Despite the momentum of the green movement, the term “eco-friendly” still has the tendency to evoke the idea that to be natural, it must be ugly. When it comes to operating green, there are easy tools to put into place: energy-efficient appliances and lighting, recycling, water-saving methods and composting, just to name a few. But when it comes to organizing the home, the concept of greening the house may be more attractive than actually doing it.
First, address your motives. According to Cheryl Terrace, owner of Vital Design Ltd., in New York City, outfitting your home to be environmentally friendly, is a lifestyle choice – not a design choice. “Given the choice between toxic and nontoxic, what would you choose for your environment?” she says. That said, however, she also notes that “I won’t sacrifice design just for the sake of green.” In other words, she makes green pretty, and so can you.
One easy suggestion Terrace makes right off the bat is to reupholster your furniture rather than discard the old and buy new. “You can do it with really beautiful fabrics, save money and you’re not putting something into the landfill,” she says. Similarly, shop antiques and thrift stores. “Use furniture in really creative ways,” she recommends.
Where once quality paints with no or low VOCs (volatile organic compounds emitted from certain solids and liquids) were hard to find and available only in dismal colors, now “every single paint company on the market has one,” Terrace says. For flooring, she’s used bamboo, cork and reclaimed flooring – wood flooring removed from an old building. She also uses linoleum, which she points out is not vinyl. “Vinyl is bad, linoleum is good – there’s a world of difference,” she says.
There’s also a difference in what green means to different people, says Al Curran, certified kitchen designer for Bella Domicile in Madison, Wis. “What we’re finding in our industry is that green is a moving target,” he says. “What’s green to one person may not be green to another.”
For example, a countertop product he sees emerging in the forefront of the green market is PaperStone, made of post-consumer waste recycled paper and proprietary, petroleum-free, phenolic resins. It comes in a variety of colors in a consistent pattern. PaperStone, however, is made on the west coast and therefore must be shipped to other parts of the country, Curran says. Typically, green projects try to limit the distance materials must travel. The product itself, however, is very eco-friendly.
If you’re unsure where to start incorporating sustainability into your home, seek the assistance of a designer who specializes in eco-design, and as you consider your next color palette, think green.
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