Healthy Furniture is the Future in a Green Home

The new rage in interior design is eco friendly and healthy fabrics, surfaces, textures and finishes.   People are finding the importance to using local woods and organic material, they are making a change to their carbon footprint, and making changes in order to “green” their lives.  Switching to organic foods, cleaners and even the way they care for their pets and lawn.  Many people have started looking further into organic living and have started to purchase organic materials for their clothing as well as taking a step back and looking at the furniture including their beds which they spend almost half their lives lounging on. 

The things that make a couch structurally sound and comfortable may actually be harmful to humans and their pets.  According to research done by Building Green there is evidence that the flame halogenated retardants used on most couches can be very harmful to animals as well as humans.  Buying a couch that is made with Wool Linings is much safer.

BiOH polyols are a soy based ingredient used in upholstered furniture, bedding, carpet backing and even automobile seats.  The reason the switch to BiOH is such a great choice is because they are made from soy bean oil which is a renewable source unlike traditional foam which is made from petroleum-based products.  It is a comparable product without having such a large environmental footprint.  It is a responsible choice for those looking for an environmentally friendly product. 

Using locally harvested wood for furniture is another important factor when consumers think about green furniture purchases.  The amount of time, money, energy and fuel it costs to ship a piece of wood from one place to another is costly and damaging to the environment.  This is why so many consumers are looking for local manufacturers to purchase their furniture from. 

When we went furniture hunting we wanted a company that had a solid green mission and offered a range of products including natural local woods, natural fabrics, and sourced from local companies.

We fell in love with New England based Circle Furniture, who works with manufacturers that have a commitment to the environment.  Most of the wood products made for Circle are made by people in New England including one of my favorites Maine Cottage which is where we got the bunk beds and bookshelves (picutred below) for Max’s room, Abby’s desk, and the bed and side tables for the guest room. They are locally made with low-VOC paints and finishes and have beautiful natural fabric choices as well. Paints and finishes are one of the leading causes for polluted indoor air according to the EPA.  Paints and finishes allow low level toxic emissions into the air over time.  Volatile Organic Compounds were once important to the performance of the paint, but now low VOC and zero-VOC paints and finishes are available and are becoming very popular and in some cases required by new environmental regulations. 

The same goes for mattresses, we even bought new organic mattresses for the new beds.  Circle also uses Copeland which is a manufacturer that uses woods from forests that are not threatened and do not contain genetically modified trees, making them part of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).  Copeland was recently awarded the 2009 Sage Award for reducing the industry’s environmental footprint. We chose this gorgeous Milford “cuddle couch” in a super soft corduroy fabric.

There are so many ways to decorate your home in sustainable style; it is getting much easier every year to find companies that construct attractive furniture using solid woods (FSC certified in some cases), natural fibers and low or no VOC finishes and varnishes. 

Furniture is an investment. As we have moved several times over the years, we’ve actually sold furniture with our house and it was fun to get to buy a number of new eco-friendly furniture pieces for the new house. It is important to note that inexpensive furniture is often made using composite woods that are made from glues that can contain formaldehyde—a known carcinogen!   Furniture treated for stain resistance contains chemicals that can pollute the air in your home.  So though we left off the stain protection we selected pieces with highly durable fabrics and finishes yet didn’t forgo style or comfort to bring green furniture into our home.

Kimberly Lancaster | follow me on Twitter


Paper or Plastic? Plastic, please!

The impossible question, paper or plastic?  For once I think there is a possibility that saying plastic isn’t such a bad idea.  We all know now that we have the option to recycle our used plastic bags.  Supermarkets are making it very easy by placing bins near doors allowing you to dispose of the bags you have been saving in your basement stairwell for months.  Although this is a great idea but can seem like an overwhelming and time consuming task, we all should be doing it.

