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CONCEPTS

As you approach green remodeling projects, ask yourself questions using the General Sustainability Concepts listed below and throughout the plan book. Consider the tradeoffs and weigh the green attributes of each product to determine which bests fits your needs and values. The bottom line to green remodeling is to do more with less; remember, the greenest square foot of your home is the one that isn't built.

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Questions to ask:

The 3R's
Reduce: Can I do it with less space or fewer materials?
Reuse: What can I reuse or repurpose from my remodeling project or what can I purchase from local reuse centers?
Recycle: What waste can I recycle and can the new products I purchase be made from recycled materials and recycled at the end of their lifecycle?
Resources & Manufacturing
What is it made of?
Is the material rapidly renewable (i.e. wood) or made of recycled content?
How does the harvesting/ extracting affect the surrounding environment?
Are the materials sourced locally and sustainably?
How is it manufactured, and how does that process affect the surrounding environment?
How far is it transported to get to my home?
What is the product's global warming potential (GWP), or how much greenhouse gas does its production, use, and disposal emit?
Does the manufacturing process release toxins or create hazardous waste?
Performance & Your Pocketbook
What is the product's life expectancy?
Is it durable?
Is the material right for the situation (e.g. Soft pine floors in a home with large dogs)?
What maintenance does it require?
What are the operating costs, and is a higher first-cost justified by a lower operating cost?
What energy sources does it depend on to operate?
What, if any, is the payback period (see this example for additional insulation)?
Environmental Effects
How does it encourage energy efficiency, either the energy you use and the energy needed to make it?
What is the impact on water consumption, either in your home or yard or when it's made? 
Does it increase stormwater runoff when it rains?
How will it affect indoor environmental quality of my home, either by ensuring fresh air in my home, or by releasing chemicals or gasses in my home?
How durable is the product or the project?
How much waste will be created during the project or replacing something?
What effects will it have on the surrounding area when harvesting or mining the raw materials or when transporting it to my home?
What happens to it when I'm done with it?
Life Cycle Analysis or LCA
One last concept is life cycle analysis or LCA, "a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product's life from-cradle-to-grave (i.e., from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling)." It is a holistic approach to evaluating a product that incorporates the environmental impacts identified above.

It is also possible to use a life-cycle analysis for cost, such as with a specific building product, where both the first cost and the cost of operating is considered. Ideally, LCA can compare very different products, such as fiberglass batt insulation and spray foam insulation, in an apples-to-apples manner and clarify which is a more environmentally-friendly choice.

Unfortunately, the best tools to access LCA results are either very technical or require a relatively expensive subscription. This guide encourages you to understand the concepts that go into an LCA (above), or ask contractors to use their subscriptions to help you access LCA information directly. Interior designers and architects that specialize in green building are fairly likely to have subscriptions.
How many green attributes does this product have?
- waste reduction (for example, by being made from something that would otherwise have gone into the waste stream like remnant stone or removed from a demolished home, or by eliminating waste in production by being made in a form on site),
- recycled content (like reclaimed wood,or recycled glass),
- durability (for example, by standing up to wear and tear or able to be refinished or repaired on site – applicable only if the surface is used through the end of the product life),
- locally-sourced,
- environmentally-friendly production (like FSC-certified wood),
- third-party certified (FSC-certified wood, GreenGuard Indoor Air Quality, SCS Recycled content or other)
- healthy (low-VOC emissions), and
- recyclable or compostable.

For an example of how to count green attributes, locally quarried granite countertops where the pieces came from remnant scrap has two green attributes. A new slab of local granite has one green attribute.
Life Cycle Analysis or LCA

One last concept is life cycle analysis or LCA, "a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product's life from-cradle-to-grave (i.e., from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling)." It is a holistic approach to evaluating a product that incorporates the environmental impacts identified above.

It is also possible to use a life-cycle analysis for cost, such as with a specific building product, where both the first cost and the cost of operating is considered. Ideally, LCA can compare very different products, such as fiberglass batt insulation and spray foam insulation, in an apples-to-apples manner and clarify which is a more environmentally-friendly choice.

Unfortunately, the best tools to access LCA results are either very technical or require a relatively expensive subscription. This guide encourages you to understand the concepts that go into an LCA (above), or ask contractors to use their subscriptions to help you access LCA information directly. Interior designers and architects that specialize in green building are fairly likely to have subscriptions.