The home renovation that kick-started my Green Conscience

by Franke James

Franke James talks about how she chose to reduce her carbon footprint on HGTV.

HGTV came calling recently to talk to me about our home renovation.

I met Elana Safronsky from HGTV Canada when I was speaking to high school students about Design for the Greater Good at Explore Design (sponsored by Treehugger).

I wasn’t sure I wanted our home featured, because (although I love what we’ve done with our home to make it greener) most of the changes aren’t visible to the eye. No one would know that we improved our energy score by insulating our attic and walls, installing new triple pane windows, radiant flooring, new furnace, etc.

AFTER: The renovated kitchen

Photo of exterior by Franke James
What’s green in the kitchen? Energy-efficient appliances, lighting, glass block window, increased insulation in walls, glass counter instead of granite.

In fact, the biggest change was in our heads. In 2005, when I started to research energy efficiency for our renovation, it opened my eyes to the looming problem of climate change, and how it will shape the 21st century. It inspired me to make big green changes in my life (like selling our only car, building a green driveway, rediscovering eccentric glamour in my own closet, and writing a book about it all).

As soon as a I started to think about how pivotal our home renovation was in taking us in a greener direction, I agreed to the HGTV interview.  Because renovating our home was THE event that kick-started my green conscience. Designing “green” was not a sacrifice, but a benefit.

HGTV: Behind Franke’s Green House and Conscience

“This past Tuesday on Home Tour, I posted the home of a Toronto-based artist, writer, speaker and environmental activist, Franke Jame. Franke had an energy audit done on her older, north Toronto home (above), and having received a failing grade, embarked on a reno to make it better. Though she was always inclined toward the greener side of life, the reno coupled with her mounting concern for the environment propelled her to make a real sacrifice: she convinced her family to give up the car.”

If you’re thinking of a home renovation, I suggest you start with an energy audit. There’s nothing like getting an objective report card to really tell you what needs improvement!

Check out the HGTV interview for more about our home renovation, and to see the Before and After photos of the interior and exterior.

Photo of exterior by Franke James

Exterior of the house shows the interlock brick driveway which was replaced in 2007 with a permeable green driveway.


Photo of Franke James by Elana Safronsky HGTV Canada, Canwest

Franke James stands on the green driveway, which is a fully functional driveway which can support the weight of cars and trucks.

HGTV: Book Giveaway and Photo Gallery: Behind Franke’s Green House and Conscience

11 Responses: 3 Comments and 8 Tweets

  • It’s so great to see you getting this type of exposure and recognition Franke! I so want your blue kitchen!! I think it’s true that you LOVE color – it shows! I also think it’s important to see before…to love after but to know the reasons behind the renovation in the first place.

  • michelle says:

    I love the interview! I live in a historic village called Grandin in the Roanoke Valley in VA. I bought a house last year for the main purpose that I could walk to the village. Which has many restaurants, coffee shop, book store, farmers market, natural food coop, hardware store, post office, lots of other little shops, etc. I try very hard on the weekends not to drive and do all the errands down in the village. What I like some advice on is there use to be a driveway and the previous owners grew grass seed over it to make a bigger front yard. I do not want to tear it up to create something or add stones, pavers, etc. Can I just drive on the grass then create flower borders and pathway to the front door?

  • Franke James says:


    Sorry for the delay in answering your question. You’ll have to check your local bylaws. In North York we were required to have a driveway — a grass lawn is not good enough because it’s not a drive-able surface. It gets tire ruts in it if you park a car on it, and so (from the city’s point of view and maybe your neighbours too) looks unsightly.

    The underlying structure we used for our green driveway creates a strong drive-able surface that can support the weight of a fire engine. We chose Permaturf, and we are happy with it, but there are lots of similar products.

    Here’s my index page for the posts on how we built our driveway:

    Good luck!


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