As a kid growing up, I remember being taught (mostly through TV) about the four ‘R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Recover. Our family received a small blue plastic box in which we were told by the City of Edmonton to put in newspapers, soup cans, and other recyclable materials. Our neighbour, an older couple, went as far as creating a compost pile to make fertilizer for their small garden (boy, did it stink). I’m comfortable to say that growing up, my generation was the first generation to be exposed to the idea of being ‘green’.
Fast forward to today, and being ‘green’ is everywhere. My five year old daughter lectures me on the proper disposal of recyclable items, something she was taught in kindergarten. I now know that my ‘carbon footprint’ is not the dirt that I track into my home from wearing my work boots all day. Big, end of the aisle, displays of products at my local home depot profess to save energy, save money, and save the planet. Recycling our waste and reducing usage is certainly a good step towards being ‘green’, but I often wonder if these home renovation and building products really help with the environment. In other words, do the products that suggest energy efficiency or being green really help the environment?
Honestly, in a lot of cases, there isn’t enough information to really make that call, but I thought I would share some things I did learn in hopes that it will provide opportunities for discussion.
1) Bamboo might not be the ultimate in green flooring.
Everywhere I read about bamboo seems to indicate that it is a much more environmentally friendly product than wood. It’s true that when you harvest, say, a maple tree, it can take decades to grow another one. A bamboo plant (bamboo is a grass, not a tree) on the other hand, can be cut down and the same plant will grow back to maturity in about 7 years. Surely this means it’s better for the environment, right? Maybe not. There are no bamboo forests in Canada and that means getting that bamboo product all the way from China takes a lot of resources, such as fuel for shipping. Does this have a larger impact, than say purchasing wood grown locally in a sustainable forest? Maybe that bamboo floor has a greater impact on the environment than you thought.
2) Energy Star rated windows and doors – Are they good for the environment?
Products that promote an energy star rating generally mean they are energy efficient. In the case of windows and doors, this usually means that they have good insulating value, which, in turn means you pay less for heating and cooling your home. However, according to a PDF put out by greencalgary.org , those energy star rated vinyl windows take eight times more energy to produce than a wood one and they are made from a non-renewable resource, petroleum. And guess what? You can purchase wood windows that are energy star rated.
What about the durability of vinyl windows versus wood ones? Vinyl windows have only been around 30 or 40 years. In addition to that, they come in many levels of quality. Will they outlast a good quality wood window? It’s hard to say.
3) ‘Eco Options’ aren’t always Eco-friendly
Kristi Wiedemann, Science and Policy Analyst, at GreenerChoices.org , found that many products labelled as ‘green’ were not necessarily ‘green’ and that some organizations who determine if products are eco-friendly have vested interest in those products. In other words, just because it says green on the label, doesn’t always mean it’s friendly for the environment.
For a good start on your green home renovation, visit http://www.greencalgary.org/images/uploads/File/GreenBuildingGuide.pdf
If you want to view other blog posts from Robert & Michael at Nord Alta Construction, visit our blog on our site by clicking here.
If you’re in Edmonton, St. Albert, Sherwood Park, or the surrounding area and are looking for a contractor for you renovation project, visit our website at www.nordalta.com/contact/ to find information on how to contact us. We’d be happy to speak to you about what we can do to get the ball rolling on your next home or office project. You can also leave comments with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Breault is a project coordinator for Nord Alta Construction. You can find the company website at www.nordalta.com. You can also find Michael and Nord Atla Construction on facebook at www.facebook.com/NordAltaConstruction, on twitter at www.twitter.com/Nordalta, and on LinkedIn.
Robert Breault is the president and owner of Nord Alta Construction. You can find the company website at www.nordalta.com. You can also find Robert and Nord Alta Construction on facebook at www.facebook.com/NordAltaContruction and on LinkedIn.