ALL POSTS IN Green

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Residents in Knoxville, home of HGTV.com, may notice an addition to the Knoxville Botanical Gardens — a small house solely made of shipping pallets. A local organization, Knox Pallet House, is behind this repurposed home. Knox Pallet House aims to provide quality, affordable housing to the radically poor and homeless by building homes made of shipping pallets donated from local businesses.

Knox Pallet HousePhoto Credit: R. Bentley Marlow

The model house at the Botanical Gardens aims to bring public attention to temporary housing for the homeless. Residents can interact with the house while listening to music from local artists during the city’s annual Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival this weekend. The ultimate goal — for the city to make building code exceptions to allow for a pallet house subdivision to be built around a community shower, laundry and kitchen facility for the homeless.

Watch More About Knox Pallet House>>

Check out our interview with project leads Bentley Marlow and Prat Singh.

Design Happens: What was your inspiration for this project?

Bentley and Prat: The inspiration came from two architects with I-BEAM Design in 1999. Their mission was to provide housing for Eastern Europe’s refugee population. We felt there was a strong possibility this could be an excellent model for housing Knoxville’s homeless population because it is a fact that housing first is the only proven and effective way to approach homelessness issues in any community.

DH: What is your ultimate goal for the pallet house?

B and P: The ultimate goal for Knox Pallet House is to start a dialogue in our city to explore the possibility of developing a housing community for Knoxville’s homeless population.

DH: How long is the display open?

B and P: From sunrise to sunset through April 14th

DH: How long have you been working on this project, and how many volunteers have contributed?

B and P: The construction took a total of three weeks because we were building outside of our regular schedules. The actual construction moves pretty quickly once it gets going. We had eight volunteers and several community business and organization contributions. This project would not have been possible without the efforts of every single one of them. This is why we think Knoxville is a great place for this project to take off. This city is exceptionally collaborative — it is a really unique place on the map.

What organizations make a difference in your community? Tell us in the comments below.

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Spring is officially here as of last week, but unofficially here according to my local weather report. This means we still have time to prep our homes for the upcoming seasons. I think we can all agree it was a less than enjoyable winter (thank you, polar vortex!), and my energy bill certainly saw the effects of that.

There are simple ways you can make your home more energy efficient both inside and outside to lower your bill. How? By outfitting your home with the proper window treatments. Choosing the right ones can help reduce heat loss from your home in the winter and heat gain in the summer. Here are some top picks and their benefits:

Window Awnings

Window Awnings

© Gibbs Smith, Barry Dixon Interiors, Brian D Coleman; Photography by Edward Addeo

Window awnings can reduce solar heat gain up to 77 percent. They’re not only beneficial to your outdoor space, but they’re stylish, too. For even more protection, choose a light-colored canvas to reflect more sunlight in the coming months.

Blinds

Shutters

Design by Susan Anthony

Window blinds are better at reducing summer heat than keeping out the cold. When interior blinds are completely closed, they can reduce heat gain by around 45 percent. Not bad!

More Money-Saving Tips

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I’ve been looking for a way to use fewer paper towels at home. I’ll rip off the smallest amount possible to clean up a spill, or I’ll use one towel until it can’t take any more. I started doing this for several reasons, one being the exorbitant amount of money it costs to continuously supply a home with paper products. It really adds up! That’s why I love these reusable cloth “paper” towels. Not only is it a more environmentally-friendly solution, it would also save a ton of money in the long run. All you have to do is wash your towels and snap them back together for a new, clean roll of towels. Plus, there are all kinds of cute prints to choose from. Could it get any better?

reusable paper towels

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For the past three days, I have been dog-sitting four affectionate and slobbery Basset Hounds. It has been three days’ worth of floppy ears, thundering howls and melancholy eyes. For the most part, it has been an enjoyable experience, but when I woke up this morning to find the laundry room floor covered in an unmentionable liquid surprise, I was not as delighted as I had once been. After scouring the house to find something to clean with, the only product I could find was vinegar. Because this mess was a particularly icky one, I just wasn’t sure if vinegar would cut it. Needless to say for any of you who have experience cleaning with this particular agent, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did it thoroughly clean up all remnants of the laundry room disaster, it left the floor sparkling and smelling incredibly clean and fresh. No more will I be a slave to harsh chemicals and expensive labels – vinegar has set me free.

