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Encouraging North Americans to Pollute Less, Consume Fewer Resources, and Use Less Energy since 2007.

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Construction

Most of the time fixing your old house carefully makes more sense than building new. It is in a way reusing materials.

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Construct smartly to avoid pressure treated lumber Pressure treated lumber may last longer, however this material is a big concern when the porch or deck need to be deconstructed. Pressure treated lumber is hazardous waste and needs to go to the hazardous waste dump. It is very dangerous to burn pressure treated lumber. Regular lumber lasts very long if you avoid contact between the wood and the ground and entrapment of water. Also there are woods (cedar, tamarack, black locust) that are naturally decay resistant.
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Use local woods Tropical forests are cut down at a very high rate. Often only valuable trees are pulled out of the forest, but the remaining logging roads allow local farmers access who then cut down or burn the rest to create farm land. Once these forests are gone the soil washes away quickly and not much is left. Trees make oxygen and we need that.
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Use exotic woods only from reputable plantations Some exotic woods grow fast enough to be grown in a controlled area. Trees are constantly regrown. The energy to transport wood from so far away is high though.
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Use locally available building materials instead of SIMILAR materials from far away.

Natural stone tiles from the other side of the planet? Come on! If it is heavy it costs a lot of energy (although apparently not much money) to transport. Everything that arrives in your area needs fossil fuels to get there. The heavier the material and the further it travels the more is needed. Burning fossil fuels pollutes.

Purchase materials that are locally made or found. Ask where the stuff is from. Look on the box where it most likely will say "Made in China". It may say that it is made in North America, but I suggest to not have _ _ _ _(fill in whatever you want) delivered for several hundred miles if similar _ _ _ _ (fill in whatever you want) can be found in your immediate area. Choosing local materials instead of similar materials from far away may limit your interior or exterior design wants and it may be more expensive, but you pollute less.

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Use public transportation to get to site  Many times it is possible to leave a trailer with all tools at the construction site and travel to work without moving a truck or van. Public transportation produces much less pollution. At least car pool.
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Collect and use rainwater Water is a valuable resource and requires energy to become drinking water in most cases. Use rainwater(or water from ponds) for mixing concrete, mortar, etc. and for washing your tools.
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Install energy saving appliances Not all appliances pollute the same. The EnergyStar label will tell you how much energy the device requires. It will not tell you though how much energy was required to make or ship the appliance.
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Install appliances of appropriate size Professional size equipment pollutes a lot more than residential size equipment. If you do not run a restaurant from your kitchen or have 12 children stick with regular size. Designer kitchens rarely are as efficient as small kitchens. Size and energy output matters.
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Re-use building materials. Re-using building materials saves making new materials and therefor energy and resources. In addition, recycled materials and components have proven to withstand the test of time. If it has lasted several decades already and is still in great shape it's got to be made well and it will be fine for quite a while longer. Check you local building material recycling center for some good finds. With a little elbow grease you may end up with a unique piece that cost very little and is better than what you can buy new.
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Recycle building materials. Bring useful items and materials to a building material recycling center where it can be sold and reused.
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Consider the natural world around you Look at the area where you want to build. Consider living with nature rather than trying to control it by cutting big trees, moving rocks, and creating environments that are in constant need of maintenance to keep nature in check. All this requires less energy.
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Build to last with natural materials If the structure lasts longer and does not cause pollution after it is no longer useful, you pollute less overall. Refrain from building quickly, cheaply, and with human-made materials strong enough for only a few years but will be in our landfills for hundreds of years.
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Collect solvents and bring to hazardous waste collection Dumping solvents on the ground or letting it evaporate pollutes the environment. Never dump solvents down the drain!
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Throw away your paintbrushes rather than cleaning them with mineral spirits If you occasionally have to paint something, not using solvents and mineral spirits pollutes less than using cheap brushes that you throw away afterward.
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Re-use mineral spirits Filter it after you used it. You can use it many times more.A simple paper coffee filter may be enough.
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Do not clean paintbrush every day Not cleaning the brush requires no solvents and does not pollute anything. In some situations you can wrap the brush in an old plastic bag to prevent it from drying out until the next day. That works well with oil paints. In some situations you can leave the brush inside the container permanently. Not good for the brush, but sometimes you do not need a great brush.
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Use water-based paints and clear coats Water-based paints and clear coats do not release dangerous organic compounds into the air when applied. Those finishes also do not require dangerous solvents for cleaning the brushes and tools.
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Use recycled paint Recycled paint works fine for most tasks. It is created from old paint that was collected rather than thrown away.
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Use building materials from recycled materials Building materials that are made from materials collected from the consumer have the benefit that they do not use new resources, generally require less energy to be made, and create a market for recycled materials. All this ultimately results in less pollution.
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Work with the weather in mind Certain tasks are better done in certain weather. We have developed machines and chemicals that allow us to do more work in naturally adverse situations, however doing the work at the right time of the day, or time of the year, or in the right kind of weather saves energy and pollutes less.
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Use a hand tool rather than a power or air tool Power tools require electricity and therefor pollute somewhere. Power tools require also much more energy to be fabricated since they are made from more components and those components generally are more sophisticated. You actually might be faster with a hand tool. You also do not need power lines, generators, hazardous batteries, extension cords, safety gear, and first-aid kits.
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Carefully de-construct The goal of any deconstruction should be to re-use as many building materials and components as possible. It will take longer and cost more but you save by reusing materials and you pollute less because fewer new things have to be produced.
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