An eco house is designed and built in harmony with the surrounding natural environment. It involves conscious, environmental construction that reduces energy consumption, waste and pollution. Do you know that homes and buildings account for over half of all the energy consumed in developed countries, and as such, produce the majority of global warming greenhouse gases? When an eco house is built with mindful design, sustainable materials, proper siting and energy efficient maintenance, it reduces carbon footprints as well negative impacts to human health and well being.
Let us consider some of the features that can be included in an eco friendly home:
- The use of solar panels for both thermal heating and electricity
- Passive solar design that utilizes concrete walls for thermal mass
- Large south facing windows and insulated shades or blinds for night use
- The use of eaves or awnings to control summer heat
- The use of renewable timber and local, sustainable building materials
- A green septic system and gray water recycling
- The use of rain barrels for rainwater collection
- Permeable paving to control runoff and pollutants
When we allow natural environments to be our teacher and guide, we understand that natural ecosystems energetically flow in circular motion. All resources are recycled, used, not wasted. A sustainable house simulates this concept and flow by the way it conserves energy, minimizes waste and both produces and recycles natural resources. The standard house, with which most of us are familiar, is designed with a one way directional flow towards waste. Cooling resources consume electricity, heating resources create pollution, food waste creates methane gas that contributes to global warming and all kinds of toxins are flushed down the drain and dumped into the environment.
Philip Wenz of Ecotexture explains it this way: “Ecologists and ecological designers describe this behavior of ecosystems as the closing of nutrient loops. Human habitation systems — from cities to houses — create one-way energy and material flows, leaving loops open. Ecosystems unconsciously practice the “reduce, reuse, recycle” dictum and have sustained themselves for billions of years. Human systems have been around for only a million years or so, and might not exist much longer if they don’t start conforming to nature’s rule that “waste equals food.”
In essence, an eco house closes this loop. But it is not just about building such a house as it is an entire way of living in the house to continuously close these leaks in the loop. If you are not composting, start now. Even if you are not able to grow a garden, you can use this compost to fertilize shrubs and trees. With a simple decision, food waste can become plant food instead of toxic methane gas, and return to the soil as a nutrient. Gray water can be also be used to water a garden or trees, and later when you are eating from your garden or apples off your trees, you have successfully closed another leak in the loop.
When it comes to decorating your eco friendly house, search for sustainable products or locally made products. Be mindful of using non-toxic paints for your walls, non-toxic cleaning supplies, non-toxic garden products and make use of energy saving appliances and light bulbs.