Green design can be on a grand or a small scale. You can help the earth in hundreds of small ways that add up – like walking or riding a bicycle instead of taking your car, recycling paper, glass and aluminum at a minimum, taking your own bags when you shop, etc. In interior design, green means embracing the use of sustainable materials, and using products that have a reduced impact on the environment. Our Top 10 today will explore some your options in green home decor.
“Sustainable products are those providing environmental, social, and economic benefits while protecting public health, welfare and environment over their full commercial cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to final disposition.” quote from SustainableProducts.com
Green products are judged using a range of criteria including: recycled content, non-toxic, local, sustainable/renewable resources, cradle-to-cradle (product can be used, recyled and reused again without losing any material quality), green manufacturing processes, certifications, artisan/hand made, vintage / reclaimed / repurposed, and community building / poverty alleviation. info from Green Home Chicago @ ghcdesigncenter.com
Terrie’s Top 5 Green Ideas
1. Paint. According to the EPA, interior air quality is 3 times more polluted than the outside air. This is primarily due to paint. Paint releases low level toxins into the air for years after application. These toxins (volatile organic compounds-VOC) are essential to the performance of the paint, but the paint fumes linger and cause distress to people with allergies as well as being harmful to the environment, so much so that paint disposal is considered hazardous waste.
With the development of no- and low-VOC paint, many of these concerns have been eliminated. The paint clean up is still easy with soap and water but low VOC paint doesn’t impact the groundwater and has reduced or no harmful contaminants. Every major line offers low VOC paint options, so next time you’re ready for a color change, think of the earth when you choose the paint.
Safecoat paint has taken paint even further and has introduced Naturals. It’s a resin paint that works like an oil paint with its ease of spreadability, but cleans up with water and doesn’t have the strong scent of the old oil based paints. Using soy, thistle oil and flax seed oil as the main ingredients to bind the color and enhance the flow of the paint, there are no harmful emissions. You can read the whole article here (from Interior Design). You can also find a growing list of companies providing natural and zero-VOC paint at EarthEasy.com
2. Bamboo – a Sustainable Wood. Lots of things are made with bamboo – flooring, furniture, blinds, or you can even grow the real plant in your yard or home for maximum “green”. Bamboo is considered a sustainable product because it is fast growing and replenishes itself quickly (only 4-5 years instead of the 20-60 years of most other woods). You can read more about the benefits of using bamboo at Bamboo-Flooring-Fact.com.
3. Organic Cotton. Grown without the use of pesticides and processed to be free of toxins and irritants, organic cotton, linen and wool are excellent eco-friendly fabric choices. This Italian organic bedding from Restoration Hardware is a great start.
4. Recycled Glass. Perhaps one of the most well-known recyclables is glass. It is recycled in many beautiful ways – just try a search on recycled glass products and you’ll find lots of great options like these recycled vases fromBambeco.com.
Dinnerware, wine glasses and accessories are also available made with recycled glass from Natural Spaces.
Suspended in a resin mix, recycled glass also makes an appearance as a countertop surface. Durable, beautiful and unusual, the countertops are a terrazzo style look that is fully color customizable (is that a word?) – one resource to check out to learn more about these countertops is EnviroglassProducts.com.
5. Furniture. What should you look for to determine how green a piece of furniture is? Pure Inspired Design has created a line of furnishings and here are some of the ways the furnishings are green: frames are of sustainable hardwood (preferably harvested locally, but that’s not always possible), cushion padding made of 100% unbleached cotton and recycled dacron, cushions made of soy based foam, adhesives and stains are water based, and organic cotton fabric is used. When purchasing your next piece of furniture, ask some questions and see how green the piece is.
Cindy’s Top 5 Green Ideas
1. Reuse. Without a doubt the most green thing you can do is reuse what you already own or use what others have discarded. Redesign it or repurp0se it if need be – but use it instead of replacing it.
- Many communities have companies that reclaim building materials, one in Seattle that I’ve been known to haunt is Second Use . Inventory varies based on donations and discards but it offers light fixtures, cabinets, furniture, iron railings, doors, windows, flooring, tile and a myriad of other materials. Search online to see if you have a source like this near you.
- Consignment furniture stores not only save land fills, they save you money whether you are acquiring or disposing of furniture. I’ve seen incredible antiques, darling accessories, contemporary red leather Italian sofas (I fell in love at first sight – they didn’t go home with me but someone snagged them within the week!), Asian screens and a variety of other furnishings at great prices.
- Shop or sell at garage sales and flea markets – keep cycling things around instead of throwing them away.
Here are a few good examples of reusing or repurposing rather than replacing with something brand new:
2. Cork Flooring. I love the look and feel of cork floors. An all natural product harvested from the bark of cork trees, cork flooring feels soft and cushiony under foot (great for standing at the sink or stove), is resistant to mold, is anti-allergenic, provides thermal and acoustical insulation so it feels warm underfoot and helps muffle sound, and is resilient – dents disappear over a short amount of time because of the natural air cells in the cork that spring back. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have to look “corky” as there are a variety of styles and color available.
3. Solar. Sun light is free – use it! In my home solar panels on the back roof of the garage heat water for a swimming pool, solar lights on stakes outline a garden path, and we have a solar address panel at the start of a long driveway and one at the house entry (easy for guests and great for emergency fire or medic units looking for a house at night or in during a power outage). Below are just three solar ideas, each is available from our affliliate Lamps Plus:
4. Eco Friendly Candles. I love using candles in my home but petroleum-based paraffin based candles are non-renewable and their soot contains known carcinogens and neurotoxins, especially those with lead in their wicks - yikes! Check out what the Environmental Protection Agency says about them (search for candles) and then you may want to trade your paraffin candles for beeswax candles or at the very least purchase paraffin candles with pure cotton wicks. Beeswax candles burn more cleanly than petroleum-based candles and beeswax is a renewable resource. Bees are ecologically important, pollinating some of the world’s most valuable crops. Choosing beeswax products supports beekeepers and bees. Soy wax and palm wax are other non-paraffin candle alternatives.
5. Cardboard. When I was very young my parents received something in a big box – I don’t remember what they bought because it wasn’t important. What was important to my sister and me was the giant cardboard box. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven when my parents said “Yes. You can have it.” I’m telling you we had the best playhouse ever after my dad cut a window and a door into the box. My sister and I were even allowed to sleep in our new house that night. Maybe that childhood adventure is why cardboard still intrigues me – that and the fact that it’s an inexpensive and green material suitable for many uses.
As you can see, there are many ways to be green. We hope our Top 10 ideas have inspired you to consider more seriously how what you buy or throw away impacts our planet Earth.
Celebrate Earth Day All Year
We’ve certainly only scratched the surface of green design and green living. What do you do to live responsibly? Or what changes do you plan to make? If you’ve got any tips, secrets or ideas, please share them with the rest of us! Email us at solutions@YourDecoratingHotline.com or leave us a comment below (after the ads). Bye the way, I’m sharing these great ideas over at The Inspired Room - click through here and see what inspired people this week.