Each year the color gods at Pantone release their color of the year and, in one fell swoop, collectively dictate our chromatic futures for the next twelve months. This year, the color is Greenery, a bright, green tone that captures the hues of a lush field of grass during the first rites of spring. Pantone describes it as “nature’s neutral,” a sunny, natural color that’s perfect if you’re integrating your green intention into your home’s aesthetic. But the greenery theme also calls to mind another aspect—that is, how our homes treat the Earth.

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Today’s Homes Look and Act Greener

Maybe you’ve been thinking of purchasing a more efficient HVAC unit to cut back on your energy use and spending. Maybe you’ve been looking at throw pillows woven from eco-friendly, natural materials like burlap or organic cotton. Either way, you’ve probably honed in on the same home trend: the move towards a greener home, from the bottom to the top.

“Green” is a broad category, and it now includes energy efficient updates, like retrofitting your attic with improved, air-quality-friendly insulation and installing a woven bamboo window treatment—as long as it’s sustainably harvested, of course. Here are a few ideas to work some green and eco-friendly upgrades into your home this year.

Solar panels on a new farm barn

  • Get into Solar. Solar is the ultimate way to embrace a new, greener ethic throughout your home—and with an estimated one million residential installations (and counting!) in the US, you’ll definitely be making your place in the company of some of the hippest trendsetters. In fact, some homes are energy efficient enough to totally offset their energy use with the installation of a solar array—although most likely, you’ll still have to borrow a little bit of energy from your utility here and there. To find out more about your system costs and energy savings, visit our ModSun solar calculator for a whole-home green initiative.
  • Improve Your Heating and AC. Your HVAC unit uses the most energy in your home, so an inefficient system could be eating up a lot of fuel. Systems have become a lot more efficient in the last few years, so if yours is getting older, buying and installing a unit with a higher SEER rating could be a smart way to save on your utility bills—and get a little greener, as well. Check out our HVAC calculator to get an idea of what you’d have to spend for different unit efficiencies.
    Not looking to purchase a whole new HVAC unit? There’s still plenty you can do to improve your existing system’s functioning. First, start by changing the filters behind all the return registers in your home. You wouldn’t think so, but a little filter can really impact your utility spending—a dirty filter means your unit is working harder to bring heated and cooled air back into your home. You can also look for leaks in your HVAC ductwork, weatherproof your windows and doors, or even have an energy auditor out to perform a whole energy evaluation on your home.

a window with a view

  • Buy Some Brand-New Windows. What better way to incorporate a little green in your home than by using some actual greenery? A large sliding window, picture window, or casement helps you let in the light, and get a fresh view of outdoor green, besides. Large glass windows have been trending heavily in recent months, so don’t be afraid to go big and bold. Homeowners are on the lookout right now for homes with open, airy interiors, so you may well earn back your investment in improved resale value. And to double the green score of your new windows, look for ENERGY STAR rated models that have the right insulation or efficient glazing, which lets you appreciate the outdoors from the comfort of your home.
  • Paint with VOC-Free Products. When you think about color, often the first place your mind goes is to your walls. Because of Pantone’s announcement, green surfaces should be hot this year, so if you’re thinking of repainting your rooms to a more verdant tone, now’s the time to do it. Want to make your new paint job greener, inside and out? Try using a VOC-free paint. Some more environmentally-aware paint companies also avoid potentially hazardous solvents, like glycol ether, so it never hurts to visit the paint company’s website and read up on their environmental work before you buy.
  • Add Insulation. It’s not the most glamorous update, but when you see the result on your energy bills, you definitely won’t be complaining. A lot of heating and cooling is lost to unfinished attic floors with inadequate insulation. In fact, home professionals believe that a properly insulated attic may save homeowners somewhere between 10 to 50 percent on your energy bills.

green contemporary living room

  • Buy More Sustainable Furniture. While it’s tempting to pick out a new chair or side table every time the color palette du jour changes, the truth is, the Earth doesn’t benefit when we treat our home goods like they’re disposable. Fast-fashion furniture seems great when you buy it, but that’s a whole lot of energy and materials gone to waste when it ends up in the trash a year from now. Instead, focus on picking out more classic, timeless pieces in neutral colors, and get your color fix from accents like lamps, throws, and pillows. And for a doubly green approach, look for wood pieces that are certified from the Forest Stewardship Council, as well as finishes that are formaldehyde free.

With any luck, 2017 will be your greenest year yet. Thanks, Pantone!