sight through the use of clever design tactics. From dishwasher and refrigerator doors designed to look like cabinetry to large cabinets (to hold bigger appliances like blenders or toaster ovens) designed to look like pull drawers, interior decorators are working harder than ever to play “hide the tech”. This allows them to incorporate “smart” technology while keeping the aesthetic seamless.

When it comes to the most important piece of technology of all (at least, if you live somewhere where the heat becomes utterly unbearable in the summertime), there are ways to disguise that clunky air conditioning unit. Wood provides an excellent and beautiful distraction if you have an outdoor unit; from latticework to solid boards, the stains and patterns are truly endless — you can even save some money and do the work yourself! Just remember to keep the machine accessible so professionals can perform maintenance on it (around 42% of homeowners have this done routinely). The last thing you want is a home with no A/C in the middle of a sweltering heatwave.

An authentic, vintage home is yours for the taking if you’re committed to keeping your technological creature comforts tucked safely away in a dark cabinet or underneath some elegantly stained woodwork.

More and more people are looking for energy efficiency when they buy a home, and current homeowners are often upgrading their houses to be as energy efficient as possible. If you’re one of those people, take a look at some of these tricks.

Insulate your home

When you go inside during the cold months, you expect your home to be warm, and vice versa in the hot months. If your home is not properly insulated, it can’t keep your comfortable. Your appliances have to work a lot hard to regulate the temperature inside, which only costs you more money. Spray foam insulation can cut your monthly heating and cooling costs by up to 60%, which makes it an excellent option to consider.

Use LED lighting

At night, and even sometimes during the day, you have your lights on so you can see. There are lamps all over the house, outdoor lights to illuminate your driveway, and even a light in the refrigerator so you can have a midnight snack. Replacing your bulbs with LED lights can save you up to 80% on your lighting costs because LEDs use less power and last much longer. By 2019, it’s estimated that LED lights will achieve a 53% penetration of the global lighting market, and it’s easy to see why.

Get new windows

Your windows allow natural light to come in, as well as the nice summer breeze when you open them up. You probably don’t want them letting in the air when they’re shut though. Drafty windows can increase your energy bills significantly. Dual-paned windows, though, are roughly two times as effective at retaining heat and air conditioning compared to single-paned ones. Upgrade your windows, and you’ll notice a difference in your comfort levels and your bills.

Upgrade to Energy Star Appliances

Even if you try to use your appliances in the smartest ways possible to save on energy bills, old appliances can hinder that process. If you upgrade to newer, Energy Star appliances, you can start saving money almost instantly. For example, more than one-quarter of American homes, use a septic system, and an old system can suck a lot of energy. You can replace your sump pump, washer, dryer, dishwasher, water heater, you name it.

Install a programmable thermostat

A programmable thermostat is one that you can set to automatically adjust the temperature in your home on a schedule. If you don’t already manually adjust your thermostat during the day, one that you program yourself can save you as much as 15% on heating and cooling costs

Turn down your water heater

You use hot water for a lot of things, including showering, cooking, washing dishes, and more. Heating your water can account for 14% to 25% of the energy you consume at home. Turning the temperature down on your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit can save a lot of energy. It can also stop you from accidentally burning yourself in the shower when the water gets too hot.

Use smart power strips

Even when you have something turned off, like a coffee maker on the kitchen counter, it’s still using energy when it’s plugged in. That’s referred to as a “phantom load.” It’s estimated that 75% of the energy used by household electronics is consumed when they are switched off. Smart power strips eliminate this problem because they shut off the power to electronics when you aren’t using them. These advanced power strips can save you up to $200 every year.

Use your appliances wisely

Even if you have energy efficient appliances, there are still ways you can use them to maximize their energy-saving potential. Experts suggest things like washing your clothes in cold water to save you $115 every year. You can also run your dryer at night in the summer because it’s cooler at night and not adding to the already hot atmosphere during the day.

Try some of these tricks to help you save money and be as energy efficient as possible. What’s even better is that when you use less energy, you’re helping out the environment too!

