Founded in 1976, Habitat for Humanity has built over 350,000 houses for more than 1.75 million people around the world, according to their website.
The fact that Habitat builds these homes literally on the backs of volunteers and those who will occupy the residences makes this organization not only well-respected but well known.
That’s one of the reasons why I was so glad to see Habitat joining the green movement. In the last several years, for instance, individual Habitat building groups as well as the national organization, have taken a hard look at what they can do help the earth while they continue to help people.
As a result, they have taken several green steps, from encouraging the use of recyclable building materials to suggesting volunteers use mass transit to get to the home sites.
The overall idea, or Green Team building projects, are based upon three principles according to their website: “energy efficiency, including wise use of construction materials; 2) sustainability; and 3) maintenance of good indoor air quality.” By minimizing the building impact, using reclaimed and recycled materials and creating “buildings free of toxic materials that can be heated and cooled with the last amount of energy” they are making a statement that delights green-living groups.
According to Mother Earth News, in Northern Michigan, where winters are brutal and energy costs are high, all the Habitat homes built since 1999 have a southern exposure (to capture more solar heat), baseboard water-systems are the norm as well as thick walls packed with fiberglass insulation and specially designed frost-protected foundations.
Low flow shower heads, fluorescent light bulbs and energy efficient appliances are installed to bring down the total energy costs.
The Metro Denver HFH is another example. They are not only building homes to cut energy costs but also use paints with low-VOC (volatile organic compound), chemicals that can irritate eyes and cause sore throats and coughing. Some VOC’s have been linked to cancer.
In the Minneapolis Twin Cities, where the Habitat group is striving for a zero waste job site, they are composting organic waste on-site and converting wood products into mulch. “Twin Cities” volunteers are encouraged to use mass transit, walk, bike, or carpool to job sites when possible.”
Habitat for Humanity’s green intentions also spread beyond the actual work sites. For instance, Habitat ReStores, which are currently present in 48 states, receive donated furniture, home accessories, building materials and appliances which they sell to the public way below retail. Proceeds help with community constructions.
In Missouri, Habitat and Amtrack have teamed up to recycle and build homes.
The Amtrak Missouri River Runner trains are collecting cans onboard, which they will donate to the River City Habitat for Humanity in Jefferson City. The Missouri River Runner trains, which travel twice-daily between St. Louis and Kansas City, will drop off aluminum cans as they stop in Jefferson City. Proceeds from the cans will be used to help build a home, known as the “house that cans built” that is currently under construction.
Habitat for Humanity, which was “founded on the conviction that every man, woman and child should have a decent, safe and affordable place to live” has always been seen as a caring, humanitarian organization. Today, with its green efforts, earth-friendly can be added to that statement as well.