Go to any big-box-home-store and you'll find a massive variety of building material products all being marketed with various features/benefits.  You'll see how the products are advertised and sold to be beautiful, long lasting, scratch resistant, kid/pet proof, and even "eco-friendly."  The problem is that most aren't eco-friendly - an unfortunate case of green-washing.  What we should be looking for are products that have a truly sustainable properties - being from nature, low energy consumption during processing, chemical-free, renewable, and the ability to biodegrade.

When choosing products to install in your build or remodel project, there are a few easy  categories to focus on.  Here are 5 product categories to consider making "greener" choices with if building or renovating your home.  


Commonplace today are products called LVT (luxury vinyl tile), vinyl plank, or engineered laminate flooring.  These wood or tile "look" products are variants of vinyl plastic sheets or planks, that may or may not consist of any real wood or stone.  The vinyl material itself, the fillers, polymers, and adhesives used to fuse them into a cohesive piece of flooring are all problematic from both a human health perspective and in nature.  Not only do the products off-gas into your home creating a poor IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) space for you and your family to breath, but they also have a negative environmental impact from manufacturing through the end-of-life-cycle as they never biodegrade.

Alternatives to consider are classic hardwoods (pine, oak, etc.), cork, and bamboo.  All three options are renewable resources, natural, biodegradable, durable and long lasting, timeless, carbon storing, and sustainable.  When harvested as certified FSC, these flooring types are especially eco-friendly.

You won't have to worry about chemical off-gassing from the planks themselves, and if you choose eco-friendly finishes, you'll have a floor that you can feel safe with and proud to put in your home.


Similarly to our hard flooring segment above, it's unfortunate that most "modern" carpets today are made from 100% synthetic fibers.  This means anytime carpet is replaced in homes, homeowners are throwing away hundreds of square feet of plastic.  Not to mention the years they spend on top of chemically treated fibers that are marketed as "stain resistant" or "fade-proof."  Most of these chemicals haven't been around long enough to test or verify their safety or long term impact on people and pets.  Lastly, carpeting is very intensive to produce.  The manufacturing process uses huge amounts of energy to extract, heat, dye, weave, handle, and ship carpet, leading to a very high overall embodied carbon impact (a measurement of environmental impact).

If you would like to use carpet in areas of your home, consider wool as the only eco-friendly option.  Wool fibers with natural backing will be 100% natural, renewable, do not contain the petro-chemicals of synthetic fiber carpets.  These carpets are durable, anti-microbial, and wear and stain resistant.  Area rugs are also a good alternative to wall-to-wall carpeting.  Again, wool is a great option here, but any other natural fiber with a natural backing is a great alternative.  Things like jute, cotton, hemp, or sisal can be used on their own or blended with wool to create beautiful rugs with varying levels of softness and durability.  The good news is that these products are natural and chemical free, which means when the time comes to replace, they can be discarded (or possibly recycled) without worrying about the effects of plastics and chemicals.


Insulation is a hot topic in the building industry right now because there is a significant effort to make homes more energy efficient.  The very best way to optimize efficiency, and to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases is to insulate homes and buildings very well.  This is the most effective near-term way to curb the amount carbon dioxide our homes directly produce.

That said, one of the tactics being used in the insulation industry is to produce chemical based products that are harmful in their production and during end-of-life.  They also are a significant contributor to a homes poor indoor air quality if they are not made from natural materials.

Spray foam insulation, rigid foam boards (XPS, EPS, etc.), and fiberglass batts are all carbon intensive, made from synthetic materials meaning they never biodegrade, and contain harmful chemicals that impact human and ecological health.  Unfortunately, these are commonly used in many homes today because they provide good insulative properties to help achieve efficiency measures as mentioned above.  

There are better alternatives however.  Homeowners who are adding insulation to their home through a renovation, or building a new structure have the opportunity to source high quality, high R-value (measurement for insulations effectiveness, the higher the number the better), sustainable, and low embodied carbon forms of insulation.  They will be safer for you and your family, as well as protecting the environment.

Things like recycled denim, sheeps wool, cullulose, mycelium, or even straw bale construction are increasingly popular and available.  Not only are these products viable, they are excellent due to their balance of thermal performance, breathability, moisture resistance, and low impact on the environment.


You can find out more about many of these concepts, including insulation here:

Carbon Smart Materials Palette Organization

Go Green Home Supply will discuss each of these product categories in more detail in the future.



Surprisingly, one of the most toxic things in most homes lies in the kitchen.  Surrounding our cookware, kitchenware, and food are cabinets that are very often made from laminate woods or wood pulps glued together with toxic glues.  These formaldehyde based adhesives  make a list known as "The Red List," a list of banned substances eco-friendly architects and builders avoid when attempting to build an eco-friendly building.  Unfortunately, in the residential world, The Red List isn't often taken into consideration for the majority of homes.  Similarly to the bad flooring options above, non-natural cabinets and their finishes, can off-gas a significant amount of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which can cause respiratory issues, or have been linked to higher cancer rates.

Instead of laminated or MDF type cabinet constructions, consider using FSC rated hardwoods.  They are renewable, recyclable, re-finishable, biodegradable, and most importantly won't off-gas VOCs or other toxins into your home.  Especially when paired with natural finishes or paints, these are your best option.

Oh!  And avoid any plastic hardware - choose wood or metal, along with wool felt bumpers, etc.


The goal with exterior siding/finishes isn't the same as interior products from the standpoint of home health and preserving indoor air quality (because the product is outside the home).  The best approach to evaluating the sustainability of exterior products is to take into account their embodied carbon and end-of-life ability to be reused or biodegrade.

For some reason, things like brick, vinyl siding, and fiber cement siding are commonplace on residential homes today.  All of which score poorly when considering the energy intensive processes involved in their manufacturing, and their non-natural chemical composition.

There are many types of exterior finishes available, but none are as proven and sustainable as wood.  Hardwood boards or cedar shakes are great, durable options that can provide an eco-friendly exterior for your home.  When properly constructed and maintained, they can last the life of your home.  Additionally, when the time comes to replace the siding (as any product eventually needs replacement due to age or the desire to change the aesthetic), discarding natural wood products has less burden on waste systems and water systems than toxic vinyl, brick, and cement fiberboard.



These are just 5 product segments that are often used and that make a lot of sense to swap away from crummy stuff for more sustainable products, but there are tons of other products we could discuss!  

Think about various things around you in your home... for instance your blinds/shades - why choose vinyl/plastic or synthetic fibers for these items when there are beautiful woods, or natural fibers and fabrics that accomplish the same thing!  It's fun to think about how you can make small changes the next time you buy something for your home that can help you and the planet stay healthy!


 Plan well.  Build well.  Be well.


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May 18, 2022 — David Lymburn