Anyone who has ever remodeled a house knows there are more than enough decisions to be made along the way. But more and more people these days are adding another element to the mix. They’re not just thinking about which paint color would go perfectly with their new couch, or what size water heater will be large enough.


They’re thinking of how improvements to their homes can improve the world.


          Michael Johnson is co-owner of Green Living, a Lakewood-based store that sells a variety of earth-friendly products for the home. He says many neighborhood residents are coming around to the idea that the decisions they make in home construction and everyday life can have a real impact on the environment.


          “If even one person starts making changes, people around them notice and start thinking about it, too. And then governments and companies will be forced to change along with them. It can make a huge difference,” he says.


          Johnson says nowadays, homeowners can buy natural and biodegradable products for virtually every step of the building or remodeling process.


“There are so many products available now,” he says. “Houses made environmentally friendly can look just like any other house, and even last longer.”


          He acknowledges that many natural products can be more expensive than mainstream ones, but says prices are falling. And, he says, “if you buy something that’s not earth friendly, you’re not paying its full price at the purchase.”


           Some of the store’s more popular products include bamboo flooring, terrazzo floors made with recycled glass, and milk paint.


“Milk paint is the way paint used to be, for hundreds of years,” he says. “It’s real easy to work with, because you can make it thicker or thinner by adjusting how much water you add,” he says. “And it’s completely natural and non-toxic.”


          The store has been open for just about a year now, and one of its first customers was Ashley Bull. Bull remodeled and expanded her neighborhood home using earth-friendly products.


“I tried to go as green as possible,” she says.


          Her decision to “go green” began when she realized the chemical cleaners and sprays she used at home weren’t really helping her family. She began replacing them with biodegradable alternatives and was happy with the results. So she decided to do the same thing when it came time to remodel her house.


“I just decided we should try to make this house as well-functioning and as environmentally friendly as possible,” she says. “It’s been very educational. And it’s been fun.”


          She used velvet oil — instead of petroleum-based products — on new walls and floors that needed staining and sealing. Inside the walls hides insulation made of blue jeans and other cottons, instead of fiberglass. And in some rooms she installed Marmoleum, a linoleum floor made of all-natural materials such as linseed oil, pine rosin and wood pulp. Its normal life span is 40 years, so it stands the test of time. But it’s also biodegradable under the right conditions, so when replaced it can be piled onto a compost heap.


          To conserve energy use, Bull used double-paned insulated glass for all her windows and bought Energy Star-rated appliances wherever available, including a tankless water heater estimated to use 40 percent less energy than standard ones. And she installed a corn-burning heater in the activity room, a large, open room near the back of the house.


          Thanks to all these energy-saving steps, she says her annual utility bills should actually fall, despite her house being 1,200 square feet larger. Her reason for doing it all, though, has more to do with conserving resources than saving money.


“I’m really not a penny-pincher, by any means,” she says. “But any time you use electricity, you’re burning fossil fuel, so there’s more pollution in the air.”


          In making her construction choices, Bull wasn’t just finding ways to build a beautiful, functional home. She was doing her own small part to save the world.


“We can’t just use what we want and then be gone,” she says. “We need to make this world a better place, and the more you learn about this stuff, the more you realize there’s so much you can do.”


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