Let's face it, no remodel is green. Not really. Most of it involves something discarded, something newly produced and so on. But remodeling can be much greener than it used to be. Here is the tale of how we remodeled a bathroom, added a closet and tried to stay true to our conscience - and our bank account.
ADVOCATE - My first step was to go all "enviro" on everyone and let them know that wanted to go as green as possible. My contractor then was able to make suitable recommendations and steer me in the right direction with vendors.
The tile store pointed out their greener options (all marked with a green tag) after my contractor called them and told them that I was aiming to go recycled as much as possible. We ended up with ceramic tile for the floor and shower wall that was 40% recycled content, accent tile that was 70% post consumer recycled glass, and a granite slab that was a remnant.
Although I had visions of a reclaimed wood vanity, it was harder to find that I had hoped so we ended up with one that has FSC-certified wood made by a company engaged in an Environmental Stewardship program. Ho hum. The new bathroom and closet doors were also relatively eco-friendly with the MDF version containing 82% recycled content and being produced through a sustainable manufacturing process.
For the other items, if I could not find an environmentally aware product, I tried to go for this:
(Though I did allow myself the sink with no green strings attached).
SAVE WHAT YOU CAN - We threw out as little as possible. My contractor reused as much of the wood as possible, recycled and composted (we have city-picked up compost) anything that could be treated as such. He even went so far as to cut down old doors and turn them in to a place that turns them in to another product. We passed the old bathroom mirror on to a friend who has it hanging in her bedroom, reused the old bathroom hooks in a closet, and freecycled the old towel bars and towel ring.
INCREASE YOUR EFFICIENCY WHEN POSSIBLE - With the new bathroom - and also my husband's office which had its ceilings scraped - we added a solar tube sunlight. We did this in our previous house and it brightened everything without flipping a switch. Same result here. No lights needed during most day time hours.
Speaking of lights, though, we discovered that we could get new LED fixtures which slipped into the old ones. Cheaper than CFLs and more efficient than both CFLs and incandescent. We also slapped a ceiling fan on both adjoining rooms to the bath and, for good measure, had blow in insulation done on the exterior walls of those two bedrooms. In just one month, we've already seen a major difference and our new PG&E bill arrived today with a notice that we used 20% less than last year.
We ended up with a space that is much more usable and enjoyable. Not a green remodel but green(ish) and sometimes "ish" is enough.