Homeownership is hard. All that property to take care of constantly keeps getting out of hand. A task in futility, perhaps, but it’s a necessary evil. The home and garden market may have been worth $272 billion in 2017, but this guy’s home and garden creativity was priceless.

This Canadian man was in the weeds, literally. He had let his lawn get a little out of control. Finally realizing that enough was enough, he fired up his lawnmower and attempted to tame his lawn jungle. Generally, lawnmowers are pretty good at doing the job they’re made for, but his grass was so long it kept stalling the mower.

Unfazed by this consistent annoyance, he tried to continue. Despite his effort, the overgrowth was defeating him. Frustrated by an already tedious task, he got creative. He opened the trunk hatch of his minivan, fastened his push-mower to the back of it, got behind the wheel, and dragged the mower across his stubborn lawn. In his van.

That’s one way to get your yard chores done. Across the street, the man’s neighbor took the video of this ingenious scene. You can hear them laughing while videoing a van-dragged lawn mower ripping across the front lawn and back around the house for another lap.

“My neighbor was trying to cut his grass and it was too long, so he kept stalling the lawnmower. His solution was to attach the push mower to the back of his van and fly around the property,” the filmer wrote in a post.

It’s always amusing to see how people face challenges whether they be personal or landscaping. This, however, is a definite first for us. Perhaps next time, before needing to take drastically hilarious steps, this man can learn from his prior procrastination and tame his lawn at reasonable intervals. Either way, keep up the good work, lawnmower van guy. Antics like that are what the internet was made for.

When you are redesigning the exterior of your home, you may not think in a totally eco-conscious way. It is easy to choose conventional designs and materials and overlook the green materials and energy-saving designs that you have access to nowadays. By thinking green for the outside of your home, you’re being both eco-conscious AND smart about your own consumption. Even a simple choice like the right roofing materials could mean up to a 30% decrease in your home’s energy needs. Here are some options for ‘greening’ home exterior design.

    • Roofing material.
      From a recycling standpoint, roofs can use plenty of reclaimed material like slate, clay, or rubber. From an energy-saving standpoint, a “cool roof” (a light color such as white) can help keep summer energy costs down by reflecting away much of the sun’s daytime heat. Standing-seam metal roofs and corrugated roofing are options that combine elements of usability, recyclability, and durability.
    • Siding options.
      Reclaimed wood is a beautiful rustic option for homes’ siding, and it has an added advantage of saving some trees. A lower-maintenance and less expensive alternative to wood is fiber-cement composite. Green siding options are still a bit limited, but stucco and cement options that are made with recycled materials and less energy-intensive to create are in development and are options to consider in the near future.
    • Driveway “paving.”
      Driveways can be made out of many recycled materials nowadays, including recycled asphalt or rubber. It’s a great way to re-use rubber that’s tough to recycle otherwise, like that from tires.
    • Solar panel or water collection integration.
      When re-roofing or redesigning large sections of your house, why not consider this a perfect opportunity for integrating savvy and green fixtures like solar panels or a water collection system?  Experts from McGuire Property Management advise you to check for restrictions (and perks!) from your HOA, city, or county.
    • Low VOC paints and adhesives.
      If repainting or using adhesives, consider non-toxic and low-VOC options that are more eco-friendly both in production and in use. Your lungs, and the environment, will thank you.
    • Greening your garden spaces.
      If you’re working on curb appeal anyways, consider creating or updating a garden space with environmental efficiency AND beauty in mind. Choose edible crops, or keep it simple and plant wildflowers and other pretty, sweet-smelling things that benefit local fauna like honeybees. Plan a spot for a compost bin that reduces home food waste and also puts your scraps to good use by making rich soil for your gardens.

Eco-friendly living doesn’t have to stop with the inside of your house or keeping litter picked up outside. ‘Greening’ up your home’s outside is as easy as a little research. If you’re using a professional construction or repair team, ask them about green options they can use for your projects.

