A house becomes a home when we make it our place of renewal and family — a place where we unwind from our busy days and connect again with each other. We design interiors filled with the things we love to create a place of laughter, light and beauty.

But a home is more than a haven for us — it is a place that can have an impact our health and even the environment. More and more Americans are choosing building practices and using products that conserve energy and water and keep the air they breathe cleaner and healthier.

Organizations like the U.S. Green Building Council and the National Association of Home Builders know that the components in some materials used in building or remodeling your house can seriously affect your health and the environment around you —chemicals from carpets, adhesives and sealants, and paints and coatings, for example, are released into the air and your lungs. How do you know if your home is really a healthy home?

Ask your contractor what kinds of materials and products (such as caulks and adhesives) are used and what he does to make sure your home is environmentally safe and earth-friendly.

Investigate the level of “VOCs,” or Volatile Organic Compounds, in these items. In a 2002 bulletin, the Solvents Industry Group of the American Chemistry Council stated that “the solvents used in products such as coatings, adhesives and consumer products are generally classified as VOCs that can be emitted into the air after they perform their function.”

The building industry knows that solvents are an important component of a wide range of high performance products used in building and remodeling homes. It also knows that those products need to be as safe as possible. More and more manufacturers are stepping up by producing industrial “green products,” especially caulks, sealants and adhesives, which are high performance but environmentally safe for construction. You can ask that such products be used in the construction or remodeling of your home wherever possible.

You can also do your own research about what’s available.

  • The Green Home Guide offers solutions from granite countertop sealers to wall paint and wood stains to water-wise bathroom choices.You can even”ask a pro.”
  • The National Association of Home Builders has green home building guidelines available for download. “NAHB’s voluntary Model Green Home Building Guidelines are designed to be a tool kit for the individual builder looking to engage in green building practices and home builder associations (HBAs) looking to launch their own local green building programs.”
  • Your Green Home is a Corvallis, Oregon store that also takes online orders for green supplies and building materials. Pretty good selection and reasonable shipping costs. Of course it’s important to consider the shipping when calculating your “greenness.” If you’re on the east coast, find a local supplier and save the environmental cost of freight.
  • Want some inspiration? Check out the HGTV Green Dream Home. Seven basic sustainability areas were targeted during the building of HGTV’s Green Home 2008: innovation and design, location and linkages, sustainable site, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, awareness and education. Find out more here.

Have more resources you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments!

Looking for a green adhesive for making basic repairs around the home? Check out Amazing EcoGlue. This water-based adhesive is environmentally safe (it has less than 1 percent volatile organic compounds), with virtually no hazardous air pollutants and no animal derivatives. The bottle and packaging are recyclable, too.
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