HAPPY EARTH DAY!! We're celebrating 50 official years of honoring Mother Nature's beauty, grace and growing need for our support with our team's top ten tips for making eco-friendly design decisions in your home. From upgrading appliances to honing everyday habits, we all have a part to play in planet Earth's beautiful story.
1. SAVE WITH THE SUN
Solar power may be the most obvious solution for energy efficiency, but it's also likely to be the biggest investment. In our ever-changing environment, this renewable resource is undoubtedly the most reliable and natural source of energy. It's becoming increasingly popular to make the switch to solar and witness the energy bills dive down.
We added solar panels to our Blackband office building just over a year ago and it has made a dramatic difference in our electricity bills... we're talking $1,200 a month down to $30! It was a huge investment but we're already seeing its benefits. Shout out to Xero Solar for upgrading our sustainability game!
From a design point of view, solar panels present us with a few extra challenges, but none outweighing the long-term environmental and financial benefits. Positioning the panels to maximize sun exposure while keeping them hidden from the curb appeal is always our goal, where possible. For the majority of our residential projects this means finding angles of the roof line that bask in the sun while remaining mostly out of sight from below, whereas a home we're working on in Rancho Santa Fe took advantage of their sprawling property to add a solar field away from their home all together.
2. LET THE BREEZE IN
In our coastal climate, a fresh breeze through the home is all we need to feel comfortable most days. Opening a dutch door to let the air in and keep the pets and youngins from adventuring out is a great alternative to turning on the air conditioning.
Also common in our beach communities are sliding, accordion and retractable doors that eliminate the indoor/outdoor barrier with ease. These disappearing walls allow the natural temperatures and fresh air to regulate the home environment without expending any energy.
3. EMBRACE THE PANE(S)
The windows themselves are an important element that allow light and scenery to be enjoyed inside while keeping the weather out. Single, double and triple pane windows offer respective amounts of insulation to protect against the elements. Glazing and tinting options add to the energy-efficiency (and the cost) with additional layers that keep the inside temperature in and the outside temperature out.
A common trade off to consider: eco-friendly window materials vs. long-term energy efficiency. Luckily the glass that makes up the bulk of a window is the product of natural resources (sand) and 100% recyclable so it's mostly the framing that has pros and cons to weigh.
We refreshed our window basics here.
4. BE A FAN OF FANS
Many of our clients have opted for ceiling fans in place of air conditioning all together. Lucky for us, ceiling fan design has come a long way so we're able to specify stylish solutions for our clients with a much lower overhead.
5. CHOOSE THE RIGHT LIGHT
LED lighting uses a fraction of the energy to illuminate your home in comparison to incandescent, fluorescent and halogen lights. Opt for the energy-efficient LEDs to fill your can lights, and simply swap out the original bulbs that come in most decorative lighting fixtures for the more sustainable option.
Learn more about LED lighting here.
6. GO WITH LOW FLOW
Selecting faucets, toilets and shower heads that meet low flow requirements will ensure less water is used (or wasted) per use, and will in turn save you some expense in water bills. California enforces a high standard of plumbing regulations so if you're living in the drought-conscious Golden State the eco-friendly choice is made for you.
Besides the plumbing mechanics, we can each make a difference in limiting the amount of water we let run. Shutting off the faucet while brushing your teeth, scrubbing the dishes or even shaving can reduce your water footprint. As 'they' say, "save some for the fishies!"
7. OPT FOR EFFICIENT APPLIANCES
The big energy-users in your home (refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, etc) are essential to 21st century living and make our lives a whole lot easier. So there's no way we could convince you (or ourselves) to forgo these modern day luxuries for manual chores, but we do advise doing your homework and selecting appliances that are suitable for you and our planet long-term.
8. USE GREEN FABRICS (OF ALL COLORS)
Even the materials we use to cover upholstered furnishings and decorate our homes can make a difference for the environment. Natural fabrics such as linens, cottons, hemps and wools are made from plants while synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester are by-products of petroleum and emit a greater amount of pollution to the atmosphere and waterways. Good thing our casual California style is in favor of all the natural weaves.
