If you care about the environment you probably browse the supermarket looking for eco-friendly dish soap, natural insect killer, smaller-foot-print laundry detergent, environmentally friendly bleach, and tube-free toilet paper. But are you as selective when you have to buy materials for building or renovating a home?

Besides choosing styles, colors, and design you should be considering the impact those materials will have on our outdoor environment and your indoor environment—within your home, as you do before buying a dish soap.

I know selecting materials could be a complex process, so I’m going to tell you what characteristics should the materials have. Look for materials that are:

  • Abundant.
  • Recyclable.
  • Non-toxic.
  • Contain recycled content.
  • Have low embodied energy (the energy required to produce, deliver and dispose a product).
  • Locally produced or found.

This last point is very important because the energy consumed to transport materials usually represents an important portion of its embodied energy.  And if you are thinking what materials you should choose, here is a list of a few examples of green materials:

  • Recycled-content ceramic tiles (made with glass).
  • Rapidly renewal materials such as bamboo and cork.
  • Natural or low-VOC paints.
  • Steel, aluminum or copper non-lead metal roofing.
  • High performance windows.
  • Reduced toxicity spray foams for insulation.

Even though some of these materials could be more expensive than regular ones, remember that some of them would also help to improve the energy performance of your home, reducing your utility bills.

Next time you have to buy building materials choose among them carefully and instruct your architect to do the same. This way you’ll be closer to have a real “green house,” and you will be helping to preserve the environment for future generations. Invest more in green (durable, sustainable and energy-saving) materials rather than just in raw space, and you’ll have a more comfortable and cost-efficient home.