What Does “Green” Mean?

Are you someone who seeks out all-natural products or less-processed foods when you shop? Do you try to avoid additives in food, and chemicals in cleaning products? Then you might also be interested in learning more about the kind of green building materials that are best suited to your home maintenance and remodeling projects.

The elements of green building

Many homeowners today are looking into how green building concepts can be incorporated into a back-to-basics lifestyle. Green building will definitely fit right in with the desire to use more natural products, achieve energy efficiency, and save money. A basic tenet of green building is the use of environmentally friendly materials that are renewable, biodegradable when disposed, locally sourced to reduce transportation requirements, non-endangered, or non-toxic (and therefore healthier for people with allergy or chemical sensitivity issues).

But one thing you might not be aware of is that certain products with more processing can be considered green and might actually be a better choice your home and the environment.

Photo of fiber cement siding for green building

Fiber cement siding by CertainTeed

“Man-made” products can also be “green”

Many building products today are “engineered” which is just another way of saying “man-made.” But that’s not bad in terms of being environmentally friendly, because many of these products are made from natural materials in ways that actually preserve resources. They combine elements in a way that makes the most of the positive features of each. Many engineered products are alternatives to wood and help to prevent the widespread clearing of trees for building purposes.


If you don’t want vinyl as a siding material for your home, but the thought of maintaining natural wood siding is daunting, there are other good choices. Engineered wood siding uses wood strands compressed and coated with resin to keep out moisture and protect against weather damage, fungus, and termites. Fiber cement siding is made from a mixture of Portland cement, cellulose or wood fiber material, sand, and other components. It resists warping, harsh weather, insects, and rot, as well as being fire-resistant, making it an ideal siding choice for homes in wildfire regions. Both of these products use wood wisely and have little negative impact on our forests. Keeping moisture out also reduces the damage and health risks of mold.


We love hardwood floors, but solid plank wood flooring must be harvested from trees with long growth cycles: red and white oak, maple, and sometimes ash or birch. Bamboo and cork are highly renewable choices, but most bamboo flooring comes from the Asia Pacific region and cork comes from the Mediterranean. The energy requirements for transporting them to North America are significant.

Engineered wood flooring is not fake wood. It is made of several layers of plywood with a veneer of natural wood on top. This makes it a more sustainable option than solid planks, especially if you’re thinking of choosing an exotic wood like Rosewood. Choose carefully, though, because quality can vary widely depending on the veneer thickness. A high-quality engineered wood floor with a thicker veneer – between 2mm and 6mm – is very durable and can even be refinished. One great feature of engineered wood floors is that they can be installed over a concrete slab or in a basement, where solid plank floors aren’t appropriate.

Brazil granite quarry

Brazilian granite quarry. Photo courtesy StoneWorld/BNPMedia

Counter surfaces

Granite is a beautiful, strong surface for counters, and there aren’t many downsides to selecting it for your kitchen. There is one big environmental downside, however: granite is a product of mining operations and needs to be shipped, often from Brazil, as large slabs. An alternative material, quartz, is an engineered stone that starts with about 93% crushed natural stone and combines it with 7% pigments and resins to make a surface that rivals a granite slab in performance. Quartz is non-porous, and resistant to stains, acid spills, mold, bacteria, and heat. Engineered stone is mined, like granite, but it can be shipped as smaller chips and then fabricated into slabs at a manufacturing facility closer to its distributors.

If you’re thinking about remodeling your home and are concerned about the environmental impact of the products used in the process, talk to us! We can help you make decisions that can give you a beautiful home and also contribute to a greener future for us all.