9. DON'T SWEAT THE HEAT
With California's susceptibility to droughts, it's important to choose landscaping that will survive and thrive in a low-water environment. Succulents, mulch, and rocks are some of the most popular solutions for eco-conscious curb appeal and are best paired with a thoughtfully-planned irrigation system.
Another low-maintenance favorite is bougainvillea. Beautiful bougainvillea climbs the walls of the Blackband home and makes for a cheerful first impression. This vibrant vine grows relatively carefree and flourishes in our mild, coastal climate.
10. FLIP THE SWITCH
We couldn't resist leaning into Drake's "flip the switch" tune trending on TikTok for a catchy reminder to save energy -- we know you're watching those challenges on repeat! But in all seriousness and simplicity, turn out the lights when you leave the room, unplug electronics that aren't in use, and don't leave the air running for an empty home.
Automating your systems is a great solution for unnecessary energy expenditure because we're all guilty of forgetting. Program your thermostat to a schedule that works for you and install motion detectors or timers to shut off lights after a lack of movement or amount of time has passed.
DOING OUR PART AT THE OFFICE
...well home is our office in these quarantined times but regardless of where we are, we can all make a difference. Day to day there are so many small decisions we can make and new habits we can form to show Mother Earth the love she deserves. Here are a few ways our team limits the waste in hopes for a brighter, more sustainable future.
SKIP THE (PLASTIC) STRAW
Piper Blackband's middle school classmate started a campaign to SKIP THE PLASTIC STRAW to reduce the plastic waste that ends up in our waterways. In support of this movement, our team opts for more sustainable sipping solutions such as glass and metal straws to enjoy their iced coffees and vitamin water.
USE REUSABLE UTENSILS
Bringing our own, reusable utensils to the office is also a great way to eliminate the waste of plastic forks daily. These titanium utensil sets are compact and store in a convenient case to slip into your desk drawer.
BRING A LUNCH BOX OR BAG
All in favor of bringing back the lunch box say AYE! Our lunch carriers may not be character-themed like those cute Kindergarteners rock but recycled shopping bags (shout out to Lululemon for a popular one that makes its way to our office kitchen) and these silicone snack bags make for smarter options than single-use plastic and paper baggies!
Bring your own bottle! Gone are the days of half drinken plastic water bottles laying around the office. We bring our own bottles and refill at our water station to stay hydrated and even make a style statement while we're at it. These pretty bottles and colorful designs beat out plastic any day and make for great desktop accessories.
We keep paper trays near our copy machine for lightly used scrap papers that can be repurposed for internal printing and note-taking. Papers that can't be reused make their way home with our team to be recycled since our office dumpster is a free-for-all.
LIMIT THE PRINT
Working remotely with our team has launched our paper-saving initiatives into action with a focus on digital, sharable documents. It has forced us to break the habit of printing and create more sustainable work flows.
SOAK UP THE SUN
As we mentioned above, solar power has made a huge difference for us. Skylights and large windows also allow natural light in which is best for making color decisions in our designs and limits the use of electricity.
How do you show Mother Earth your love? We would love to hear your tips and tricks for eco-friendly living in the comments below.
CREDITS: BLACKBAND DESIGN // GRAYSTONE CUSTOM BUILDERS // TEALE ARCHITECTURE // RYAN GARVIN PHOTOGRAPHY // LIDO HOUSE HOTEL // RDO DEVELOPMENT // MATT WHITE CUSTOM HOMES // SINCLAIR ASSOCIATES ARCHITECTS // PATTERSON CUSTOM HOMES // CHAD MELLON PHOTORAPHY // CJ LIGHT ASSOCIATES // TM GRADY BUILDERS // BRANDON ARCHITECTS // MIKEN CONSTRUCTION // WOLF DESIGN STUDIO // CORR CONTEMPORARY HOMES // TESSA NEUSTADT PHOTOGRAPHY // LEIGH ANN ROWE PHOTOGRAPHY // AKINS HOMES // MERIDIAN INTERIORS // FOREST STUDIO // MANOLO LANGIS PHOTOGRAPHY