There's a move-in ready home near Chicago's lakefront that showcases how to live a sustainable lifestyle without sacrificing style and design.
When the World's Fair came to Chicago in 1933, people flocked to an exhibit called Homes of Tomorrow, which featured modular construction, solar panels and other futuristic ideas that are now part of modern home design.
Today, Chicago is continuing the tradition of showcasing cutting-edge home design and technology at its Museum of Science and Industry. The museum recently built an exhibit on its campus grounds called the Smart Home: Green + Wired. Anne Rashford, director of temporary exhibits at the museum, says the Smart Home, designed by architect Michelle Kaufmann, offers the best in green and sustainable home construction, interior design and landscaping.
It cost more than $500,000 to build the home, and all the materials used are already available to consumers. "We don't expect everyone to go out and build this house, but if you are building a house or renting an apartment or renovating where you live, there all kinds of things you can do to be green and more aware of the environment," Rashford says.
Place furniture near natural light sources. Working near a window means you have less need for electric lights.
Harness the power of the sun. Consider adding solar appliance chargers, solar cookers and rooftop solar panels to your home.
Purchase sustainable materials. If you are planning to purchase new materials for you home, consider bamboo, cork or natural linoleum flooring; Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood cabinets; recycled glass tiles; recycled paper countertops; and many other readily available, eco-friendly materials.
Reduce cooking energy costs. In terms of energy efficiency, microwaves are better than toaster ovens and toaster ovens are better than regular ovens.
Turn down the thermostat. For each degree you turn down the thermostat in the winter, you save about 1 percent on what it costs to heat your home and you trim your carbon emissions. Start by kicking it down a notch while you sleep and are away from the home. Use your dishwasher. Dishwashers use 8.7 gallons of water per load; hand-washing dishes takes as much as 20 gallons of water per load. Be sure you scrape your dishes instead of rinsing them and use a full load every time you run your dishwasher.
Choose low- or no-VOC products. Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are often found in paints, thinners and carpet adhesive and can negatively affect indoor air quality.