Green Ideas from Our Living Green Home Tour

The Better Homes and Gardens' Living Green home tour provides practical examples to help you conserve energy, live healthier, save money, and make a positive impact on the environment.

The Better Homes and Gardens & Green Works™ 2008 Living Green Tour traveled to 15 home-and-garden shows across the country, showcasing innovative, earth-friendly options for real homes. Designed by interior designer Libby Langdon, the exhibit featured inspiring eco-friendly living spaces including a kitchen, bathroom, living room, and laundry room.

Renewable and Oh So Versatile

The kitchen's cabinetry resembled maple or birch, but it was actually crafted from bamboo, a grass that's attractive, durable, and quickly renewable. Bamboo has gained popularity for flooring, and for home textiles such as towels and bedding. The exhibit's triple-paned Pella windows featured built-in shades, which can be lowered in the summer and raised in the winter to control heat from the sun.

Second Time Around

Going green doesn't mean sacrificing style. These chic countertops offered a twist on classic terrazzo, and were made with 100 percent recycled glass bottles. Likewise, the mosaic tile backsplash was created entirely from recycled glass -- in this case, car windshields.

Cool and Efficient

Your refrigerator is the biggest energy hog in the kitchen, and if you have an old one, it may be worth replacing. If it was manufactured before 1993, it's using twice as much energy as a new Energy Star®-qualified model. You'd save about $50 on your annual energy bill by replacing it.

Living Green Tour Tip: Buy products in concentrate, in bulk, or in refillable containers and you'll reduce packaging waste. Skip single-use products such as plastic wrap, plastic baggies, and aluminum foil in favor of washable containers with lids.

Get Clean, Go Green

The bathroom in the Living Green exhibit proved that it's possible to buy efficient fixtures without sacrificing performance. Kohler's MasterShower Ecofficient shower head provides 20 percent reduction in water consumption without sacrificing shower performance. The floor was made of renewable and easy-on-the-feet cork, which is harvested without harm to the trees or their habitats.

Living Green Tour Tips: Water is a natural resource that's often taken for granted but population growth is straining supplies across the country. You can save water at home by taking a few simple steps:

-- Turn off the tap when you're brushing your teeth or shaving.

-- Repair leaky faucets and toilets.

-- Install faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads.

-- Take a brief shower rather than a bath.

-- When replacing a toilet, look for a WaterSense-labeled one. These have been certified to use 20 percent less water while still performing well.

Dresser Redo

Instead of buying new furniture and housewares, look for secondhand or antique items and refurbish, or find creative new uses for pieces you already own. This will save resources such as trees and will often save you money as well. The vanity in the Living Green exhibit was crafted from a salvaged dresser and the mirror was framed in wood from the dresser's top.

Friendly Furniture

Eco-friendly upholstered furniture, like these beauties from Lee Industries, are available in mainstream stores. Look for domestically manufactured furniture with frames that are built of certified sustainable wood with natural-fiber cushioning and fabrics.

This media console could hardly be greener: It's a recycled baby-changing table, painted with low VOC paint and embellished with natural sea grass paper.

Bright Idea

The Better Homes and Gardens & Green Works™ Living Green exhibit was well-lit with efficient compact florescent bulbs. Replace your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents and you'll consume about 75 percent less electricity and the bulbs will last up to 10 times longer (10,000 hours as opposed to 1,500). Replace one 75-watt incandescent bulb with a 25-watt CFL and it translates to $83 over the life of the bulb!

Set It and Forget It

Install and use a programmable thermostat like the one featured in the Living Green exhibit. Simply turn down the heat a bit for eight hours on winter nights, and program a higher temperature when you're away during the summer. Use ceiling fans to make your house more comfortable year-round.

Save a Load

An Energy Star®-qualified washer, like the Bosch model featured in the Living Green tour, can save you $550 in operating costs over its lifetime compared to a regular clothes washer. Save energy by using your clothes dryer less frequently and your clothesline more often. Consider replacing your conventional water heater with a hot-water-on-demand tankless water heater (about $800) to save 50 percent in operating costs.

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