Mike Holmes: Use your household choices to help upcoming generations inherit a cleaner world

As a father and a grandfather, I often think about my kids’ and their kids’ futures. That’s why it’s important to me to teach my kids about green and environmentally friendly products, and better construction practices that work and that protect the environment, because what I do today will impact their future.

I’m always looking for new products and construction practices that improve the durability of homes, but that also reduce the negative impact on the environment. That includes using better, longer-lasting products to help keep materials out of landfills; improving installation methods to better protect homes and the materials in them, again reducing waste; incorporating green technologies that work and use energy more efficiently; and using greener, more environmentally friendly products when it makes sense.

As a homeowner, you now have a lot of options, too. For example, you can use high-quality Green Friendly Paint, which also provides proper coverage. The product I use is odourless, contains no toxic biocides, has low volatile organic compounds and is Green Seal approved.

You can also start making the switch to LED lighting around your home. The main benefit of LEDs is that they’re long-lasting. With average use, they can last at least 22 years or 25,000 hours. Some can last as long as 60,000 hours — that’s more than half a century. A regular incandescent bulb will only last about 1,000 hours.

LEDs also use less energy — about 80 per cent less than a 40-watt incandescent bulb. And they don’t give off heat, like incandescent bulbs, or contain mercury, as CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) do. I love using solar-driven LEDs for all my exterior lighting, and because LEDs don’t emit ultraviolet light they don’t attract insects. That makes them ideal for outdoors. Plus, LEDs work well in cold temperatures.

Another simple thing homeowners can do is use programmable thermostats, so your furnace and/or air conditioner doesn’t waste energy when no one is at home.

You can also install a domestic hot water recovery system, which recaptures heat from hot water that’s already been used (i.e., from washing dishes, showers, laundry, etc.) and then uses it to preheat the water going into the hot water tank.

Switching to low-flow water fixtures also saves water and can save you money. But if you’re really serious about saving water, think about installing a greywater recovery system in your home.

Greywater recycling can help homeowners save money every month, reduce the strain on city water supplies and sewage treatment, especially during dry summer months, and it’s environmentally friendly.

According to Environment Canada, toilets use one-third of a household’s water consumption. A greywater system in a house, used to flush toilets and water lawns, could save about 150 litres of potable water a day.

Green roofs are roofs that have plants or greenery covering parts of the roof or the entire surface area. (My garage has a green roof.) They produce less waste, can help homeowners save money on their heating and cooling bills, improve air quality and help manage stormwater runoff, which also reduces the amount of pollutants entering municipal water systems.

Some cities are taking green roofs very seriously. For example, Toronto was the first city in North America to introduce a bylaw where green roofs are required for new commercial, institutional and residential development (with a minimum of 2,000 square metres of gross floor area). Depending on the size of the building, 20 to 60 per cent of its roof must have greenery.

When making greener, more environmentally friendly choices for your home, it’s important to do your research. Just because a product says it’s green doesn’t mean it’s good or that it works. I’ve seen a lot of greenwashing where supposedly-green products don’t work and end up creating more garbage. Sorting out the truly green from the mostly marketing can be tough.

Do your research and look for legitimate product certifications, such as Green Seal.