If you read or watch the news today, you will see a lot of reports about how the environment is suffering, due to poor choices mankind has made along the way. You might be wondering what you, as an individual or together with your family, can do to make the world a bit of a better place to live in.
The good news is—you can. You can help the environment by building an eco-friendly home or by incorporating eco-friendly features in the home you live in. It’s these small steps that make a whole lot of difference no matter where you are.
Types of eco-friendly homes
If you want an eco-friendly home, you have a lot of options. Below are the most common types of eco-friendly homes.
1. Airtight house
Airtight houses often have triple-glazed windows that maximize insulation. They come with sealed walls and floors and heavy doors to keep the cold and draughts out from entering your living space. This is so that no heat is lost and you don’t have to turn on your heating as often, which allows you to save on your energy bill a great deal. Using less energy helps to save the environment.
Pros: Comfort, improved energy efficiency, reduced moisture
Cons: Will need a professional to test the home for air leakage, might be harder to incorporate into an old house, indoor air quality can become poor
2. Camper van
While a camper van isn’t your typical house, it serves as a home for many people who are looking for ways to help save the environment. After all, a smaller house means a smaller carbon footprint. Camper vans are great eco-friendly homes for those who are looking to reduce waste by having a space that is small enough and will keep them from carelessly buying things they don’t need.
Several camper vans these days come with built-in solar panels to power solar camper vans. If this is beyond your budget, you can always get solar panels at a more affordable price.
Pros: Energy-saving and budget-saving; embraces the minimalist lifestyle
Cons: No permanent address as you always have to be on the move; the stigma attached to living in a van; toilet/bathroom/shower usually not included
3. Earth-sheltered house
Earth-sheltered houses take on a cave-like appearance as they are often built into a side of land, such as a hill, which provides the insulation for the house. Earth-sheltered houses are often known to be warm and quiet because the soil density provides a thick outer layer that shuts out external sound.
Even if you are built directly into the earth, you don’t need to worry about freezing up in the winter or the soil drying and cracking during the summer. This is because the house is built three meters into the soil, which is deeper than what temperature change can reach. Nevertheless, you have to make sure they are tightly sealed because the rain can seep through if you aren’t careful.
Pros: Self-insulator due to the thick outer layer
Cons: Must be sealed tightly or rain will seep through the earth and so requires intricate design
Earthships take caring for the environment to the next level. They are often made of natural or recycled materials and are made to be self-sustaining and to have natural sources of energy. Homes like this harness energy from wind and solar power through the use of small-scale windmills and solar panels.
Food is also produced around the home and water is gathered from the rain or nearby bodies of water (rivers, streams, etc.)
Pros: Everything is natural and earth-friendly; no bills and emissions; great option for those who want to live off the grid
Cons: Can be challenging to make and grow your own food if you aren’t used to it; building the house will require careful planning and building
5. Net-zero house
Net-zero houses are also called net-energy or zero-energy homes. They look like regular homes, but they are built in such a way that they are energy efficient to the point that the carbon footprint is zero. They are often insulated, airtight, and use low energy, thus making them carbon-free.
Net-zero houses are a fairly new concept, but they are gaining traction, especially as those who are looking for more eco-friendly ways of living see the benefits of living in one.
Pros: Quiet, comfortable, saves energy, cost-efficient; existing homes can be turned into net-zero houses
Cons: Requires meticulous and specialized planning; may require you to reduce your current energy load; no trees and other buildings must be blocking your solar panels
6. Off-grid house
Off-grid houses are self-sufficient and don’t rely on public utilities (power, natural gas, water, and telephone). Instead, they usually have a solar battery bank that stores solar power so they can have energy around the clock.
Because they don’t rely on public utilities, off-grid homeowners usually end up adopting sustainable living practices. People who live in off-grid homes are faced with finding ways to reduce the effects of contaminated water and to compost waste or find ways to recycle it.
Pros: Earth-friendly lifestyle; immersion in nature; self-sufficiency
Cons: Fewer conveniences; building and maintaining alternatives to public utilities can be expensive
7. Prefabricated house
Prefabricated houses are already made and can be transported to a plot of land for your choice. Houses like this ensure that no waste is produced while building and that the measurements are exact so you don’t waste any products.
There are various kinds of prefabricated houses, with the more expensive ones coming with features like solar panels. There are, however, others that cost a lot cheaper.
Pros: No need to build
Cons: No adjustments—what you see is what you’ll get
8. Rammed earth
Rammed earth houses use a technique that was used to build the Great Wall of China—tightly packed soil that is well-insulated and well-protected to create a low-cost home. These walls are made with a special kind of soil that is formulated in a special way to withstand weathering. The walls themselves are extremely thick (19-24 inches), making the interior quiet and adding comfort and coziness to your home.
Pros: Quiet, comfortable, sturdy
Cons: Can cost a lot to build
9. Shipping container house
Shipping container houses use shipping containers (made of steel) to build their base structure. Since they are all the same size, they can be stacked together or pieced together to create a large, higher building. They are often used for low-income housing, dorms, and even restaurants.
