Jul 27, 2011

Green Design Elements

When you're thinking of re-doing your sofa, updating your bathroom, installing a new carpet, or doing other home improvements, consider being kind to the environment - and the inside of your home as well - when you do it.  The smell that we associate with new (cars and carpeting are most notable) is the result of toxic chemical off-gassing.  It's best to reduce and even eliminate the use of those chemicals in your home.  Here are some ideas and resources:

FSC certified woods in transitional bedroom furnishings.
1. New furniture: Be sure the woods used in your furnishings are made without urea-formaldehyde and are sustainable or from harvested forests (display the Forest Stewardship Council - FSC - certified label).  This is especially important in painted and self-assembled pieces made from medium density fiberboard or particle board. Many companies are manufacturing 'green' furniture that is made from recycled materials and the pieces are stunning.

Soy foam is soft and durable with no
petroleum used.

2. Fabrics and re-upholstery:  Using natural fibers like silk, cotton, hemp, wool and linen, and their blends is ideal.  Many fabric mills are producing recycled content fabrics and softening them with aloe vera and beeswax in lieu of harsh chemicals. Try to use soy-based foam for seating like chairs and sofas made by Lee Industries, or recycle the foam you have, adding a down envelope for padding and softness. For bedding I recommend bamboo sheets and towels, that are soft, absorbent and naturally anti-microbial. Indika uses plant-based dyes on their cotton sheets.

Rich color from no VOC paints.

3. Stains and paints:  Sherwin Williams has no and low volatile organic (VOC) compound paints that don't off-gas and have low odor. The color hues are stunning, they deliver maximum performance, and their impact on your internal environment isn't negative.  Finishes on ready-made furniture should be low-VOC like those from Lorts, and you might consider beeswax for cabinetry and tables.

Recycled content carpeting is durable
 and gorgeous.

4. Carpeting: Some of the most durable carpets are made from recycled materials and are no-VOC, stain and traffic resistant and gorgeous. Natural dyes and fibers (wool) are another green option. Mohawk has recycled content and 'green' carpet options in hundreds of textures and styles. Recycle your old pad and carpeting rather than dump into a landfill; request that your installer do this when they haul away what they remove.

Not your typical bamboo floor - strand
bamboo is beautiful and different.
5. Wood Flooring: There are many options in sustainable wood flooring. From engineered wood products like strand bamboo, to harvested woods with FSC certification, the products available are durable with beautiful style. New water-based stains and finishes allow for color options and protective coatings without toxic off-gassing. Locally harvested woods are ideal when you desire a solid hardwood floor. Look for a list of FCS certified companies in your area.

6. Plumbing fixtures.  WaterSense-certified fixtures will conserve water usage and still provide excellent function.  Kohler has some fabulous shower heads, faucets and toilets whose performance is stellar despite adhering to the EPA's flow rate restrictions. 

7. Surface materials: Quartz counter tops are an ideal material as they require no chemical sealants and are often Green Guard certified.  Cosentino has gone the extra mile and developed a gorgeous, durable and recycled content product called Eco. Other eco-friendly surfaces include glass, porcelain, ceramic and even wood.  During a remodel, you can often dispose of old ceramic and porcelain debris at local recycling center, and salvage centers often take solid surfaces and stone that is in reasonable condition for re-use.