Does your kitchen feel cramped, out of style, and just overall not right? If so, it might be time to consider remodeling. This year, 76% of renovating homeowners will be giving their kitchen a makeover, making it the second most popular type of home renovation. And not only can a minor kitchen remodel make your kitchen area feel more welcoming and stylish, but it can also have an average ROI of 82.7%. One of the great things about remodeling is having the opportunity to do so in an eco-friendly way — there are so many options for eco-friendly products and they can make you feel good about going green while making your kitchen look pretty at the same time. To give you some ideas for an eco-friendly kitchen makeover, we’ve compiled a few ways from to choose eco-friendly materials and features.

When it comes to choosing eco-friendly materials, you’ll have plenty of options. Bamboo, cork, and recycled stone materials are great options to use in the kitchen. Bamboo can be used for flooring, backsplashes, cabinets, and even for cooking items like utensils and cutting boards because it’s such a versatile material. Cork is also becoming a popular material used in kitchens for flooring. Due to its sound-absorbing and water-resistant properties, it makes a great option for flooring or decor. And for countertops, choosing recycled stone can be a great way to get a beautiful, durable surface without the high cost to both your bank account and the environment. Overall, there are plenty of eco-friendly material options to explore for every aspect of your kitchen.

Water conservation is another aspect of eco-friendly remodeling to explore. On average, each American uses about 88 gallons of water in their home every single day. If you’re looking for ways to reduce your water use at home, start with your appliances. If you have older appliances, chances are that they don’t have water-saving or energy-saving options. But by looking into newer, energy-efficient appliances, especially dishwashers, you can significantly reduce the amount of water you use in your home. While investing in new appliances may be more expensive upfront, the cost will pay off in the long-run.

And last but not least, you should consider what kind of lighting you’re using in your kitchen. Oftentimes, the kitchen is one room in the house that’s almost always using light. From cooking to doing homework to entertaining, kitchens see a lot of use. This is why it’s important to ensure you’re using energy-efficient lighting. LED lighting and halogen lighting can significantly reduce the amount of energy you’re using for lighting. While it may not seem like it has a big effect, lighting is one of the highest uses of energy. This is especially true in houses where lights tend to get left on overnight and when no one is home. Seeing as how the total use of energy in the U.S. in 2016 alone amounted to about 97.4 quadrillion BTUs, it’s important to reduce energy use whenever possible. By switching to energy-efficient light bulbs and fixtures, you can ensure you’re using as little energy as possible while still providing sufficient lighting.

Even if you make just a few small changes to your kitchen to give it a new look, it’s important to keep eco-friendly options in mind. These are just a few ideas to get you started on making your kitchen, and your home, as environmentally-friendly as possible.

Everyone is concerned with where the world is going to end up from an environmental standpoint, and how the actions of human beings are negatively impactful. Many people have taken up earth-friendly initiatives and have begun finding ways to better the planet.

One way, in particular, has been to use hemp to create products that are eco-friendly and sustainable, creating a greener path for the human race. There are many uses for hemp, and since it is a natural product, all are earth-friendly.

Here are just a few ways that hemp can be used for green living.

Potential Biofuel

Long past are the days of vegetable oil-based fuel; here comes the future of biofuel with hemp. Hemp biofuel can be turned into diesel with relative ease, and it burns at a much more efficient temperature and rate, making it a viable source of renewable energy. It might not be widely available yet, but with more awareness and support, it could be the next breakthrough that could save the planet.

Prevent Deforestation

One of the biggest problems facing humanity and the planet as a whole is the startling rate at which the forests are disappearing. With an incredibly high dependence on products that derive from trees, deforestation has become a significant issue. The answer? Hemp. Hemp provides a fast-growing alternative to wood and paper products, with one acre of hemp producing as much paper as four acres of trees.

Easier to Farm

Agricultural hemp is similar to bamboo and can reach heights of 10 to 15 feet before harvest, and it doesn’t require pesticides to fight off pests. The reduced use of pesticides would directly help eliminate pollution. Hemp crops also enrich the soil by removing toxins and improving the overall quality of the soil and doesn’t need much water to survive — which would cut down on water consumption as well. Since hemp helps the soil, it also makes it an ideal crop for farmers to rotate.

