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DIY - Sustainable Home Improvement Materials

Updated on August 24, 2015
Brighton Earthship, Sussex
Brighton Earthship, Sussex | Source

Using Corporate Green Techniques at Home

Many cities and towns across America are instituting the LEED sustainability measures in new city and business construction in order to conserve the environment and its resources and to be more efficient in their use. Overall, this initiative preserves the environment, saves money, and cleans up our world while reducing conspicuous consumption and waste. It's a good thing and we can follow these techniques at home as well.

What is LEED?

LEED is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System™.It is a system that is promoted by the US Green Building Council for sustainable building and development via universally understood green tools and criteria.

Architects - landscape and building, real estate people, construction and facility managers, engineers, interior designers, lenders, and the government use LEED. State and local governments use LEED for public-owned and public-funded construction and the feds are applying it to the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, Energy, and State. Further, LEED is used in 41 countries like India, Canada, and Mexico.

Individuals can join the LEED program for a fee or can read about agencies and companies that are LEED-certified, especailly home builders, and derive tips and projects from their work.

Roof top gardens help cool building in the warmer months.
Roof top gardens help cool building in the warmer months. | Source

Green Products for House and Home

This Old House online provides a substantial list of resources for Green Products for the home and garden. Search "This Old House", since the link changes from time to time. See an additional guide at the links below!

For example, recycled pressurized paperboard makes a fine lower-cost construction material for room dividers, wall paneling, screens, etc. Other good examples:

  • South African Railroad ties have been made into sturdy building cubes that can be used for attractive storage bins.
  • Scrap lumber has been recycled into lighting fixtures for the ceiling that are attractive and sturdy.
  • Sea shells have become drawer knobs and handles for cabinets.
  • Old Coca-Cola bottles have also been melted down and made into drawer knobs. Additional glass objects have been repurposed in this way as well.
  • Japanese Telephone Books have become attractive colorful wallpaper.
  • Trees from Ghana that grow very speedily are harvested for inexpensive floor tiling - about $1 per square foot tile.
  • Recycled glass and ceramics can make good counter tops, table tops, and flooring.
  • Bicycle parts are made into candle holders.

Sustainable Industries at Home

Sustainable Industries online is a comprehensive site that promotes renewable energy, Cleantech (clean technologies), green building, and sustainable food/agriculture. Many of the pages of information, projects, and resources offered can be applied in the home and garden. This organization has announced that Home Depot has began to offer sustainable building and home improvement materials in their stores 

In fact, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has facilitated the sales of sustainable, fast-growing woods to both Home Depot and Lowe’s. You can call or visit your local Lowe's or Home Depot to see what they can offer in the way of sustainability products. Another nice feature of Home Depot is that they also sponsor employees that participate in the Olympic Games, permitting these athletes to work part-time while earning full-time wages and working out and competing in their events all year.

Go to the Sustainable Industries website for additional information, projects, suggestions, articles, and news.


City and State Involvement & Chicken Feathers

The City of St. Louis offers a directory of suppliers that sell recycled home improvement and building materials in the Greater St. Louis Area and Missouri. Their web site is located at: Recycled Home and Garden. Many other cities around the US offer similar directories and listings. In addition, local university and college Extension Services can often provide this information as well as free plans for home improvement projects. Find an Extension Office or online site in your state at the link.

PreserveNet at Cornell University in New York helps to operate a project that recycles entire houses. Sustainable Community Initiatives is the company helping them and providing internships to students in this movement. Learn more at Recycle an Entire House. is also promoting green improvements at home. They do this by matching you to a local contractor in your area in Canada that uses recycled materials or can help you obtain recycled materials. In Idaho, recycled materials are distributed through a commercial outlet known as ReStore.

Chicken Feathers have even been recycled into building materials! Dr. Menandro Acda of the University of the Philippines Los Banos, the College of Forestry and Natural Resources has determined this. They can be combined with cement to produce lower-cost panels for building and redecorating.

Commercial Directories

Eco Business Links provides several pages of commercial links for recycled and sustainable building and home improvement products across the United States at ECOLINKS.

An interesting feature at Eco Business Links is Low Impact Living. This feature speaks to reducing the impact of your home upon the environment and how you can reduce that impact. Suggestions and products include organic materials, compact fluorescent bulbs, and numerous others. One idea is the line of Bean Rockers that provided eco-friendly furniture that is healthy for our anatomies.

These rockers are manufactured using natural hemp, sustainable maple plywood, and sustainable latex. They sit close to the floor and support the back well, available in a number of sizes for different family members.

Planet Green is another resource for redecorating with eco-friendly and ergonomic furniture. Still another good directory is Green Builder, which provides not only commercial links, but information and home based projects as well. It also includes features such as the International Strawbale Registry for strawbale building and many online articles regarding green construction and building materials.

Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA)

The Building Materials Reuse Association is available in many US States at this link:

This nonprofit organization is dedicated to locating and facilitating the deconstruction of houses and buildings in order to salvage and recycle as much of the original materials as possible. In addition, its activities create new jobs and keep usable materials out of our nation's landfills.

The site offers membership opportunities and links to related sites like the National Demolition Association and Academy.

Resources and a Directory of builders, suppliers, Habitat for Humanity and related organizations and agencies for the USA and Canada by state or province are offered on the site.

Solar Panels
Solar Panels | Source

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS


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