Can Building Green Homes Be Unsustainable?

Building green homes is important for those attempting to live a more environmentally friendly life. However, building green homes is more complex than just choosing natural or recycled products. In order to understand whether a green building is truly sustainable, you need to consider the entire life cycle of those products. It is also important to remember that being green, or energy efficient, is not always the same as promoting sustainability. Looking at a few tools used in building green homes can quickly reveal the difference between sustainability and green living.


Wood is a natural resource, and a tempting material to those building green homes. However, although wood is made from a renewable resource, and is therefore usually considered green, how that wood is harvested can make it unsustainable. Wood is only authentically green if it is taken from a sustainable environment: wood harvested in a way that causes deforestation is unsustainable.


Cement is used in building green houses in order to keep concrete together. It can be made in energy-intensive ways, which make up around 8 percent of greenhouse gasses, but it is generally labeled as 'green' if it is used efficiently, or forms part of insulation that reduces heating requirements. The latter form of cement, known as ICFs (insulated concrete forms), creates an energy efficient home that uses a small percentage of an average home in terms of heating costs. However, this does not make cement a sustainable resource.

Recycled Materials

Using recycled materials is often promoted to those building green homes. It seems like an ideal answer: recycled lumber prevents deforestation and also eliminates the cost of running saw mills and lumber transportation. However, other forms of recycling may actually hinder sustainability, for example an old window frame being recycled may actually require more energy for heating than new, environmentally friendly window frames.


For those interested in building green homes, the Green sell has become an important marketing tool. Buyers of green houses should be aware of a practice known as Greenwashing, where a non-sustainable house is promoted as green, when it is not. Look for evidence of certification before believing that a house is truly made out of sustainable materials.

Sustainability and Green Homes

It is possible that building green homes can still have unsustainable practices. Not all natural products, for example, are sourced in a sustainable fashion, and not everything that is recycled has valid sustainability. It is sometimes better to buy things that are modern, rather than trying to re-use old, flawed building materials. In addition, green houses do not always use sustainable materials: cement, for example, produces greenhouse gas emissions, and is not sustainable, but when used in combination with green building skills, it can help a house to become more fuel efficient. Sustainability is only one path on the route to green living, and the two things are not necessarily always supportive of the other. When building green homes, it is sometimes necessary to make a choice between immediately sustainable products, and items which will help homeowners in their private struggle for energy efficiency and a green lifestyle.