When Robert Kennedy, Jr., the uber-environmentalist, decided he wanted to transform his sprawling, 1920’s Mt. Kisco manse into a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified home, one of the companies he turned to was Contemporary Design, a sustainable renovation firm that doesn’t skimp on aesthetics. We caught up with company founder, Kingdon Knowles to get some tips for greening a New York City abode. Even if you haven’t got the dough for a Kennedy-style overhaul and live in a rental, he says, there are easy upgrades worth making.
Switching to VOC (volatile organic compound) paints is a no-brainer if your rental needs a brushing up. But why is it worth further greening an apartment you might not even own? “Green building strategies benefit everyone’s pocketbook by lowering utility bills, for one,” says Knowles. “Plus they’re an investment in the welfare of our environment.” Oh, right.
1. Switch to a low-flow showerhead. Amortize the cost of a $100 sleek money-saving showerhead over the number of times you’ll use it in a year—it’s about 25 cents a day to cut way back (40 percent!) on water consumption.
2. Connect a quality water filter to your kitchen faucet. This will help purify water right from the tap, reducing your reliance on bottled water.
3. Upgrade your appliances. If you own your place, and your fridge, stove, and dishwasher are sluggish, consider investing in new energy efficient ones. These will save you time and money, while increasing the resale value of your apartment. Renters shouldn’t forget to consider the energy-saving status of microwaves and window-unit A/Cs, which can hike up an energy bill.
4. Install a ceiling fan. For obvious reasons, New Yorkers who rent are rarely motivated to invest in home improvements. But installing a ceiling fan is a low-cost upgrade. Fans start at $60, the price of an electric bill. And anytime you can increase the air circulation in your apartment without switching on the A/C, it’s a good thing.
5. Buy some plants for your pad. Not only are plants good for your surroundings, both environmentally and aesthetically, but they simply make us feel good. —Catherine Pearson
For more tips and information, visit www.contemporaryrenovation.com