MORE: VINEGAR’S MANY USES >>

Basset HoundPawNation’s Cute Pet of the Day: Hank

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I’ve always been a news junkie. I take time out every morning to read the headlines to learn what’s going on in the world. Frankly, I have no patience for anyone who isn’t up-to-date with world events. In my reading this morning, this “Trash Made Into Homes” story from CNN.com caught my eye. It’s a story that captures human ingenuity at its best!

Waste — what to do with it? It’s a worldwide problem that’s mounting. The city of Karachi, Pakistan produces ten thousand tons of waste every day. Much of that is non biodegradable and is burned or goes to landfills. But one local environmentalist thinks she has found the answer.

Nargis Latif is devoting her life to protecting the environment in the most over-populated city in Pakistan (Karachi). Her project, Gul Bahao, deals with two major issues — reducing waste and an increasing need for housing.

Gul Bahao works in conjunction with local factories to collect clean waste that they simply don’t need. The waste is then used to fill up large sacks (or bricks), which are then bound together to form structures. The homes are low in cost and put up in a matter of hours.

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Turning your ordinary writing utensils into your favorite pens, the Seven Year Pen greens up your office supplies, writing up to 6.5 feet a day for 7 years (uh, can you say “hand cramp?”). Available in colorful designs and clever graphics, the best part about these pens is that they’re eco-friendly — reducing waste by increasing the barrel size inside each pen up to six times the amount in your everyday BIC.

EXTRA: Eco-Friendly Home Improvement and Building Products >>

Happy Earth Day!

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Did you know the average family spends $2,300 per year on energy costs? Think about what you could do with that $2,300. (I, personally, would nab that Gus sectional I’ve been coveting for the past 6+ months.) Matt McGovren, brand manager for Nexia Home Intelligence, shares a few tips and tricks for saving energy and making your home a bit greener. Some are easy changes you can start today, and you’ll instantly see lower bills and more money in your pocket. Plus, each small change makes a great impact on the environment, too.

Save Money on Your Energy Bill With These Tips From HGTV's Design Happens Blog

Maintain Your Interior — About half of energy costs are spent heating or cooling your home. Installing a programmable thermostat that’s compatible with a home automation system can help reduce energy use and save money on those bills each month.

Hit the Lights — Use motion sensors to control both interior and exterior lighting. Using sensors to control lighting is perfect for busy families or anyone who can’t remember (or can’t be bothered) to turn off the lights when they’re not needed.

Don’t Be a Vampire — Appliances that are plugged in but not in use still generate electricity. In fact, vampire power is estimated to account for one percent of global C02 emissions — but it’s an easy habit to kick: just unplug. Schedule your products to only be on when needed using products that control lights and small appliances when you’re at home and away.

Stop Running — Most Americans use between 80 and 100 gallons of water a day. This Earth Day, make a pledge to conserve water by taking shorter showers and turning the tap off when you’re scrubbing your dishes.

Set Reminders — Get email or text alerts when it’s time to change your HVAC filter. Having a fresh filter keeps your system running efficiently, saving you money.

Looking for more tips and ideas? Green your home this spring with energy efficiency updates from HGTV.com.

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Christmas lights are one of my favorite things about the holiday season. This year especially, I’ve been known to frantically scream out “Christmas!” every time I see a holiday light display – I’m certain everyone I know is asking Santa for an early present in the form of earplugs.

Light displays may be a warm and cozy staple of the holiday season, but there’s no getting around the fact that they cost a lot to run. If it’s been a couple of years since you replaced your light set you might be wasting energy – and therefore money.

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This month, Google lifted the veil off its massive and beautiful data centers. These facilities are typically shrouded in secrecy because they are the brains behind tech companies.

The company has been working on building its data centers for over 10 years. Google’s centers take advantage of renewable energy and are environmentally friendly.

Google

Google

It looks like a child’s playground, doesn’t it?

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Perhaps I’ve been influenced by my very Southern mother, or maybe it’s just from spending too much time glued to Pinterest, but I use vinegar for everything. Ev-er-y-thing.  I keep all types of vinegar – white, apple cider, red wine, tarragon – stocked in my cabinets. It’s handy for cooking, cleaning, and what most of my friends refer to as “weird voodoo home remedies” (a spoonful of vinegar a day keeps the doctor away!).

Vinegar is not just for salads.

One of the best things about keeping vinegar in your home is that it’s so cheap. You can usually get a big bottle of white vinegar for under a dollar, and not too much more for apple cider vinegar. On top of that, it’s edible – no harsh toxins, no lingering chemical smell – making it the perfect cleaning solution if you have children or pets.

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