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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E-waste Causing Problems for Countries

A report was recently released by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) about the rising problem of E-waste in countries like China and India. Electronic sales are said to grow immensely in the next 10 years, raising the question of what to do about all the E-waste that will come from it.

UN experts say action needs to be taken when it comes to recycling materials such as cell phones, computers, and other electronic gadgets or “hazardous e-waste mountains” could occur in many developing countries.                                    

Statistics from the report predict that by 2020 e-waste from old computers will have increased from 200 to 400 percent from the 2007 levels and by 500% in India. Also in 2020, China’s e-waste from mobile phones will be 7  times higher than 2007 levels and 18 times higher in India. E-waste televisions will be almost 2 times higher in China and India in 2020 as well.

Another eye opening statistic that comes from this report is that China’s production of 2.3 million tons of e-waste in 2010 is second to the United States with around 3 million tons.

The solution that the UN seeks is to establish regulated processes for collecting and managing the e-waste. The UN Under-Secretary-General Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP says this can happen by setting up large, efficient facilities in China to collect and manage the e-waste. China, India, and other countries that are facing this problem need to start planning solutions now to hopefully change this statistic.

For more information on e-waste you can also check out the e-waste guide.

For ways on how you can help stop the e-waste, the Environmental Protection Agency is constantly working to provide consumers with information about recycling their electronics (also called eCycling). Their website will help you find state and local government programs along with manufacturer and retailer recycling programs for eCycling all your electronics.

Posted by Megan

Is your home polluting our water?

Yes, as answered by a new study that was presented at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. The findings of the study (per Science Daily) are alarming, pointing out that the effect of runoff water into municipal storm drains actually contributed to 50% more pollution than believed in the past. 50% is no small variant percentage!

The runoff water, including rain and garden/lawn water, is a significant contributor to the as it flushes pesticides and other pollutants used to keep our homes looking beautiful into other bodies of waters, including lakes and rivers. This pollution is directly linked to the death of fish and “loss of aquatic species diversity”. Though the research evaluated residential neighborhoods in California, researchers believe the results are indicative of other areas of the country.

Obviously, we have no power over Mother Nature’s rainfall, however we can make better selections of products for lawns and gardens, and modify other behaviors that can mitigate this pollution. Here’s a few:

  • There are a number of organic selections for lawn care that are less toxic, but will still keep the weeds away while keeping the grass and your family healthy.
  • When landscaping, select plants that have low requirements for water and fertilizers, and that do not attract pests.
  • Spread mulch on bare ground to help prevent erosion and runoff.
  • Slowly water the lawn and garden. Trickle irrigation is more effective than sprinklers and over-watering causes increased run-off.
  • Clean up after your pets! An easy way to prevent your loyal companion’s waste from contaminating surface water.

For more tips to prevent pollution caused by runoff water from your home, check out some of the EPA’s do’s and don’ts.

Posted by: Katie

Lawnmower Exchange Programs are a Good Way to Cut Grass, Costs and Emissions

We all love a hearty and lush green lawn but letting it grow to your knees or beyond is simply not an option. While those with larger properties are not likely to give up the riding or gas-powered, self-propelled mower, if you’re lawn is manageable enough, an electric or reel mower might be right for you. ConsumerReports.com editor/blogger Ed Perratore offers a wealth of information on his Earth Day post here.

Now more than ever it’s worth it to trade in your old lawn equipment for newer, more efficient models. While lawnmower exchange programs are few and far between, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives some guidelines for starting a lawn equipment exchange program on their website.

Details include:

  • Conduct a survey of your area to determine the population of gas-powered lawn equipment in your area.
  • Determine the amount of gas-powered lawn equipment you would like to remove from service.
  • Seek and obtain funding for your program. Funding can come from a variety of public and private sources.
  • Explore ways to provide alternatives to gas-powered lawn equipment. One way might be to use any funding obtained to provide vouchers for people to use when purchasing electric or manual lawn equipment.
  • Work with local retailers and manufacturers of lawn equipment to see if they could offer alternatives to gas-powered lawn equipment at wholesale costs.
  • Publicize your events with public service announcements, fliers, posters, utility bill stuffers, and other means of communications.

Posted by: Nick

Watch TV and Save Energy

With the new ENERGY STAR TV specification now in effect, consumers looking to buy a new TV ahead of the DTV transition but in time for the holidays get to choose from a host of new focused ENERGY STAR-compliant models. For the first time, the new standards rate energy efficiency for both active and standby power consumption across all types of televisions.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), if all televisions purchased by consumers in 2009 met the new ENERGY STAR standards, the savings in greenhouse gas emissions would be equal to removing one million cars from the road. Also according to EPA, TVs that earn the ENERGY STAR label under the new requirements will be up to 30 percent more efficient than non-qualified models, making it easier for consumers to select an efficient model based upon the government-backed criteria. EPA projects that approximately one quarter of the televisions currently entering the market will meet the stricter specification for efficiency. A list of models qualified under the new ENERGY STAR TV specification can be found online at www.energystar.gov.

KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster