Green Living

Despite the growing need for housing across the nation, houses are becoming more expensive than ever. This is putting them out of reach for countless Americans. In fact, the rate of new houses being built now is over 20% lower than the rates previously seen between 1975 and 2000, according to the National Review.

Just last year, the United States needed more than 400,000 new homes to be built in order to accommodate the growing population. Unfortunately, few Americans can hope to cough up the funds for building a home in or around productive cities like Los Angeles or New York City. The National Review notes that construction prices have risen by almost 33% in the last three years alone in the Bay Area.

But America isn’t the only nation struggling to match supply with demand.

One of the world’s most unaffordable property markets is making it impossible for even well-paid citizens to claim a home of their own. Hong Kong residents simply cannot hope to establish roots in the New Territories in the traditional housing market.

This is where steel shipping containers and boxes come in.

In Hong Kong, prefabricated steel containers that look like shipping containers are being sold by the dozen amidst the area’s housing crisis. One of the most popular container home costs around $19,100 for 30 square metersBloomberg reports that the cost of a down payment on an apartment could be more than double that price.

As a growing number of people move into these homes, however, more people are being put at-risk for legal consequences.

“Of all the prefabricated homes in the style of a container that I have seen in ads or online, I can tell you 99.9 percent aren’t in compliance with the law,” claims Vincent Ho, one of the managing directors for Freevision Ltd.

This is because a citizen needs to receive government approval before construction of the property begins. It also has to meet certain standards, akin to zoning laws and building permits present in the United States. For example, these container homes need to comply with certain fire-safety codes, ventilation standards, and zoning laws established by the government.

Regardless, the demand for this type of home has only grown. Steel container orders have more than doubled in Hong Kong since 2016 and estimates claim that 40% of these containers are being designed to serve as home residences.

In Hong Kong, citizens have managed to shirk these laws and avoid detection since the majority of these homes are being built in obscure locations. But construction companies have taken note of their popularity and affordability. With backing from the government, a non-profit called The Hong Kong Council of Social Service plans to build 90 legal container homes within the city’s poorest areas. These homes are not meant to be permanent dwellings, but they will serve as a necessary form of housing as citizens wait for public housing.

American businesses have dubbed these living quarters “modular homes.” These homes are prefabricated by an offsite manufacturer, shipped to the buyer, and then assembled on-site. Where an apartment building might take more than a year to construct and rely on a number of specialized industries to make the final product, a modular steel home can be achieved in nine months and rely on cheaper labor.

This has become an increasingly popular option in Florida. Though shipping containers aren’t often built to withstand extreme weather, many Floridians have fallen in love with the eco-friendly design, affordability, and timeliness.

Should a homeowner worry about their home blowing away in a hurricane, a solid foundation can put these thoughts to rest. New concrete foundations only take between two and seven days while raised concrete can be used almost immediately. Securing the modular home to a strong foundation will ascertain it won’t blow away during periods of inclement weather.

Should the steel container home ever blow away, you never need to worry about it taking on damage. Every modular home sold in the United States has to pass a floor test where a concentrated load of 16,000 lbs is pressed onto an area measuring 44 square inches. The strength offered by steel ensures that your home will take on minimal damage should an accident or other natural disaster occur.

The four most-common metals used in the construction industry are aluminum, copper, carbon steel, and stainless steel. Because these modular homes are typically made from steel, they’re easily recycled. Even the 2.5 million metric tonnes of metalworking fluid sold throughout the world can be recycled, making it a green building process.

Even snowy Brooklyn has begun to experiment with modular homes.

FullStack Modular helped create the world’s tallest modular tower measuring 32 stories. Now, New York City’s agency has begun to engage in further efforts for affordable housing, including modular housing for mixed-use development.

Are steel container homes the wave of the future? It’s too soon to say. But as this trend grows amidst the nation’s worsening housing crisis, we might see the housing market start to change.

In recent years, the gap between food production and consumers has closed considerably. People are giving much more thought to not only to where their food is coming from, be it meat or fruits and vegetables, but how it is grown. Even as meat consumption is increasing in the United States, with consumption projected at levels of more than 200 pounds a year per capita, the organic produce market is booming. As Americans take closer looks at their labels, one major trend is emerging: organic food is rising in popularity.

Organic food is currently the fast-growing sector of the U.S. food industry, despite its stringent regulations: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established an organic certification program that dictates how foods are grown, handled, and processed. Because of these specifications, consumers know that their food is organic thanks to the friendly “Certified Organic” sticker adorning their products. Though the sector began in 1997 as a humble industry making a mere $3.6 billion annually, it now rakes in a staggering $50 billion; let’s figure out what changed.

A Change In Generation

The biggest catalyst is undoubtedly the growth of millennials. Defined as the generation born between 1981 and 1996, millennials comprise 42% of organic consumers and will continue to drive the market as they age. In an article posted on Forbes (written the same year organic food reached that iconic $50 billion mark), they describe the millennial mindset as turning the traditional food value equation on its head.

“When millennials make purchase decisions, they’re considering more than the traditional drivers of taste, price, and convenience,” said Kira Karapetian, VP of Marketing for cloud-based product data engine Label Insight. “They value authenticity, and make decisions based on the way they perceive brands to impact their quality of life, society as a whole, and how that brand may be contributing positively to the world.”

Because of those strict regulations that must be adhered to in order to produce organic goods, the impact on the environment is significantly lessened. The chemicals used in pesticides are eliminated, which protects our limited water supply (only 3% of the planet’s water is freshwater) and keeps our soil free from any long-term damage. Additionally, removing these harmful substances allows pollinators like honeybees to flourish and protects farmers from routine exposure. Since ingesting harmful pesticides is also good for our own bodily health, the shift from traditional farming to organic makes perfect sense.

Keeping Up With Demands

Despite the fact that this country boasts three million farmers — and that the organic business is booming –, only a small amount are dedicated to the organic trade. In California, a state that prides itself on its progressive and health-oriented nature, only 4% of the agricultural land is being farmed organically. The Golden State has recently calculated that a shift up to 10% organic acreage — a goal they’ve set for 2030 — would reduce emissions equivalent to 601,500 cars per year; going fully organic would be the same as taking 7.8 million cars off the road.

California has often been at the forefront of revolutionary ideas, and the organic revolution seems to be no different. Given all the benefits organic farming provides, we can only hope that other states will follow in its stead.

Though many areas through the U.S. are still in the throes of winter, it’s never too early to look ahead and start planning for a spring remodel of your home. Your basement, in particular, can become susceptible to water damage come springtime: even though most newer roofs are built (or are supposed to be built) to withstand snow loads of 15 to 30 pounds per square foot, when the snow melts at a rapid rate come springtime, inadequately insulated basements could become flooded more easily than you think. With that in mind, here are just a few pro tips to remodel your basement with a sense of modern style and sustainability for spring.

Install ICFs

ICFs, or insulated concrete forms, are growing in popularity, especially in basement foundation and insulation applications. ICFs make any basement feel finished as well as cozy, comfortable, and warm. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, ICF walls can save homeowners 20% to 25% on annual heating and cooling costs. And while ICFs certainly require an upfront investment, they can go a long way in your basement project and in improving overall sustainability.

Waterproof Walls

If ICFs aren’t a good fit for your home or your budget, you have plenty of alternative options. Waterproof paints and coatings can provide a solid level of waterproofing protection as well, although they won’t go quite as far when it comes to making your basement feel cozy, comfortable, and insulated. Waterproof paints and coatings are particularly ideal for bare concrete or masonry walls. And unlike other processes, this is typically an improvement that allows you to take the DIY route. Here’s how the process works:

“Start by removing loose material with a wire brush. Then clean off any white powdery “efflorescence” with masonry cleaner. The goal is to fill every pinhole to create a continuous waterproofing membrane. Add a second coat after the first dries,” says Family Handyman.

Re-Evaluate HVAC System

In a typical house, about 20% to 30% of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts. Even if you aren’t planning a full remodel or finishing project, taking some time to evaluate the current state of your HVAC system can help to increase sustainability and add a comforting atmosphere to your basement. It can also help to improve air quality and minimize the risk of future breakdowns. Talk to your local HVAC company to determine where you can make changes and improve efficiency.

Modernize With Functional Features

Finally, those looking to add a higher level of functionality to their finished basement may want to consider installing elements of an in-law apartment. A half bathroom, a kitchen sink or countertop, or even a kitchen island can bring your basement space together and maximize functionality. To add some extra modern flair, stainless steel appliances are the way to go. Stainless steel is a generic name for several different steels that all are a minimum of 10.5% chromium by mass. A stainless steel oven and/or refrigerator can turn the space into an area where guests look forward to spending their time. Not to mention, adding this level of basement functionality can significantly increase the value of your home as a whole.

Ultimately, be creative and think about your personal and real estate goals before making final decisions about your basement renovation. Waterproofing the space beforehand can make or break your project, so it’s essential to speak to a professional to ensure that your basement remodeling dreams can become a reality.

People often make the mistake of thinking that making eco-friendly changes to their home is going to cost them an arm and a leg. Fortunately, this is not the case — there are tons of easy, inexpensive ways to make your home greener. So if you’re looking for some great tips on some easy green home upgrades you can do this year, keep reading.

One of the easiest places to start when going more energy-efficient is your light bulbs. Most homes still use halogen or incandescent light bulbs but more homeowners are starting to switch to LEDs. Not only do LED bulbs use less energy, but they last longer too. So you can save money by having to buy light bulbs less often and you’ll be using less energy. There are plenty of different LED bulbs to choose from so you can choose the light and brightness that best suits your home. While it may seem like something small, switching to LED bulbs can make a big difference.

Next, you should take a look at your windows and doors. One of the biggest wastes of energy comes from drafty windows and doors. In fact, if your windows are more than 15 years old, they’re probably drafty, which increases your energy bills. But the good news is that you don’t have to replace all of your windows and doors to be energy-efficient. One of the easiest ways to save energy is to add additional insulation around windows and doors. There are plenty of insulation materials, like caulk, to choose from and it’s generally pretty easy to do yourself. Fill in any cracks or gaps and you’ll notice less energy being wasted in no time.

If you don’t already recycle in your home, now is the time to start. Did you know that every year, 80% of marine pollution is caused by land-based sources? When you throw away recyclable materials, they end up in landfills, in water sources, and contribute to pollution in other ways. Fortunately, recycling is extremely easy to do. You should have a designated spot in your house for recycling to make it easy for your family and guests to make sure they’re recycling whenever possible. Recycling is easy and can make a big impact on the environment.

Along with recycling, you should take a look at how you use water in your home. Even if you’re good about turning off the water while brushing your teeth and only running the dishwasher when it’s full, there are even more ways to minimize water waste. One thing you can do is consider a tankless water heater, which is more efficient than a standard model. Additionally, you could consider installing a system to collect rain water. This can be done quite easily with some DIY work and can help save water when it comes to showers or watering the garden.

Going green at home doesn’t have to be difficult. If you consider even just one of these ideas, you’ll be one step closer to saving energy, water, and reducing waste at home.

It’s a new year, which means it’s the perfect time to make some 2019 resolutions. But while friends and family members may be vowing to exercise every day or to embrace a healthier diet, those aren’t the only kinds of goals you can set for yourself. If you really want to have an impact on our planet’s precarious position, you may want to devote yourself to leading a greener lifestyle over the next 12 months.

But it’s not only what you do at home that matters. The eco-friendly efforts you make at work can potentially have an even bigger impact, especially if you get the rest of your team on board. Best of all, it might not be as big of a pain as you might think to embrace sustainable practices at the office. Here are some great ideas for going green in the workplace.

Make a Commitment to Digital Documents

Estimates show that each individual American office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of paper every year. Going paperless is not a new concept, but it’s one that a lot of offices may not embrace consistently. While some documents may be shared digitally, others may still be printed and distributed in meetings. Sadly, most of these papers add to desk clutter or end up in the trash. Even if you make an effort to put those papers in the recycling bin, that still means you’ll be purchasing reams of paper (and be responsible for cutting down trees) that may not be totally necessary.

If your business is able to cut down on paper usage, make every effort to do so. Not only will you reduce your waste and your carbon footprint, but you’ll probably decrease the costs associated with other supplies (like printer ink) and maintenance, too. When you do need to use paper products, consider switching to recycled and sustainably sourced items. Be sure to reuse items like manilla envelopes, files, and binders whenever possible, as well. You may not be able to have a completely paperless facility, but every little bit helps.

Use Non-Toxic Cleaning Agents

When a spill occurs or the janitorial staff comes in to clean the bathrooms, do you know what kinds of products your office uses? You might not give it much thought, but the cleaning agents you rely on could be harmful to the earth — and to your staff. Many products used in offices contain toxins known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can release dangerous fumes and lead to both short-term and long-term health problems. According to the American Lung Association, these products may include air fresheners, chlorine bleach, rug and carpet cleaners, floor polish, dishwashing liquid, and more.

What’s worse, products that contain VOCs can contribute to reduced indoor air quality and increased outdoor air pollution. While using these products may seem convenient, they’re doing a number on your health and the health of our planet. That’s why many businesses have embraced product components with environmentally friendly powder coatings (which are free of solvents and VOCs). In the same vein, you should consider switching to greener cleaning products, which contain no harmful toxins and are just as effective at keeping your workplace properly sanitized.

Encourage Eco-Friendly Commuting

Millennials may be a main focus for employers, but the reality is that Gen Z represents the newest addition to the workforce. Those in these younger generations are eager to embrace non-traditional workplace arrangements, as is evidenced by the prevalence of freelancing and work-from-home positions. In fact, 38% of Gen Zers want to work from home — and they also believe that maintaining an eco-friendly workplace is essential.

If you want to appeal to 20- and 30-somethings, you might want to embrace greener ways of working. Telecommuting is a great option that allows full-time, part-time, or freelance employees to work from home (or from a nearby coffee shop) rather than making the daily trek to and from the office. Not only does this make employees happier and surprisingly more productive, but it also reduces the amount of carbon emissions. If they aren’t driving on a daily basis, they’ll be able to reduce their environmental impact.

Another popular option for motorists who want to cut their emissions is the electric vehicle. EVs are set to make up 54% of new car sales worldwide by 2040, thanks to their growing affordability and increased accessibility to charging options. While adding an EV charging station at work will certainly represent a financial investment, many businesses will benefit from tax incentives that can offset those costs. Offering services like these can also boost your branding and solidify your place as a green leader in your industry. By promoting options for non-gas-guzzling vehicles, you can make life a lot easier for EV-owning employees and even convince others to make the switch themselves.

Reduce Your Electricity and HVAC Use

If your coworkers are inclined to keep the lights and their technology plugged in 24/7, you’re probably using way more energy than you need to be. The same goes for a thermostat that overcompensates for the weather outside; if you’re constantly shivering in the summertime or sweating inside in the winter, your office HVAC is working overtime. Both of these issues can result in high operational costs and high energy use, which can affect your business’s bottom line and its ability to really be sustainable.

If you’re able to program your thermostat and the light sources in the office, this can save both money and energy overnight and on the weekends. In general, your thermostat should be set slightly lower in the winter and slightly higher than the summer than you might think. Even a single degree or two can save you up to 10% on your heating and cooling bills. You can also encourage employees to unplug appliances (like the microwave and coffee maker) when they leave for the day or use smart power strips with programmable timers to shut off electronics completely when everyone’s gone for the evening. You may also want to switch to LED lightbulbs and use as much natural light as possible to offset your electricity usage.

There are many other ways you can make a difference in the workplace and in the world by embracing sustainable practices. Filling the shared kitchen with locally sourced snacks, for example, can reduce transportation emissions, promote more eco-friendly packaging, and support small businesses and agriculture in your area. Adding office plants can make workers more productive and less stressed while improving the indoor air quality. And investing in second-hand furniture or donating items in good condition from your office can promote a less wasteful ethos. Don’t afraid to think outside the box and put ecological responsibility first this year. It may improve employee engagement and help your business stand out.

When the closet becomes so full that you can’t shift the coat hangers, you know it’s time to do a little purging. Cleaning out your closet is a great way to de-stress, re-organize, and spend less time deciding what to wear every morning.

However, as a culture, we tend to make clothing choices that aren’t so kind to the planet. The average American spends a whopping $1,800 on clothing every year, and worldwide, landfills pile hundreds of thousands of pounds of old clothing among the other rubbish, you can hire the best Rubbish removal company London for these services.

With a little planning and effort, you can clean out your closet while minimally contributing to clothing and textile waste. For a clean closet and a clean conscious, try the following four eco-friendly ways for getting rid of old clothes:

1. Donate Gently-Used Items

Support the environment and your favorite local charity by donating your gently used items. Many thrift stores will accept almost any item of clothing. Alternatively, you can try donating items to crisis shelters or children’s organizations to more directly help those in need.

2. Host a Clothing Swap

If you have a few friends who wear similar sizes and also care about the environment, host a get-together to exchange old clothes! If your items are in good condition, your friends will love swapping gently used pieces to get a new (and free) wardrobe upgrade. For a more organized clothing swap, separate dresses, pants, shirts, and accessories. Donate whatever is left over after the party.

3. Head to A Textile Recycling Plant

Do some research to learn the location of your nearest textile recycling center. Though a bit less common than the typical recycling plant, these organizations break clothing down into textile fibers to be reused in new garments or carpet padding. This option is best for clothes past the point of return, such as heavily ripped, stained, or burned items.

4. Repair or Repurpose

If recycling isn’t an option, but your items are too damaged to donate, consider repairing or repurposing the garments at home. A fresh hem, re-stitched button, or new zipper can quickly and cheaply mend a “useless” article of clothing. Old shirts can also be torn into rags for cleaning, and old jeans make sturdy aprons when sewn together. When it comes to repurposing old clothes, the only limit is your imagination.

To help save money and the planet, try any of these methods to clean out your closet in a sustainable way. With a little effort and creativity, you can ensure your garments avoid the landfill for as long as humanly possible.

When people think about Las Vegas, they don’t often think of the beautiful green landscapes. They probably don’t think about those green landscapes at all, actually, they think about the dreamjackpot casino games. But that is starting to change.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, an unknown forest with more than 117,000 trees is actually located in America’s driest desert.

The forest consists of approximately 75% hardwood trees, which take upwards of 20 years to reach maturity. Las Vegas is one of 100 U.S. metros that the U.S. Forest Service hopes to one day add the Vegas forest to its annual Forest Inventory and Analysis, which is an exhaustive nationwide tree tally and health assessment.

“For us, it’s about getting a better understanding of trees, be they in natural forests or landscaped ones,” said Michael Wilson, inventory and analysis program manager of the Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Approximately 80% of Americans live in metropolitan areas, urban forestry will likely be the only way people who live in cities like Vegas to experience green trees and nature. When most of us think of Las Vegas, we think of dingy motel rooms that require mold killers in the bathrooms, or the brightly lit strip full of casinos and gaudy hotels. Not exactly a nature lover’s paradise. But the forest project is helping to change that.

The U.S. Forest Service’s annual inventory collects the samples from 200 randomly selected areas in order to determine the type, size, and relative condition of the trees in a given area.

“Our whole purpose is to be able to track forest health over time,” added Mark Majewsky, supervisor forester at the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station.

Las Vegas urban forest, which is entirely man-made, is actually much larger than forests in other U.S. metros. Since 2013, the Nevada Division of Forestry released a detailed inventory cataloging more than 117,000 trees from 262 different species on the publicly owned property.

“In the East, urban forests were carved out of natural forests,” added Wilson. “Our in the West, we create an urban forest where there wasn’t a forest before.”

Here are some interesting facts about the Las Vegas hidden forest:

  • The most popular individual species is the Mondale pine (14% of the total population), the Fan-Tex ash (9%), the desert willow (5%).
  • Nearly 50% of Henderson’s trees were in the youngest tree age, with trunks of 3 inches in diameter or less.
  • 50% of the trees in Boulder City ranked as large or medium size, the highest such percentage in Clark County.
  • Approximately 25% of Mesquite’s public space trees were palm trees.

With winter well on its way, it’s time to start thinking about what kind of projects and activities you’re going to be doing. Winter can be a difficult time to get things done, especially with low temperatures and shorter days. This is why the winter months can be a great time to get stuff done around the house. So to help you stay busy this winter, we’ve compiled a short list of some eco-friendly home improvement projects you can tackle.

Replace Your Flooring

If your home’s flooring could use some attention, the winter is the perfect time to re-do it. A great option for sustainable flooring is actually carpet. While it may not seem like it, carpet can do more than keep your feet warm. Carpet is a great way to maintain temperature in your home. With carpeting in your home, you can use less heat in the colder months because the temperature will stay warmer on its own. Additionally, it can help stop heated air from escaping through the floor. And installing carpet on stairs can help reduce sound and make your stairways safer. With the American Journal of Medicine showing that more than one million Americans sustain injuries on stairs each year, it’s important to keep your family’s safety in mind too. So overall, installing carpet, particularly a non-toxic option, can be a great winter project.

Finish Your Basement

Basement remodeling is the perfect project for the winter months. Not only does Home Advisor show that a basement remodel can have up to a 70% ROI, it’s a great way to save energy. When your basement is left unfinished and isn’t insulated properly, you’re going to lose plenty of heat. Proper insulation is key to reducing your energy use at home. So by remodeling your basement, and choosing sustainable materials, you can save energy. Additionally, you’ll have tons of new usable space in your home. So instead of expanding your home with an addition and removing land and gardens which are important for the environment, you’re utilizing space you already have. Finishing the basement is a win-win situation because you can save energy and use sustainable materials while gaining additional space in your home. And you’ll finally have the perfect warm and cozy place to curl up in on cold winter nights.

Reconsider Your Water Use

More and more homebuyers are looking for homes with energy-efficient features, particularly younger generations. And with millennials and Gen Yers accounting for 34% of home buyers in 2017, there have been immense improvements in energy-efficient options. This is especially true when it comes to water use. Nowadays, there are several ways to save water at home. So if you’re looking for something to keep you busy this winter, consider replacing your faucets and appliances with ones that help conserve water. Tankless water heaters and flow faucet aerators are great investments for any home. You could also consider installing an irrigation system. While you won’t be doing much gardening this winter, planning an irrigation system and setting it up can help capture melted snow that can help take care of your garden come spring. There are plenty of ways you can save water around your house, so consider focusing on water use this winter.

It can be all too easy to catch the winter blues and not want to do anything around your house. But these simple projects can make a huge difference in how sustainable your home is and they can help keep you active and involved all winter long.