Posted: May 17, 2012 6:18 PM
From bamboo floors to concrete countertops, new materials can make your home green.

Making improvements to your home is a great way to increase the value of your home, but did you know you can also help the environment in the process? Green and energy efficient upgrades are growing in popularity and create a feel-good way to make the most of your next home improvement project.

High-efficiency toilets

Go green with a high efficiency toilet (HET) -- a toilet that gets the job done while using less water. According to the experts at the Healthy House Institute®, there are three different HET technologies:

  1. Using a siphon to pull water through the trapway, the gravity toilet reduces water use by 20 percent, using 1.28 gallons per flush (gpf) versus the older requirement of 1.6 gpf.
  2. The dual-flush toilet also uses siphon technology and offers two flushing options: a full flush for solid wastes (number twos: 1.6 gpf) and a partial flush for liquid wastes (number ones: 1.0 gpf). You decide which option to use, depending on how much water you think is needed to get the job done.
  3. The 1.0 gpf pressure-assist toilet features a vessel inside the tank that pushes, rather than pulls, water through the trapway. This pressure-flush technology delivers water to the bowl at three times the standard flow rate for a quick super flush.

Each of these systems saves money while helping the environment. And there are a variety of HET design styles to fit any number of different decors.

Concrete countertops

Granite countertops are so last year! Modern, rustic concrete is the way to go in 2012. Concrete provides a natural look that's less polished and more organic than its popular predecessor.

  • And it doesn't have to look like a sidewalk! You can change the look by dying it, using tiles around the edges or mixing it with crushed glass or seashells!
  • Plan to have it installed -- you don't want to pour your own! A proper concrete countertop is fabricated with reinforcing mesh and metal.

Learn more about the benefits of concrete countertops at

Bamboo flooring

Bamboo crops quickly renew themselves and provide one of the most sustainable resources on earth -- no wonder it has become a popular choice among contractors and homeowners. Bamboo flooring:

  • is made with safe resins
  • is easy to clean
  • does not promote allergens such as dust or dust mites
  • is inexpensive, costing between 25 to 50 percent less than traditional hardwood floors
  • is long-lasting
  • can be installed over a variety of different subfloors, including vinyl tile, wood and sheathing plywood

Other earth-friendly flooring materials include cork and eucalyptus! Learn more about sustainable flooring at Healthy House Institute®.

Greener outdoor spaces

If one of your planned home improvements is to beautify your landscape, keep these green options in mind:

  • Plant trees -- They beautify your yard while providing shade and wind protection for your house. You'll save money on heating and air conditioning bills.
  • Use native plants -- Native plants have adapted to your area and are acclimated to local climate and soils. As a result, they'll require less water, fertilizer and pesticides. Find your native plants at the Environmental Protection Agency's GreenScapes website.
  • Try non-toxic gardening -- Improperly or overused pesticides put your family and pets at increased health risk. Green Eco Services recommends a variety of safe alternatives: tobacco, dishwashing liquid, vegetable oil, garlic, baking soda, milk, vinegar, beer and more. Find DIY recipes on their website.

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