Some wonderful person out there has finally come up with a better idea.  After a visit to Ace Hardware and again forgetting my reusable bags, I walked out with yet another plastic bag, dreading the overwhelming container in my hallway of plastic bags.  After unloading my bag and about to scrunch it up into a ball I read the words 100% Degradable.

Epi has done it, made me not feel so guilty about using this bag and even less guilty about filling it with trash and throwing it away.  The plastic bags contain TDPA (Totally Degradable Plastic Additives™). It is added in small quantities, it first works by breaking down the plastic into smaller particles and then with the mix of carbon dioxide, water and biomass it tunes into soil!  Now if everything could have a little TDPA in it!

The plastic bag that I received from Ace Hardware along with many of Epi’s other plastic bags still follow the three R’s, Reduce Reuse Recycle.  The bag’s that contain TDPA are still as strong in quality as their non degradable counterpart.  They also are completely recyclable so it’s okay to add them to the container headed to the grocery store to recycle.  The best part is the knowledge that this bag has the capability to become part of nature, what a great thing!

Posted by Kate Kiselka, follow me on Twitter

Some no-no’s of taking it to go

The other night while sorting through the mounds of bills and junk-mail one glassine window in an envelope sparked a discussion about how such things including to-go containers can now be recycled and composted thanks to companies developing materials from plant fibers, sugar cane waste, and corn.

It dawned on me that since I eat, breathe, and live as green as I possibly can maybe it’s not as common knowledge as I thought that there have been great advances in the worlds to-go options.

I am always amazed when eating out when my leftovers are brought to me in some kind of awful Styrofoam container…in fact many U.S. cities like Seattle and Oakland have begun to ban the use of Styrofoam in restaurants and grocery stores. It’s like come on people it’s time to get with it and use an environmentally friendly package, it not only becomes a permanent part of our universe, but according to the EPA it’s a hazard to your health! It makes me think twice about bringing my own container with me the next time I visit that restaurant, or asking them to just wrap my leftovers in foil—if it won’t make a huge mess on the ride or walk home.

I’ll admit that it does slip my mind quite often to ask what kind of containers they package to-go items in, but it’s something I’m trying to get better at and be more conscious of. It’s being more away of little things like this that can help you reduce your footprint and tread a little lighter.

Posted by Amanda | follow me on Twitter


Organic beer is the smarter choice

When I think of Beer, I think of a nice glass of Newport Storm or maybe a blueberry beer from Coddingtons.  With an older brother who brews his own and another who likes to consume it, I was taught to appreciate beer and to stay away from bud light!  Although I prefer wine with my meals, on a summer night nothing is as good as a Hefeweizen with a slice of lemon.

I have been noticing many  organic brews available at the local package store.  Organic beer is part of a growing industry and with it are some really great organic wines.  When drinking a beer or wine labeled organic you can rest assure that the U.S. department of agriculture has checked it out.  You can expect the hops and barley to be organically grown, no toxic pesticides and no artificial fertilizers.

There are some key ways to make sure the beer you are consuming is done in an environmentally fashionable way.  First off when out at a restaurant or pub opt for a beer on tap, this saves hundreds of beer bottles and cans from being produced.  Also opt for re-using your glass.  This too will save on water that you would normal use to wash each glass.  If you do buy a case from the local packy down the street for you and some friends, make sure one of you is sober enough to get it into the blue recycling bin, aluminum can be recycled and repurpose into a new one fairly quickly.  And who knows it may end up holding your next beer!

Drinking locally brewed beer is another important choice as it saves money in gas and helps cut emissions caused by shipping of imported beers.  Also consider taking home a growler from your local brewery, they are reusable and save on individual packaging and recycling costs.


Posted by: Kate Kiselka, follow me on Twitter


Eco-superheros Moving Boxes Man and Boxy expose the “recycling” industry by preventing box abuse and promoting box reuse.

Los Angeles, CA January 1st, 2010 — Enter Boxy and Moving Boxes Man, part human, part box, these “cardborgs” have built a website that offers gently-used shipping boxes sold in moving kits with 1-3 day free delivery, nationwide.

