Green Design Is Affordable, Beautiful and Here to Stay
More and more people are becoming involved in trying to save our resources and our planet. We are beginning to see the devastating our planet will suffer due to an extraordinary number of threats to our environment. Habitats and certain species of animals are disappearing at alarming rates. Scientists worry that we are passing the point where our ecosystem will be able to recover without being permanently damaged.
Besides providing us with valuable goods, the ecosystem also provides important benefits to the world. Wetlands offer protection from storms and help purify water. Forests capture carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. However, when a wetland is destroyed, it affects the mainland beyond it. In addition, when a forest is cut down, there are fewer trees to capture carbon dioxide.
Environmentally Friendly Furniture – Check out these tips for keeping your furniture environmentally friendly by recycling, reclaiming and refinishing.
If you’re in the market for new furniture, first ask yourself if anything in your home can be repurposed or if you might find what you’re looking for at a local flea market, thrift store or antique shop. You’ll save on fuel costs for shipping and help your community. If those options won’t work, here are some tips
Choose Renewable Resources. Eco-friendly furniture materials to look for include:
- Reclaimed lumber and recycled wood scraps
- Recycled products from plastics and paper
- Sustainable fibers such as hemp, wool and jute
- Bent plywood and molded ply
- Corrugated cardboard
- Stainless steel
- Kirei Board (made from reclaimed sorghum-stalk fibers)
- Coconut palm trees
Use Earth-Friendly Finishes. Skip the toxins that accompany that new-paint smell. Instead, look for nontoxic paints and stains made with such natural materials as seed oils, citrus-peel extracts, milk protein, lime and clay.
Eco-Friendly Decorating Ideas
Smart, simple ways to make your decorating healthier for you and the environment. Here are some common myths:
- Being environmentally friendly is too expensive
- Going #green is just a fad
- Eco-friendly style is just plain ugly
Believing these myths can be harmful to your health as well as the environment. New home smells are actually toxic; mold inside walls can cause migraines and other health issues; and carpet can off-gas formaldehyde, which is known to cause respiratory irritation and even cancer.
The good news is that we are becoming aware of these things. As we become aware — and more options appear on the market –it becomes a matter of making good choices.
Choose to decorate with real sustainability in mind — using less energy, less water and less non-renewable resources while still beautifying your home.
Not all green design is pricey
Green is for everyone! Consider places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. For a modern take on old accessories, pick up shapely items at these stores display them in attractive ways.
Choose home decor that is recycled, reused, will last a long time, and require very little maintenance.
You can decorate green and still match your style.
No matter your style, there are ways to get greener interiors without turning your home into a forest. A good eco-design is a design that you never have to explain. For example, if you like Shabby Chic and you need a new dining room table, buy a table base kit, and visit local wood salvage yards for reclaimed lumber to use as a top.
We do not even think about it what materials go into building our homes, when in fact it affects us largely. For example, we are breathing in whatever these materials are off gassing, such as the formaldehyde from carpet.
For those with wall-to-wall carpeting, if it’s wool and you like it, keep it. Otherwise, consider using modular carpet tiles. Several eco-friendly companies, like FLOR and Shaw Carpet, offer stylish carpet squares that use non-toxic dyes and are made from recycled materials. When you are done with it, you can ship it back to the manufacturer to recycle. They involve little labor; they are easy to lay down by yourself and do not need support from toxic padding.
Eco-friendly decorating tax breaks
If you make eco-friendly improvements to your home, reporting these on your yearly taxes can earn you a tax break. After remodeling, rather than taking them to the landfill, contact The Reuse People (www.thereusepeople.org). They check over your refuse for reusable parts that will be shipped to organizations like Habitat for Humanity — while you get another tax write-off.
Going Green in the Kitchen
Earth-friendly products are available in a wider range of styles and costs than ever before; now you too can have the Earth-friendly kitchen you are craving.
One of the first things to consider is indoor air quality. Since we spend the majority of our time in the house, making sure the air is clean is priority number one. Today’s homes are being built tighter, so proper ventilation is a necessity. One simple way to improve air quality is to install a range hood.
However, going green does not stop with clean air. Cabinets, countertops, floors and appliances all offer new eco-friendly options that make designing your eco-kitchen easy and fun.
Choose Nontoxic Cabinets
The wood in most cabinetry contains urea-formaldehyde, which off-gasses and can be harmful to your health as well. Look for cabinets made from solid wood, or alternative materials such as wheat board, and finished with nontoxic finishes.
Look for Recycled Countertops
Companies like Richlite offer countertops made from recycled paper or hemp, which are extremely durable and easy to clean, but color selection can be limited. If you prefer a tile countertop, look for tiles that are either recycled from previous installations or made from recycled material. Martin’s favorite option is a quartz composite known as engineered stone. The depth of color is fantastic.
Buy Energy-Efficient Appliances
These are easy to choose — just look for the Energy Star label, which ensures they are 10 percent to 50 percent more efficient than standard models.
Install Water-Saving Features
Choose faucets with aerators, which inject air bubbles into the water stream to achieve the same pressure with less volume. Recirculation pumps keep hot water at the tap, saving hundreds of gallons per year by eliminating the need to run the tap while the water gets hot. Tankless hot water heaters also heat water at the source. Because they are smaller than standard water heaters, they use less water and 10 percent to 20 percent less energy.
Invest in Green Flooring
Linoleum is enjoying a comeback, largely due to its green properties. Made of natural materials such as linseed oil, rosin, and wood flour, it is durable and easy to clean. Cork and bamboo make good choices for a green kitchen, as they are made from rapidly renewable resources. The newer engineered versions of bamboo are great; they stand up to abuse from pets, high heels, and heavy weights better than the old bamboo products.
Maximize Energy-Saving Lighting
Avoid recessed cans, unless they use fluorescent bulbs and are airtight, to keep air from escaping around the can and into the attic. Motion and occupancy sensors save money by automatically turning lights on and off as needed. They are inexpensive and can be mounted in standard switch boxes. LED lighting, which is new to the market, promises long life and extremely efficient operation, but it is not widely available and can be pricey. Dimmable electrical ballasts will not only save energy but also prevent flickering.
Use Eco-Friendly Finishes
Eco-friendly paints, stains, and finishes reduce exposure to harmful compounds. Seek out water-based finishes with “No VOCs”, or no volatile organic compounds, on the label.Eco-friendly wallpaper products are also available, with low- or no-VOC compositions and glues. Do not forget the low-VOC caulks, adhesives and sealers.