They have a modern, industrial look, but they are eco-friendly because they are a great example of upcycling. Instead of throwing away these steel cargo containers, they can be turned into homes, thus saving money from having to buy new materials. They are durable, need little labor, andare very inexpensive to use.
Pros: Inexpensive, durable, sustainable, mobile
Cons: Building permits can be difficult to get; not all shipping containers are eco-friendly; may require hiring professionals to install plumbing, solar panels, etc.
10. Tiny house
Tiny houses have become an increasingly popular movement. They’re usually 100-400 square feet in size and the concept behind them is to create a space that allows you to live simply as a way to provide an economical and environmental solution. Some of them are converted into mobile homes that are fitted onto a trailer so you can move to different locations. Inside, tiny houses maximize space by using multipurpose furniture.
Pros: More freedom and mobility; allows you to save up on energy bills and ease environmental footprint
Cons: Can be too small if you have a large family or too many things; might not be compatible with every lifestyle
A yurt is a round tent that is built to handle extreme weather conditions. While this originated in Central Asia, it has made its way around the world, recently becoming popular in Canada and the United States.
Yurts are made of eco-friendly materials, from their flexible lattice to their felt or fabric covering. Sometimes, waterproof material may be added as well to help the yurt withstand wet weather. It’s easy to set up and can house as many as 15 people (depending on the size). Usually, there is a wood-burning stove in the middle of a traditional yurt, with a chimney reaching past the roof.
Pros: Portable; all materials are eco-friendly; easy to set up without requiring special tools; spacious
Cons: Might require permits to set up depending on where you are; may not have a power source to run your utilities
Types of eco-friendly features for homes
Even as you’re working to create a home that is more environmentally friendly without having to purchase a camper van, a tiny home, or build an earthship from the ground or change the walls of your house, there are various eco-friendly features that you can incorporate into your home.
1. Eco-friendly interior
If you don’t know where to start with making your home more eco-friendly, you can start in simple ways, such as displaying houseplants and opening the windows and bringing in the sunlight so you don’t have to turn on the heater or the light and can save up on energy. You can also opt to get furniture made from natural materials or get natural textiles and finishings.
2. Green roof
If you live in a house in the city and are looking for a place to grow some plants, why not put them up on your roof? A green roof comes with a waterproofing system that is installed on top of a flat or slightly sloped roof. They allow you to grow various plans and sometimes even small trees, depending on the structural load.
Of course, they require maintaining and watering and are best for single-story houses that make it easy to access the roof.
3. Heat pump
A heat pump is a heating and cooling system that is installed outside your home and is a great feature if you want to help save on energy. It can cool your home during the summer months but also provide heat when the temperature drops. While they are powered by electricity, they can handle both heating and cooling so that there is no need to install separate systems. Also, they do not burn fossil fuels, which makes them more environmentally friendly.
4. Living wall
If you are fond of nature and greens and don’t have the space for either a front or back garden, a living wall lets you grow a garden on the side of your home. Not only does a living wall make your place look beautiful and interesting, but it helps reduce noise pollution as well.
In contrast to ivy on walls, living walls have installed packs of soil onto the wall that come with a water delivery system. This keeps the wall behind it from eroding and allows you to maintain your little wall garden without having to water and mow it every now and then.
Living walls are most popular in city homes where the plants can absorb the carbon dioxide and improve the air quality in the area.
5. Natural light
Having natural light in your home allows sunlight to warm the house naturally, thus reducing the need for heaters and other central heating systems. Usually, this is done by placing ceiling to floor glass walls and windows, especially in the part of the house that faces the south side.
Recently, this design has become increasingly popular as it allows for extensive picturesque views and does a good job of blending inside and outside—a perfect setup for nature lovers.
6. Passive heating and cooling
Passive heating and cooling use building systems to avoid using air conditioning or a heater. Materials are carefully selected for the building’s floors, roofs, windows so that they take advantage of the sun’s energy to help improve energy efficiency. As a result, you are able to heat up your room without the need for a heater or reduce the amount of solar radiation entering a space. Thus there is no need for an air conditioner. Some of the technologies used include operable windows, trombe walls, solar walls, and solar chimneys.
7. Rain collection system
If you live in a place where it rains often, you can collect rainwater for repurposing later on, such as in your garden or green roof. This is done by installing a recycled barrel underneath a gutter so that it collects the rainwater instead of dumping it back to the earth right away.
Other people set up a type of rain collection system that allows them to store large amounts of water that either empties directly into the top of a tank or connects multiple pipes underground and from different gutters until the rising water spills into the tank.
8. Solar energy
Solar energy is done by installing solar panels as a way to harness power from the sun and even store it for future use. It’s inexpensive and eliminates wasteful processes. Most solar systems that you install in your home have the winter and summer shadowing program, meaning it will help warm your home without making it too hot and control the temperature of your solar panels.