September 22, 2022

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint as a Homeowner

by Jessica Russo

The real estate industry plays an important role in the realm of carbon emissions. The construction of homes requires a large input of resources—starting in the planning stages and extending through the entire lifespan of the home.

At the same time, the real estate industry creates many positive impacts as well. It creates jobs across many fields—architects, builders, craftsman, designers, landscapers, and so many more. Owning a home allows individuals and families to live their lives from a reliable home base of their choosing.

So what can we do to manage our impact on the planet? Let’s look at a few ways we can reduce our carbon footprint. 

The Real Impact of Real Estate

Architecture 2030, a nonprofit organization with the goal to “​​transform the built environment from the major emitter of greenhouse gases to a central solution to the climate crisis,” reports that real estate contributes a whopping 49% of the world’s carbon emissions. 

The LEED Gold certification icon is seen at the entrance to the Broadway Tower, Portland’s newest modern mixed-used tower.

About 30% of that comes from the construction process, and 70% from regular building operations. The operations percentage includes lingering effects from the materials used in construction. Design concepts, materials, transportation of those materials, wasteful byproducts, utilities, and energy usage all add up. 

There’s no doubt that these are staggering estimates. Such large numbers, though, mean that even small changes can make a big difference.

The Construction Side

When purchasing a brand new home, you are in a great position to seek out builders who use sustainable materials like wood, which—according to the Climate Change Committee—actually has a negative footprint because it holds more carbon than it emits. Recycled steel, as well as raw, unpolished materials also offer more carbon friendly alternatives to traditional steel and cement.

From a design perspective, try to incorporate sustainable practices into the very backbone of the building. It’s easier to design a house with passive solar and EV charging ports already in mind, for instance, than to add them in retroactively. Outfitting a building with green components will also increase the home’s value in the long term.

The Living Side

Even if you don’t settle into a home or building that’s designed to be green from the ground up, you can still significantly reduce its carbon footprint.

Revamping your heating, cooling, ventilation, insulation, water, and/or energy systems are a great way to reduce the carbon footprint of your home. More efficient insulation, heat pumps, smart thermostats, and modern air conditioning systems use fewer fossil fuels than ever before. Sensor-based lighting, Energy Star appliances, electric stoves, and solar panels save resources that accumulate over time for significant environmental benefits in the long run.

Modern parking for electric vehicles near luxury residential buildings

Thinking in terms of the big picture can help justify some of these changes. Eco-friendly homes are only increasing in demand. Play the long game for your own good and that of the planet.

To get an idea of where you’re starting from, head to the Household Carbon Footprint Calculator courtesy of the EPA. You can use estimates based on your location and area averages, or input your own information based on structural details and utility bills for a more personalized look at your current impact. From there, work on making energy-efficient upgrades to watch that number plummet. 

We’re all in it together, and the onus doesn’t fall on any one sector of the industry. From architects and contractors to investors and everyday homeowners, we can all do our part at every stage of the game.

Concept zero waste conscious consumption flat lay, Top view of hands holding trendy moleskin notebook with text "reduce, reuse, recycle, repeat". Wooden table with computer keyboard, mouse and plant

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