When we think about decorating our homes, style and price are usually the only two factors we consider. Few people give thought to the environment when picking out bedroom furniture or hardwood flooring. However, with increasing environmental concerns like our ever-expanding landfills and global warming, the design world has turned a keen eye to sustainable or “green” design. Creating a stylish space while keeping the earth in mind is possible—we’ll show you how.
What it Means to Go Green
Going green encompasses much more than just reducing, reusing and recycling. It is a fully developed movement that champions the principles of economic, social and ecological sustainability. The goal is simple: produce environments, products and services in a way that reduces the use of non-renewable resources and works in harmony with the natural environment. The idea is straight-forward enough, but the outcome of adopting this ideology is extraordinary. By following a few general concepts, you can help not only your environment, but your own health and well-being as well.
Who knew that that a towering tropical stalk could prove to be such an extraordinary eco-chic material? Bamboo is the darling of the green design world, and its star deserves to shine that brightly because it grows at lightning speed and can be used in a variety of ways. It takes about 4 years to grow, as opposed to trees that can take anywhere from 25 to 70 years. And, although it isn’t wood (bamboo is actually a grass that grows in
If bamboo isn’t your thing you can use traditional wood furniture, but take an interest in where that wood comes from. We all know about the benefits trees provide: they keep the earth cool and they turn our carbon dioxide into much needed oxygen. So, why do we keep chopping down these wonder workers at such an alarming rate? When purchasing wood furniture, look for items that are specifically produced by sustainably harvested forests. Better still, try purchasing items that are made from reclaimed wood which makes use of wood from old furniture and houses.
Durable and Low-Toxicity Furnishings
Choosing green furniture means choosing items that are easily taken apart (once they are discarded), repaired and recycled. Durability is also important—the better the construction, the less likely it will be tossed out adding to landfills. Also, look for furniture that is certified as having low-toxicity—off-gasses such as VOCs (volatile organic compounds) can be found in chemicals used to treat furniture such as flame retardants and formaldehyde.
Local and Vintage Furnishings
Try to buy local and or buy vintage. Vintage and second-hand furniture requires no additional resources to manufacture, is usually from local sources (which reduces transportation), and eases the load on landfills. Buying from nearby vendors will support the local economy and small craftspeople.
CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) are a great alternative to traditional lighting because they use less energy and last a lot longer. The fact that they release less heat also means lower bills. LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are another lighting option. They last even longer than CFLs and use even less heat. Both options are more expensive than regular lighting (with CFLs being more reasonable than LEDs), however as they become more prevalent in the marketplace their price point continues to drop.
Most people know about the environmental problems surrounding the disposal of paint, but did you know that using indoor commercial paint can harm the environment as well? VOCs found in paint are usually the result of additives such as fungicides, biocides, color, and spreadability agents that can trigger headaches, allergies and health problems. Alkyd-based paints and latex paints are much safer, but some still contain high levels of VOCs. Companies are becoming wise to the growing desire for eco-friendly paints and are producing low-VOC brands such as Benjamin Moore’s Ecco-Spec brand, while others such as Pittsburgh Paint’s PPG Pure Performance brand contain no VOCs at all. Another alternative is a technique known slaked lime (sometimes called lime wash or whitewash). Lime wash is made by dissolving slacked lime (or calcium hydroxide) into water. Pigment is then added to this mixture and the chemical reaction causes an aged and slightly pearlescent sheen when the crystals reflect with the light.