If you are remodeling, look out for asbestos. It may be best to leave it untouched. It is found in some types of old insulation materials.

Consider OVE (Optimum Value Engineering) reducing the amount of materials used during construction.
Sources of information for doing the work yourself including the Model Home Green Building Guidelines from the National Association of Home Builders and BEES software from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
  • Look for sustainable wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council
  • Consider Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) made of composites of fast growing wood that can substitute old growth wood for joists, I-beams, rafters, etc.
  • Greener alternatives for adhesives used in plywood and LVL are now available
  • Look for the Rediscovered Wood label on salvage wood products
  • Consider using salvaged materials from deconstructions, such as the Eagle Valley Alliance RECON yard
  • Stucco may be the most environmentally friendly and practical option for siding
  • Clay tiles are the best traditional choice for a roof
  • Consider a green roof or white tiles to reduce heat
  • Green roofs are good for the ecosystem, drainage, and reducing heat
  • Green roofs cost about $15-$20 /SF
  • Consider solar thermal for your roof to heat water or air inside the house.
  • This technology has a much faster payback than photovoltaic panels that produce electricity.
  • Bathroom
  • Consider a low-flush or dual flush toilet
  • The toilet is the biggest water user in the house
  • Retrofit a toilet by placing something heavy and voluminous inside the tank
  • Get low flow showerheads (1.6 gpm instead of 2.5 or more) and sink aerators (1.5 gpm instead of 3-5)
  • Consider a system that feeds used water from the sink into the toilet
  • Avoid vinyl and go with natural linoleum, ceramic, or cork
  • Also consider concrete flooring (good for radiant heating)
  • Consider bamboo but try to get the formaldehyde free glue to join it
  • Engineered or laminate flooring is better because it doesn't use precious wood and is cheaper
  • Look for low-VOC and formaldehyde free stain and finish
Heating & Cooling
  • Plant deciduous trees on the south and west side of the house and evergreens on the north side of the house, as well as other landscaping techniques, to maximize natural heating and cooling
  • Consider radiant floor heating which is more efficient and better for your health than forced air
  • Consider a whole-house attic fan to minimize a/c use.
  • Use a filter with the forced air system
  • Close the damper when not using your fireplace
  • Make sure you are burning seasoned wood (2-3 months old)
  • Consider the more efficient and healthier pellet-burning wood stove or a gas 1
  • Get a programmable thermostat
  • Get double-paned windows and make sure they are well sealed and either have gas between the panes or have low-e coating on them.
  • Efficient Window Collaborative has a lot of information
  • Consider an evaporative cooler or an A/C with a SEER rating of 14 or higher and an Energy Star label
  • Get furnaces and boilers with as high an AFUE as possible, which means that a higher percentage of the energy is used to actually heat the house
  • Get 1 that does not have a continuously burning pilot light
  • Consider a geothermal heat pump
  • Use an incense to identify drafts on a windy day by watching the smoke and seal the leaks
  • Window panes, outlets, and doors are common leak locations
  • Use the Oak Ridge National Laboratory calculator to determine the appropriate thermal resistance (R-value) for different types of insulation in your home.
  • Look for recycled insulation materials, often made of fire-resistant treated paper or cotton.
  • Look for bio-based, such as soy, blown foam insulation products
  • Counter tops
  • Look for laminate and plastic countertops that are low VOC
  • Composite paper tops are greener. These can be made with 100% post consumer products and water-based resin.
  • Cabinets - solid wood is best, but more expensive, because it wont have VOC glues and particleboards
  • Appliances - use smaller appliances (electric kettles, toaster ovens, crock pots)
  • Gas is more efficient but electric is better for health
  • Find the most energy efficient fridge possible
Water Heaters
  • Consider on-demand heaters
  • Traditional gas heaters are more efficient than electric
  • Insulate the tank and the pipes
  • Lower the temp to 120 degrees
  • Install a timer to turn the system off at night
  • Install a pipe heat trap that prevents the hot water from rising in the pipes
  • Drain a quart of water from the tank every 3 months to get rid of sediment that lowers the efficiency and is bad for drinking or cooking with hot tap water