Watch their YouTube eco-mmerical here: 

They’ve joined the Used Cardboard Boxes, Inc network which has revolutionized the moving and shipping box industries. It supplies high-quality used boxes for moving, packing, shipping, and storage to both consumers and businesses. They’re helping eliminate the need for “dumpster diving” or “box begging” for abused boxes that may be damaged or unsanitary.

How Used Cardboard Boxes works:

• a new box is created by any given box manufacturing company

• the box is purchased and gently used once to ship packaged parts or products from a supplier to a manufacturer or distributor

• after the part or product has been unpacked, the box is gently flattened and stacked on a pallet

• when the pallet is fully stacked, it’s either loaded on a truck and sent to another supplier or distributor that purchased boxes wholesale or,

• the boxes are sorted into moving boxes sizes and packed into moving kits, which can be ordered online

• the moving kits are picked up by a UPS truck and delivered for free anywhere in the continental U.S. to retail customers

This new model for box reuse makes it possible for eco- and cost-conscious consumers and companies to have a viable alternative to the agonizing price of new boxes and the anxiety of trying to scrounge used boxes from grocery stores or classified ads.

 This process is environmental education in action and promoted through several “eco-mmercials” posted on the YouTube channel. They’ve posted fun and informative videos that help educate consumers about the reality behind the cardboard industry using “eco-super-hero” characters “Boxy” and “Moving Boxes Man”.

 Recycling is a feel-good word… as it should be… but what’s often forgotten is that a lot of what’s recycled can, and should be, re-used. Recycling is costly, a source of pollution and requires water, energy, fuel, chemicals and other inputs.

 Here are a few stats to put the cardboard industry into perspective:

 • The EPA reports that the US commercial sector generates more cardboard than any other material in the nation.

• Over $40 billion in cardboard boxes are produced in the U.S. each year.

• The EPA estimates that 14% of all municipal solid waste is made of cardboard containers.

• Approximately 43 million Americans move each year.

 Most cardboard is recycled, however very few boxes are used more than once. The typical shortened life-cycle of a box means dropping a box’s value from dollars to pennies. With and the Used Cardboard Boxes, Inc network, the value of the box is sustained. This allows cycles of reuse to occur and reoccur within the US, thus saving the nation’s trees, sustaining jobs and providing consumers and companies with a green low-cost alternative to new boxes., also has a business-to-business offering where companies can buy boxes in truckload quantities for shipping. Alternatively, if a company has pallets of reusable boxes it wants to sell for more than what the recycler pays, it can enter box dimensions, quantity, and location to be evaluated for purchase.


Ben Lawson



LEED for Homes Point by Point – Awareness and Education

Awareness and Education – 2 points achieved out of 3 points available::

So if you’ve been following our project then you know what we’ve done for both education and awareness. But we did go through extensive trainings with each of our key subcontractors like Newport Geothermal for our HVAC system and Robert Saglio Audio Video for our home, lighting, entertainment, irrigation and energy systems. I spent hours with John Carter understanding what it would take to keep our lawn healthy by minimizing water, eliminating chemicals and using organic fertilizers and treatments.

Our homeowners manual is more than 6” thick and covers every system and subsystem in our house, outlines the warranties and maintenance programs and lets us know who to call for help.

Our public awareness, well, you be the judge. We have blogged about the project or a topic relating to green building every single day since October 2008. We have had more than 60,000 people to our blog during that time and even earned an AllTop rating for best green blogs. We’ve been covered in local, regional and national media. We’ve always had signage on the home, and on December 12th we hosted our fourth and final open house on the project.

With a final rating of LEED-H GOLD, with a score of 92.5, I am proud of what we accomplished. I hope you enjoyed our project as much as we did and know that our goal now is to follow and find other projects, cover other case studies and help homeowners find the best products for their project. Feel free to submit your ideas!

Posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster