Thursday, October 1, 2009

Love Your Mother (Earth): Why We Went Green

Why build a green home? Because it makes sense. If that's too short an answer for you, allow me to elaborate.

Buildings (residential, commercial, school, etc.) accounted for 39.4 percent of total U.S. energy consumption in 2002. Residential buildings—built at a rate of more than 1.8 million per year—accounted for 54.6 percent of that total.

What’s more, buildings in the U.S. produce 38.1 percent of the nation’s total carbon dioxide emissions, 20.6 percent of which comes from the residential sector. They also account for 12 percent of the total water consumption and 68 percent of total electricity consumption, says the Environmental Protection Agency.

Clearly, buildings have an unhealthy impact on the natural environment. But building green can lead to myriad environmental, economic and social benefits, such as protecting ecosystems, improving air and water quality, conserving natural resources, enhancing occupant health and improving quality of life.

For me, a home’s impact on its occupants’ health is just as important as its environmental impact. Especially since Americans spend about 90 percent or more of their time indoors. (I calculated my own time indoors and was appalled to learn I was approaching that statistic!) I want to make the inside of my home as healthy as I possibly can. This means eliminating as many sources of indoor air pollution as possible. From the EPA:

There are many sources of indoor air pollution in any home. These include combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood, and tobacco products; building materials and furnishings as diverse as deteriorated, asbestos-containing insulation, wet or damp carpet, and cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products...central heating and cooling systems...

Who wouldn’t want to improve the indoor air quality in their home after learning that immediate effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness and fatigue? Respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer crop up in the long term. We’ll be making decisions on furniture, flooring, cabinets, even paint with these facts in mind.

So, there you have it! That’s why when we decided to build our home, we knew we had to build responsibly—for our earth, and for ourselves.

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