Are all products that bill themselves as green really good for the planet? Not always, suggests Matt Lederer, the owner of Chicago-based Mahogany Builders. Lederer regularly fields these questions from home builders wanting to go green but not sure if paying the extra money is worth it. Some products are deceptively “green” and for that reason, Lederer, who has put together a staff of experts on sustainable products that bill themselves as the Intelligently Green team, urges consumers to do their homework.
For instance, if a homeowner is looking to put in new, sustainable flooring and searches for “green flooring,” the result will turn up many bamboo products. That is when Lederer encourages buyers to beware.
Frequently, the carbon footprint (use of petroleum in the harvesting and production of the bamboo) outweighs the sustainability of the bamboo. “Some bamboo flooring is made using impoverished labor in under developed regions then transported around the world using refined oil. After we analyze it, clients may decide bamboo made in China might not be the best choice. A handful of solid bamboo flooring companies exist, but you need to be a savvy consumer.” If bamboo is in your plans, Lederer said to look for the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) label, (which means that the bamboo source is sustainably harvested).
To sort out what is truly green and what is not, Mahogany Builders encourages clients to use the Energy Star Calculator to figure which product makes the most sense for them. Many products will still net consumers an Energy Star Tax Credit before it expires December 31, 2010.
“Homeowners can get 30 percent off any individual qualified purchase- and there thousands of appliances and other household items that qualify. Homeowners can get up to $1500 back in their tax return on improvement made in the principle place of resident.” Tankless water heaters are ideal examples. The Home Energy Saver Web site, will allow you to calculate your energy use and costs in your home.
Water heaters are the biggest energy sucks in the average American home, but few people want to cut back on their shower time, says Ledered. “The typical tank-based hot water heater keeps 50 gallons of water warm constantly. Tankless water heaters simply heat water through hot coils, as it passes through the system. Tankless heaters are on an on-demand hot water source.”
So what do you do with your old tank? Lederer has a green recommendation: “Old water heaters have a sheet-metal exterior that can translate to cash when the appliance is brought to a recycling plant. Check your local recycling or disposal center.”
“There are a lot of products out there that just make sense,” adds Lederer, who advises clients to review the Guide to Federal Tax Rebate products. “Energy saving appliances, or solar powered ventilation units, within a good price range a good place to start.”
For more information, visit Mahogany Builders or Intelligently Green.
Chicago builder helps consumers make smart green choices when renovating or building a home
How homeowners can reduce their carbon footprints