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

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Skip a flush or change your system!

Skipping a flush just doesn’t seem right, it’s a personal thing for me but I can’t see it being sanitary.  There are so many way’s to go green and to help you save money and in return are also helping the environment.  Putting low flow water heads throughout your home is a huge step.  Putting in a waterless urinal in my bathroom doesn’t really seem like an option so many greenies have suggested to opt on flushing when not truly necessary. 

The average toilet uses between 1.5 gallons and 7 gallons with each flush.  This is an overuse of water in most cases.  Water is one of the biggest green issues, the earth only has so much water, and so much of it is carelessly being used up and polluted.  There are many way’s to make sure your toilet is saving you as much water and money as possible.  The first thing to do is make sure your toilet is running efficiently

Installing a dual flush system is a great choice for those who are concerned about overuse of water.  The system allows two flushing options one with little water for liquid and a little more water for those that need an extra push.  A dual flush system is available for most toilets and for those who are renovating and replacing their existing toilet can purchase a new toilet with it already built in.  Most major toilet manufacturers carry at least one and many people are opting for his option when remodeling.

Saving money and saving water are the two best reasons to switch the way your toilet works now.  Before ordering dual flush, make sure your toilet is compatible.  Studies have shown that toilets that have been replaced with a dual flush toilet have saved almost 17,000 gallons of water a year. 

Posted by Kate Kiselka, 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

Energy Efficient Window Treatments

 

When people are choosing window treatments for their homes, most often times their primary concern is decoration or privacy. But window treatments can be a major factor in how energy efficient your home is. Selecting the right treatment can help you lower energy consumption in your home which is not only good for the earth, but good for your wallet as well.

Window shades can be very effective at preventing heat loss in the winter if they are installed correctly. Shades should be mounted as close to the glass as possible and the sides should be held close to the wall. This will create a sealed air space that will make it difficult for heat to escape. Raising the shades on sunlit windows during the day and then lowering them at night will help make the shades as energy efficient as possible. Also, consider dual shades as they are highly reflective (white) on one side and heat absorbent (black) on the other.

To prevent heat gain in the summer, blinds may be your best option. Blinds don’t do very much good when trying to prevent heat loss as the numerous openings between the slats   make it difficult to control how much heat you lose. However, when it comes to reducing heat gain, blinds have an advantage over shades because these slats can be adjusted to control ventilation and light. Highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45% when completely closed and lowered on a sunny window.

The material is also very important when selecting an energy efficient window treatment. The best way to check a treatment’s energy efficiency is to look at the R-Value and Shading Coefficient. The R-Value will tell you the material’s effectiveness in preventing heat loss while the Shading Coefficient tells you how much heat is coming through the window. So, for example, if you are more concerned with heat loss than you are with heat gain, you would want to choose a material with a high R-Value and a low Shading Coefficient.

No one treatment is the most energy efficient for every situation. It mostly depends on the region you live in and what your primary insulation needs are. But as long as you keep all of these things in mind, you’ll be able to choose a treatment that looks great and is energy efficient as well.

Richard Moyle is the Internet Marketing Coordinator for Horizon Window Treatments.

Horizon is the largest and most trusted retailer of window treatments in New York City. 

How to Realign Your Lifestyle Using Eco-Principles

With our global emphasis on green and sustainable living, many people are actively doing their part to engage in “green acts”. Whether it’s recycling, toting reusable grocery bags, there are a number of ways to engage yourself in balanced living

Seeing Differently

Step 1 to realigning your lifestyle using eco-principles is to begin seeing differently. See your entire existence as emerged within eco-living, rather than you as an individual acting out green acts.

 Stuart Haygarth would have taken this advice literally, inventing a sustainable eye glass chandelier that uses 620 pairs of discarded lenses to form a globe-like chandelier. For the designer, perhaps his living art is not only an example of using creativity to craft lifestyle choices, but also symbolic of what visionary work we can accomplish if we begin to see a little differently.

 Turning a Domestic Green Leaf

Turning over a green leaf begins with ourselves, in how we think and then in how we carry out those thoughts. Once we have internal balance, our focus can shift smoothly to an external balance. And while you may not be able to go save the rain forest, you can begin by changing how you view your home.

 View your home as an eco-habitat in itself, and once you perceive your home this way, you’ll treat it with more green care. The simplest way to begin thinking this way is to look at what toxic elements could be in your home – perhaps in your vacuum cleaner, carpet, paint, whether you have energy-efficient appliances, or even checking to see if the plastics you use to cook and eat with are made with toxic chemicals. It’s really very simple and just takes a small effort in reprogramming how you think. Once you shift how you think, your new thought patterns become healthy lifestyle habits.

 The Mind Body Equation

 Equally as important as your home is another vessel that you inhabit daily – your mind and body. These two are just as relevant in your eco thinking as your actions. When it comes to eco thinking, your habits aren’t just about what products you use or what daily habits you have that save that extra little bit of energy or water. It’s about how you think.

 Eco thinking is about harmony with one’s environment. And one of the most important things that should be in a harmonious state is our central selves. If we cannot achieve this, then in essence our eco habits are just frustrated (but not natural) extensions of ourselves. Achieving an eco balance internally through meditation, exercise, and intellectual stimulation is the simple solution to turning a truly balanced green leaf.

Shireen Qudosi

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.

Cheers!

Posted by: Kate Kiselka, follow me on Twitter

Wallpaper is made from paper?

Wallpaper is slowly creeping its way back into the design word.   Although wallpaper is every new home buyer’s nightmare it can be a great fix to cover some poorly plastered walls.  Many designers are looking at Wallpaper to make a statement not just as wall covering, many are using it just on one wall, as an intense and huge piece of wall art.  What was once a bad decision made by our mothers is now becoming a well recognized way of making a statement in any room of your house.

Luckily now we are left with many more options than what our mothers lived with for so long.  Say goodbye to stripes, flowers and borders and hello to texture and vibrant colors.  Patterns with a modern twist, as well as wallpaper made out of paper!  Confused? Well most wallpaper is made from vinyl which we all know isn’t paper at all so why didn’t the manufacturers call is Wall-vinyl?  Vinyl takes up a lot of space in your local landfill where now we have the option to buy eco-friendly wall paper made out of, you guessed it, paper!  This makes the disposing of the paper recyclable friendly and if tossed in the trash has a shorter life in the landfill than its harmful vinyl counterpart.

With green becoming the new black, eco-wallpaper is a lot easier to find as well as less expensive than it used to be.  Eco-friendly wallpaper is better for the environment, but it also carries with it many health benefits opposed to using vinyl wallpaper.  The eco-friendly wallpaper breathes easier than vinyl.  This will help with the paper from trapping moisture, especially if used in bathrooms.  This will hopefully eliminate or if not reduce the ability of mold to growing behind your walls.

Posted by: Kate Kiselka, follow me on Twitter