Green home? Just paint the whole house green!
Just kidding. Having a green home means to build an environmental friendly home and with no wastage on raw materials. To some extent, the building materials for the house should also be using recycled materials. But I am getting a 2-room flat from the Housing Development Board (HDB), so I have no control over the materials used. What I can do is to make the interior of my house "green".
I worked out a formula for my green home concept and I am sharing it with all like-minded home-owners-to-be. Some of the ideas for my new home are acquired from my travels — especially from Adagio Shihtiping in Taiwan. Taking a walk through the floors of IKEA will also provide more ideas.
1. Avoid Unnecessary Fixtures & Furniture
Some interior decorations that I had seen before used false ceilings and false walls for aesthetic purposes. Some even built a big faux fireplace just to put a television in it. Another thing is the overuse of storage cabinets. Almost all home designs come with tonnes of storage compartments — on the wall, above the door, below the bed, around the television, etc. People have the tendency to keep many unused things in the house — even when moving to a new home, they moved their "unused things" along.
Well, everyone has their own preferences.
For me, I won't be adding unnecessary fixtures for aesthetic purposes. Neither will I plan for "future" storage and add unnecessary cabinets to the house. Everything will be neatly stored in the household shelter (used as "store room" but not forgetting its main purpose as a defence shelter). All the things in my possession now that were not used for the last 2 years will be discarded in order not to cram the limited storage space. I will probably have just one single-column display shelf for decorating the living room.
Also, there will be no unnecessary furniture — especially large and heavy ones that use more raw materials than necessary. Keeping furniture small will result in more space in the house and also using just the required amount of raw materials. Being lightweight also facilitates house cleaning.
A better word to use would be "minimalist".
2. Reduce Electricity Usage
Base on the electricity usage data in Singapore (provided by National Environment Agency for 2016 and displayed in IKEA), I worked out a strategy to save on electricity.
From the chart, it can be observed that air conditioner, water heater, refrigerator and TV & computer are the major contributors to electricity consumption.
- Air Conditioner
I don't need an air-con all day, neither do I sleep in an air-con room currently — I use an electric fan. But hot and humid weathers during certain periods in recent years have became unbearable, so installing an air-con unit is inevitable.
It does not mean that I will change my habit and start using the air-con frequently. My primary means of cooling will still be an electric fan. Air-con will only be used when the heat is too much for an electric fan to handle. Even when the air-con is switched on, the temperature will be maintained at around 25°C. No point setting an air-con to 18°C and sleep under a thick blanket.
- Water Heater
I usually take cool showers. The only time I will take hot showers will be when it rained continuously for several days or when I am feeling sick. And those were lesser than 10 times a year. So, water heater usage is not an issue to me.
A refrigerator will need to work all year round. Apart from getting a small one that is adequate for just one person, it should also have energy-saving capabilities. Anyway, being small is already half a battle won — it uses lesser energy.
Well, I need a computer to work, so this is one thing I can't save on.
Not getting one for the time being. I can watch dramas, get entertainments and news using my computer. Once the current monitor stops functioning, I will then get a monitor-cum-TV — it's a new trend and it saves space too.
- Washing Machine
Not getting one for the time being. I will probably do my laundry once a week, so it is more economical to use laundry services, which are very convenient these days.
- Electric Fan
As mentioned earlier, electric fan is my primary means of cooling and with opened windows. Again, it should be energy-saving.
- Kitchen Appliances
The few appliances I will have in my kitchen will be a coffee maker, an induction cooker and a kettle. No conventional nor microwave oven.
All lighting will be using LEDs and with dimming controllers, if possible. The good thing is: all used light bulbs can be recycled at IKEA.
3. Reduce Water Usage
Refer to the water usage data in Singapore below — provided by Public Utilities Board for 2016 and displayed in IKEA also.
From the chart, it can be seen that shower, kitchen, laundry, flushing and basin are the major contributors to water usage. The most effective way to conserve water is through recycling.
Clean water will need to be used for washing at the basin, showering, laundry and at the kitchen sink. Whereas flushing and mopping the floor can use recycled water. Dish water can also be used for watering plants.
Mounting a secondary basin above the water container (for flushing) is a good way to recycle water after washing hands. Water collected from the bathroom basin after washing up can also be deposited through here.
Of the five major contributors, flushing can be greatly reduced through recycling the water from other uses. For kitchen, there will be lesser water used since I won't be doing any "heavy" or oily cooking. As for laundry, I won't be getting a washing machine, which uses a lot of water, but I will do some hand-washing if the load is not a lot. The water will then be used to mop the floor.
The only issue is how to channel shower water to the water container for flushing without installing a bathtub. Got to think about this...
4. Install Recycle Bins
I will have some recycle bins for sorting different types of wastes in my home and keep them neat and orderly in one corner.
Instead of getting a bin each for papers, plastics, cans, glasses, batteries, etc. I will have two recycle bins and use them flexibly. I am not going to keep recyclable wastes in my home for weeks while trying to accumulate more. So, there is no need to waste money and space to have 4 or 5 bins, including one for general trash, in the kitchen. Just 3 bins will do.
5. Grow Plants
I started planting while waiting for my house to be completed. I am growing two types of plant at the moment — the snake plant and lemongrass.
I intend to use the snake plants as air purifiers as well as ornamental plant. The snake plant is easier to grow and maintain for an amateur like me — they do not require regular watering and direct sunlight. I will have one pot in the bathroom to get rid of toxic pollutants in the air and two pots in the living room.
As for the lemongrass, it will be in the kitchen. Apart from using it as repellent against mosquitoes, it can also be used to prepare lemongrass with ginger tea or for cooking. The cut lemongrass will grow back in no time but they need more attention than snake plants.
After moving in, I intend to grow a lime plant too. I will use the limes to make cleaning solution with just water for washing dishes — I don't cook with lots of oil anyway. After washing, the dishwater (or grey water) can also be used to water the plants. It's a nice natural cycle.
Sounds like a great formula for a green home?
Check out a great place for more ideas: