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future of home improvement isn't green

Why the Future of Home Improvement Isn’t “Green”

By Matt Daigle Founder
Oct 18, 2018

For this month’s From the Editor column, our Founder and CEO Matt Daigle shares his views on the home improvement industry. You might be surprised he doesn’t like the term “green.”

Have you tuned into HGTV lately? Is it just me, or does every show seem like a rerun of the last show? Couples buying and renovating homes over and over, with the biggest decisions being what paint color, tile texture, or cabinet style to choose. And who doesn’t love the awkward first-time renovator moments and comical banter peppered in for good measure?

While it’s fantastic seeing some nice before and afters, I can’t help but wonder: does anyone ever long for something more than the superficial redecoration of the home?

Buying a home is the single largest purchase most folks will make in their lifetime - shouldn’t a renovation be more than just slapping some lipstick on your home?

Homes that are more than just a pretty face

If you’re a homeowner or soon will be, think about this: what kind of home do you really want?

It’s abundantly clear that you want it to be beautiful; it’s definitely important to have a home we can feel good about simply by the way that it looks and feels. Whether you love the look of a traditional home or an ultra-modern abode, we get it: style and looks are important. It makes us feel good and proud as homeowners.

But hold on a sec, you actually also have to live (and THRIVE) in this thing…likely for years, if not, decades to come! So I’ll ask again - what kind of home do you REALLY want?

Is it one that is low maintenance, and durable so you don’t have to worry about fixing it all the time?

Is it one that helps you save on your utility bill every month (or even eliminates it)?

Maybe it’s one that’s incredibly comfortable?

Or one that has the cleanest indoor air quality for your kids?

And maybe like some, you care about minimizing your home’s environmental footprint.

If all of these things seem overwhelming already, they can really be watered down to three core values. As Rise’s Editor, Melissa Rappaport Schifman puts it in her new book, it’s home improvement for your health, wealth, and soul (more on that later).

Why we’re not all talking about this yet

Technically that’s not true...people are talking about this kind of home improvement, but it’s been disguised as something else.

Many have looked at the “green” movement that is happening in home improvement as the future of home improvement--a market that has skyrocketed in popularity since the early 2010s and is expected to reach over $364 billion globally by 2022. For the most part, the growth will be there. But where the green movement fails is in the conversations and how we communicate about our wants and needs for homes that are just better in every way.

Sadly, we’ve dropped the ball. You know the lingo, green this, eco-friendly that, sustainable too, it’s all been shoved in our face one too many times. It seems everyone wants to be green these days, and the consequence of that is that the words associated with it have literally lost their meaning or just don’t accurately reflect the values we’re trying to solve for as homeowners.

Conversely, there are people that do not want to be green, because they think of it as a political statement or that they have to sacrifice comfort and convenience--which is not true, but that is the perception. So the green building movement ends up alienating people for all the wrong reasons.

So why aren’t we focusing on the benefits rather than this ambiguous lingo?

What is a Values-Driven Home?

Think of it as benefits: how does your ideal home benefit you the most? We have boiled it down to these nine characteristics (in no particular order) that fall within the realm of benefits to occupants:

  1. Home Comfort
  2. Energy and Utility Bill Reduction
  3. Local Sourcing
  4. Footprint Reduction
  5. Home Resilience/Durability
  6. Indoor Air Quality
  7. Aesthetics/Style
  8. Water Usage
  9. Mental Health Boost

The only other benefit not listed here is having a home that is functional, but that benefit is largely attributed to good design, rather than the use of specific materials and products.

And if you want to boil it down even more, you can really look at home improvement through the lens that it benefits your:

  • Health - by choosing safe and healthy materials (often people are unaware that certain products are hazardous to their health, like some types of insulation, paints or finishes)
  • Wealth - by choosing products/materials that will help you save on the cost of running your home (think insulation or renewable energy)
  • Soul - by choosing beautiful materials and products that have a low environmental footprint in how they’re made or that contribute to a lower footprint through their use; choosing a location that is near to where you work and play; or landscaping that is beautiful and helps manage stormwater runoff or nourish bees and butterflies at the same time.

Melissa Rappaport Schifman’s new book, Building a Sustainable Home: Practical Green Design Choices for Your Health, Wealth, and Soul, lays this out beautifully in an easy to understand framework. (That’s why we hired her as our Editor and Sustainability Thought Leader.

So how can you have a home that reflects these values?

It’s all about taking ownership over what goes into your home.

To start, seek out products and materials that speak to your priorities and values as a homeowner, rather than making decisions purely on aesthetic merit is a great place to start. When picking products and materials, always ask yourself: how does this actually benefit me and my home? And if the only thing that comes back is “it makes it pretty,” then it might not be the best choice.

At the end of the day, choosing products that go beyond beauty and that really address our core values is a balancing act--you have to be aware that there will be tradeoffs. For example, that beautiful bamboo floor you wanted in your living room might come from a rapidly renewable resource, but the fact that it’s usually made in Asia means it has to travel far to get to our North American homes--which translates into a much larger footprint than you might think. Or a new durable steel roof might offer long-lasting durability for decades, but it also happens to take much more energy to be manufactured than, say, a wood shingle roof.

To make better decisions for your home, be mindful and curious. Ask the tough questions about how these things benefit you, and make sure that lines up with your values for what you want your home to be. Our homes are, after all, a reflection of ourselves.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2020-05-14T16:16:57+0000

Article by:

Matt Daigle