Design & DIY

Turn any space green with these eco-friendly building materials


If you’re building a new cottage, or looking to renovate an existing one, consider going green. With countless innovative products available, it’s now easy to choose building materials that will improve your home’s energy efficiency, while reducing reliance on chemicals and non-renewable resources.

Here are eight examples to get you started.

Plastic composite lumber

Manufactured using lumber waste products, PCL looks like wood, but it’s actually plastic—and it’s incredibly eco-friendly. Unlike lumber, it does not require trees to be felled or any secondary processing treatments. It’s rot-proof and immune to the elements that cottage owners often struggle with, which means you’ll avoid splintering, weathering, and greying. Best of all, there’s no need to treat it every year.

Low VOC paints

Do you have half-full paint cans sitting around, waiting for your community toxic round-up? Us too. But what if paint wasn’t so toxic? That’s the principle behind low VOC paints. Unlike traditional paint—which contains hundreds of toxins, some of which have been linked to cancer and continue to seep out for years after painting—low VOC paints typically don’t include carcinogens, air pollutants, or heavy metals, so you can breathe easy.

Eco-friendly insulation

Insulation is the key to an energy-efficient home, and there are now a range of products made from recycled or natural materials available. You can choose from a low-fill cellulose (from recycled newsprint), batt cotton insulation (from recycled blue jeans), or a plant-based polyurethane rigid foam, which is typically manufactured from bamboo, hemp, or kelp.

Heat-reflecting paint

Unfortunately, no matter how insulated your home is, it will still continue to absorb heat. That’s where heat-reflecting paint comes in. These paints are typically applied to the exterior of your home and have the ability to reduce heat transfer by radiating back solar infrared and ultraviolet radiation, keeping the interior nicely chilled.

Green pavers

Turn your pavement into a wastewater management system with green paving options. Unlike traditional concrete, porous pavers allow rainwater to seep into the ground below. Some new brands are even made of recycled materials, including beautiful ground glass.

Low e-glass

Changing the type of windows in your home is one of the easiest ways to improve thermal performance—and in turn, save energy. In this case, the “e” stands for emissivity and the goal is to reduce it. Low e-glass has a thin coating that reflects long-wave infrared energy, which will keep heat in during the winter, and out in the summer.

Electrochromic window glazing

Once step up from low e-glass, this window glazing allows you to regulate daytime glare and solar heat gain without eliminating your views of the outdoors. This glass regularly adjusts to external temperatures and allows users to choose between clear and tinted views. It also reduces lighting consumption by 20 percent.

House battery

For those with solar panels, storing solar energy when it’s not in use has traditionally been a costly challenge. That’s why Tesla has begun manufacturing an affordable lithium ion battery storage system called the Powerwall. It allows homeowners to utilize energy long after the sun has gone down—a perfect solution for those who prefer to run their dishwasher at night.