Eco-Inspiration For Your Home and Garden

Photo: iStockphoto.com/Mona Makela
Stylish, eco-friendly options can save energy and money

Staying true to sustainable values can be a challenge when decorating or renovating your home. You want to stay eco-friendly and be mindful of the planet, but that just might not fit in with your bathroom renovation plans, your landscaping ideas or those new drapes you had in mind. Green Living will show you that, with a little thought and creativity, you can minimize your environmental impact and still focus on stylish design and comfort.

Don’t throw things out – repurpose!

If an object or material no longer seems to work in your home, don’t toss it just yet. Repurposed decor can make unique conversation pieces. Sand an old stool to make a new bedside table, turn old wood flooring into a coffee table, or use interesting bottles as vases. If you must get rid of something, make sure it doesn’t end up in a landfill – donate to charities like Habitat for Humanity or Hope Furniture Bank, or join a Freecycle group. After all, one person’s trash is another’s treasure.

Seek alternative materials

No matter what your renovation or decorating project, there is a wide range of options in environmentally friendly materials. While what’s most eco-friendly can differ based on your project and what’s locally available, consider these criteria when choosing a particular product:

• Saves water or energy
• Manufactured by socially and environmentally responsible companies
• Locally produced
• Replaces toxic chemicals with safe, healthy components
• Is salvaged or made from recycled materials
• Conserves natural resources

Due to increasing awareness and demand, more manufacturers are offering eco-friendly options. Be an informed consumer, and ask questions about the life cycle of your products. Good wood flooring choices include FSC-certified or Rainforest Alliance-certified wood, bamboo or cork. Try Canadian companies such as Canadian Heritage Timber, Logs End or Second Wind Timber. Viable fabric choices include organic cotton, modal, hemp or bamboo. The best paint choices contain low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or are natural, such as milk-based paint. Other good choices include products that are certified by EcoLogo or Cradle to Cradle. The Green Living Marketplace has some great products to get you started. No matter what the material, you can always make your home a healthier place for yourself, your family and the environment.

Select the right appliances and equipment

Time to replace that old microwave, refrigerator or lighting fixture? Today’s market offers a plethora of stylish and eco-conscious options. Energy Star qualified products meet high standards for energy efficiency, which can lead to savings on utility bills. (Even the light bulbs you use are important – replacing incandescent bulbs with Energy Star-certified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) reduces energy by up to 75 per cent!) Select appliances and fixtures that use the least amount of water, such as low-flow shower heads and dual-flush toilets.

Embrace “less is more”

Take inspiration from Japanese and Scandinavian design, and explore the “less is more” aesthetic. Minimal decorating often translates to a minimal effect on the planet. When you do make a purchase, avoid short-lived decorating trends, and pick quality, timeless goods.

Makeover your garden

A carefully planned garden can be aesthetically pleasing and beneficial to the environment, not to mention a time and energy saver. Reduce utility costs by irrigating with water from a rain barrel and investing in a push mower. Use natural pesticides, herbicides and mulch, which will reduce your time spent weeding and cut down on watering costs). Pick plants, trees and shrubs native to your area – they are hardier and more drought-resistant, requiring less water. Get creative, encourage diversity and embrace natural beauty.

For gardening inspiration attend Canada Blooms. This year's festival features over 6 acres of stunning creative gardens designed by Canada’s premier landscapers, Canada’s largest Flower Show, two stages of education presenting Canada’s best known garden personalities and the very busy Blooms Marketplace featuring the latest gardening products.

New for 2012: Canada Blooms is co-locating with the National Home Show to create North America’s largest Home and Garden Event. Tickets to Canada Blooms allows admission to both events for one low ticket price.

Enter Green Living’s contest for a chance to win tickets to Canada Blooms Early Morning Tour and a garden design package from Sheridan Nurseries, including a design consultation and gift card.

When visiting the Home Show, especially if you’re looking to renovate or build an eco-home, you’ll be interested in this year’s Dream Home, R-House. Designed and built by PROBUILT, the house embodies twin goals: sustainable living and luxury design. For those who believe eco-friendly living is devoid of lavishness, the R-House will change your perception. When you visit the Eco Dream Home you will receive a complimentary ticket* to the Green Living Show. (*Limited quantities)

Green Living readers - Save $4 off the regular at-the-door admission ($3 for Seniors and Students), or $1 off the advanced ticket price (regular Adult). Click here to buy tickets. Use Promo Code CBGREEN

When it comes to the environment, creating positive change starts at your doorstep. We hope we’ve provided inspiration and ideas for eco-conscious living in your home and garden.

Green Living wants to hear from you! What steps do you take to make your living space more sustainable? E-mail editor@green-living.ca.