Home Improvement the 'Green' Way: Your Environmentally Friendly Project

Whether you're buildling an entirely new house or just undertaking run-of-the-mill home improvement projects, you can help save the earth. Here are some tips to taking environmental issues into account when doing your next job.

'Green' Home Improvement

Some common environmentally conscious concepts include:

• Recycled materials for the project
• Landscaping with native and drought-resistant plants
• Solar power for energy production
• Non-toxic materials for building
• Installing energy efficient appliances and lighting
• Designing water-saving irrigation systems

Most of these concepts can be utilized in both a new construction project, and home remodeling. They save our precious natural resources and can offer significant energy cost savings as well.

Finding a Green Contractor

Follow these simple guidelines.

Check out the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) website  It lists building professionals accredited by the USGBC for having "demonstrated a thorough understanding of green building practices and principles and familiarity with LEED requirements, resources and processes."

Be careful -- not all contractors are qualified to offer you the best environmental options for your particular job. In addition to the usual aspects of finding a quality contractor, you will want to ask:

• What kinds of benefits can they provide for you and your home. Ask for specifics about how the project will affect you and the environment.

• Find out if they have an area of expertise such as solar energy, indoor air quality, or conservation techniques.

• Ask if they have any special training or education in green design or construction.

Of course, make sure you take the usual precautions when hiring any contractor to build or remodel your home. Interview several different contractors, and check all of their references. Make sure they have the proper insurance.

And always make sure you have everything in writing, including payment arrangements, specifics of the job, and a warranty.

Read this article for more information on common home improvement mistakes.

Kathy Wilson is a home and garden writer, author and consultant and is the home decorating expert for LifetimeTV.com.