We watch what we put in our bodies. So how come we don’t give nearly as much thought to what we put in our homes, where our bodies spend most of their time? The holistic philosophy improves our relationship with medicine and food — and it can also improve our relationship with our homes.
“We’re mindful about what we eat because it directly affects our health and wellbeing,” said Marla Esser, NAHB Master Certified Green Professional and founder of The Green Home Coach. “It can be the same with what you choose to put in your home.”
You Have to Start Somewhere
It’s important to think big. A truly green home goes far beyond basic energy efficiency.
“When you go fully green, you take a comprehensive look at all systems in the home, and then you get health, safety, and convenience benefits,” Esser said.
Esser’s approach is based on the philosophy that little changes over the course of time can add up to major improvements. The challenge is to develop a holistic mindset that considers the greenest option for every single choice you make about the entire house.
“You have to be conscious and mindful about what you’re choosing,” Esser said. “How do you handle storm water runoff or landscaping? Are you bringing toxins into your house through the land or toxins in the air? Any choice you make about your house, likely has a green or energy efficient option.”
Some people may value using recycled materials. Others may want to remove any cleaning products that use chemicals.
“There are different ways to achieve these goals,” Esser said. “None are perfect, but they can move you toward a more holistic approach to your home. People think they can’t do anything, but you have to start somewhere. Replace light bulbs with LED. Start with small, free upgrades and move all the way to replacing the furnace and insulation.”
Energy Audits: Assessing Your Greenness
For people who feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, an energy audit may be a good jumping off point. By getting a professional to take inventory of the entire house, homeowners can get a clear picture of which systems are efficient, which aren’t, what upgrades will be fairly easy, and what will require a larger investment.
“There are energy auditors in every city in the USA,” Esser said. “These auditors have the tools and computer models to help assess the priorities in the house. They can also help determine what to do first.”
Not ready to call in the pros? You can conduct your own, informal energy audit. It may not be as thorough as a professional assessment, but it’s a great place to begin.
Esser reminds homeowners, however, that these DIY tools are specific to energy efficiency, and that people should try to expand their perspectives to go green in all areas of their homes.
“You could improve the circulation so you have better air,” Esser said. “You can look for products that at the end of their life can be recycled.”
For Esser, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a large commercial building or someone’s home. The concept remains the same — your space affects your life and your health. If you care about your body, you have to care about what goes into your home. Your home, after all, is where your body lives.
“It really is integral to your health,” Esser said. “It just as important as what you eat.”