Reduce, reuse, recycle is the mantra of the environmental movement. Nowhere is it more appropriate than in remodeling.
Take Advantage of Natural Light
Large windows and skylights can flood the room with sunlight, reducing the demand for electricity.
Install Energy-Efficient Windows
Coated glass panes keep heat in during the winter months, and out during the summer. These windows cost a little more, but you can recoup the expense in energy savings, often fairly quickly.
Reposition windows to take advantage of natural breezes and cross-ventilation. Placing equal-size windows on both windward and leeward sides of your house encourages breezes to move through. Install ceiling fans to keep the air moving, which will help you cut down on use of air-conditioning.
Use Nontoxic Paint Removers
Biodegradable paint strippers and finishes are available in recyclable containers.
Salvage What You Can
If there is nothing wrong with your old cabinets, instead of replacing them, refinish them. A sturdy table can find new life as a kitchen island, a wardrobe as a pantry. Search salvage yards for recycled building materials. Old pine beams, for example, can be sawed for use as flooring.
Choose natural linoleum over vinyl for an eco-friendly kitchen. You'll love the bright colors and custom designs available from Forbo and Armstrong. Also consider bamboo, cork, and eucalyptus -- all harvested from rapidly renewable resources. If you want hardwood flooring, look for certification from the Forest Stewardship Council.
If your refrigerator was manufactured before 1993, it uses twice as much energy as a new Energy Star-qualified model. Replacing it will also give you style options such as stainless steel and oiled-bronze finishes. French door refrigerators with bottom freezers are popular, and they accommodate wider items than traditional side-by-side units.
Countertops and Backsplashes
If you like the look of wood and want an environmentally friendly countertop, try bamboo. It's available from Totally Bamboo in countertop dimensions. Or choose solid-surfacing or quartz-surfacing from DuPont, Silestone, Cambria, Formica, or Wilsonart with the Greenguard seal. IceStone uses recycled glass in a concrete mix for a totally different look.