Lots of people need or want accessibility in their homes these days. Many of these same people want their home to also be eco-friendly. And why not? The two are not mutually exclusive, though some advance thought is required to accomplish both goals at an affordable price.
More contractors are educated about both eco-friendly and accessibility options today than ever before. And “green” building materials are less expensive than even a few years ago. Consider these options as you build or renovate your home if you want to create a living space that is both good for the environment and those with mobility issues.
Flooring Made From Sustainable Materials
We recommend bamboo or cork for your floors. Carpeting is cozy, but makes it difficult to maneuver with a wheelchair, walker or crutches. Ceramic tile and linoleum are not eco-friendly and may be slippery. Hardwood floors are a good option for some, however are not good for the environment. Hardwood takes many years to grow and its cultivation damages our forests.
Cork is a sustainable material because the cork is harvested from trees that are not cut down. The bark grows back every three years.Cork is also naturally antimicrobial, which reduces allergens in the home. Cork floors can be finished in nearly any color paint or stain and is durable.They are inexpensive compared to the cost of hard wood flooring.
Bamboo offers a durable, low-glare surface that is easy to clean, very affordable and environmentally responsible. It is sustainable because it grows extraordinarily fast. Bamboo floors create the same classic look in your home as wood floors and are easy to navigate with accessibility aids. However, like hard wood, these floors can be slick. For those at risk of falling, cork might be a better option.
Choose a toilet that is ADA compliant and opt for one that is water efficient; using less water per flush is one of the best ways to make your bathroom eco-friendly. This is particularly important in regions of the U.S. that experience drought and face water shortages and rationing. At the very least, using an eco-friendly toilet reduces your water bill, but more importantly, it helps conserve our natural resources.
Install faucets that operate using motion sensors or a single touch and position them on the side of the sink that is easiest to reach. Some people with disabilities leave the water running longer than others because it is difficult for them to turn the faucets on and off. This type of faucet operates on demand and therefore uses less water than manual faucets. An added benefit is the ability to operate without making a mess on the handle or water knobs if your hands are dirty.
Another suggestion if you do not have a single touch faucet is to add a water aerator. The aerator is more eco-friendly because it pumps air into the water eliminating the need to run the water at full blast.
Use Light Bulbs with LEDs in Fixtures and Lamps
A bright home is often very important for people with disabilities. Lighting the home effectively helps prevent falls and improves visibility. LED bulbs are bright, long lasting and eco-friendly. They give off less heat and utilize less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. LED bulbs are more expensive up front, but typically last 50,000 hours vs the incandescent bulbs which last about 1200 hours.
Homes that are both environmentally conscientious and accessible make anyone feel welcome in your home. Both eco-friendly and disability-friendly touches can potentially increase the value of your home and decrease your bills. You don’t have to choose one or the other; you can help both the planet and the people you care about.
Do you have other ideas to incorporate when designing a home that is both eco-friendly and accessible? We would love to hear from you!
bamboo flooring (source: Bob Villa)