Food and Products

Besides being a sustainable crop, hemp can be used to create numerous different types of products, including food. Hemp seeds are extremely nutritious and provide significant health benefits. Hemp is naturally high in amino acids and essential fatty acids, which can be important to the world’s starving population. Hemp can also be used to make pet food, pet bedding, body oils and lotions, oil-based products, clothing, plastic alternatives, and more.

Hemp provides a way to live greener without compromising the luxuries and lifestyles people have become accustomed to. However, the possibilities for “going green” don’t end there. There are so many ways to adopt a green-living lifestyle.

There are 1,200 miles of sandy beaches across Florida’s 1,800 miles of coastline. Unfortunately, every inch of that terrific landscape is at risk of being damaged by a massive hurricane… again.

Last year’s Hurricane Irma was the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in recorded history. It was a Category 5 storm with intense 185 MPH winds for 37 hours straight. As Florida residents begin to protect their properties from the upcoming storms that are expected during the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season, they are still recovering from last year’s damage.

According to The Washington Post, scientists are pointing to an environmental factor that may have made Irma’s impact on Florida even worse: the ongoing loss of coral along the historic Florida Reef.

The Florida Reef is among the world’s largest coal reefs, stretching out more than 160 miles. But the reef has been in trouble for a while now, as less than 10% of the entire reef is covered with living coral due to back-to-back bleaching events and warming waters.

Now, scientists are worried that these reef issues will have a direct result on Florida’s ability to buffer major storms.

“If you reduce coral reef health — if you go from that really rough coral reef with lots of live coral to a degraded coral reef with a relatively smooth surface — you have increased run-up in flooding,” said Curt Storlazzi, a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “The science indicates that had coral reefs been healthier across the Caribbean (including the Florida reef track), the resulting wave-driven run-up and coastal flooding of areas fronted by coral reefs would have been less than did occur (due to the current degraded nature of the coral reefs).”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.N Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have also pointed out the ability for coral reefs to buffer storms and reduce flooding. One meta-analysis by Storlazzi and Michael Beck, lead marine scientist at the Nature Conservancy (as well as colleagues from Stanford), compiled more than 250 individual studies, which suggested that coral reefs could reduce the energy of incoming storm waves by as much as 97%.

“The main effect of coral reefs on flood reduction, period, is because of wave breaking,” Beck added. “It’s acting like a submerged breakwater offshore, breaking those waves, reducing and dissipating that wave energy offshore, so that then only tiny little amounts of wave energy come onshore.”

It hasn’t just been storm damage that has negatively impacted the reef, either. According to Oceans Deeply, a mysterious but persistent disease has been significantly damaging coral reefs alongside Florida since 2014. The pathogen damages coral tissue and it’s projected that between 60% and 100% of corals on certain reefs have been compromised. But the hurricane damage has been much more boisterous.

Divers have been measuring the damage of last year’s storm alongside the reef and deemed 14% of the sites a Tier 1, which means severe impact has occurred and it should be immediately ruled a top priority for stabilize ation, 33% were Tier 2 (moderate damage), and 53% only suffered minimal harm after Irma and other powerful storms.

“It was crucial to get a fast yet detailed assessment of reef condition,” added Jennifer Stein, the Nature Conservancy’s Marine conservation Coordinator and chief scientist on a multi-partner research team. “Under normal circumstances, coral reefs can recover from hurricanes, but the Florida Tract reef was already stressed from bleaching and disease. Irma was a record setting Category 4 hurricane, packing winds up to 130 mpg when its eye crossed the Florida Keys. Given these factors, we had no idea what to expect.”

Thankfully, plenty of sites alongside the reef were covered by a thick layer of sediment, keeping the coral cover underneath healthy and strong. Those healthy areas will actually start to replenish the other areas that suffered severe damage. In order to expedite this much-needed reef recovery process, a rescue mission financed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has begun to physically repair the reefs.

“After a destructive event like a hurricane, it’s much more efficient for us to swoop in and save injured but otherwise viable corals, than plant new nursery-grown ones,” added Tom Moore, NOAA’s Team Leader for Coral Reef Restoration.