In the very near future, green design will be the standard by which houses are built, finished and decorated, not some tree-hugger trend. Here is your alpha to omega reference for going green.
A is for Antique. Nothing says reduce, reuse, recycle like antiques.
B is for Balance. Tending to the needs of the environment can sometimes impact the growth of an economy. As the pendulum swings, the balance will eventually be achieved and buying products from manufacturers with an environmental conscience will be common place.
C is for Certified wood. Wood certified by a third-party which has been grown and harvested in an environmentally responsible manner. Certified wood is available in flooring, cabinetry and furniture products.
D is for Durable. By increasing the product life time we increase its usability and keep it out of the landfill. The problem most of us experience is we get tired of products long before they wear out.
E is for Energy consumption. Since we cannot hold fuel or electricity in our hands it is difficult to comprehend how products can save energy, until you look at your energy bill. My old washer used 60 l of water per cycle (Gasp!); my new washer uses only 19 l of water and far less detergent.
F is for Formaldehyde. This chemical, colourless yet pungent, is found in more products than you would think imaginable – plywood, particle board and other pressed wood products which are used to make furniture, cabinets, wall paneling, shelves and counter tops. It is also found in dyes, textiles, plastics, paper products and cosmetics. Exposure can cause respiratory problems, allergic reactions and cancer in humans.
G is for Generation. Waste generation and the next generation go hand in hand. The decisions we make about the former impacts the latter. We need to start making conscious choices about what we are leaving behind for others to deal with.
H is for Hemp. Hemp is a sustainable plant that can be transformed into house hold goods like bedding, drapes and cushions, as well as clothing, footwear, shelter, food, tree-free paper, sealants, composites, and so much more. And it is biodegradable.
I is for Infill. This building practice is the development of empty or underutilized lots in cities and older suburban areas instead of building on undeveloped land, like farms and woodlands. It’s another step towards containing urban sprawl.
J is for Jute. This highly versatile and abundantly available fibre has been woven into bags, purses, rugs, trays, and other house wares. Made from the skin of the hardy chorchorus genus plants, it can be grown year round almost anywhere.
K is for Kids. Because that’s who I am thinking about when I make ‘green’ choices.
L is for Life-cycle. This cradle to grave concept incorporates the entire design process of a product and ensures the process from conception to production to replacement to disposal does not negatively impact the environment.
M is for Minimum. Minimizing your personal impact on the environment is becoming easier and easier as new green products are introduced. Just Google eco-design and you will get over 990,000 hits. Major manufactures are discovering new ways to produce better products without sacrificing price and quality yet remain mindful of the long term effects those products have on the environment.
N is for Natural Cork. Cork is the dead bark of the cork oak tree found in the Mediterranean. Because cork regenerates within 10 years it is considered a rapidly renewable resource. It is a wonderful choice for flooring – durable, warm under foot, and available in many patterns and colours.
O is for Organic Gardening. No pesticides, no herbicides. A holistic approach where mulch, manure and compost are used to develop rich soils, manage pests and support healthy plant growth.
P is for Post-Consumer Products. These are products that utilize discarded materials, usually gathered from municipal recycling depots, and are reprocessed into usable items.
Q is for Questions. When you are buying products for your home, from paper towels to furniture to flooring, ask about the environmental practices of the manufacturer. Ask how it was made, what materials were used, is it recyclable in any way, am I going to regret buying this?
R is for Rapidly Renewable Resources. These are products that regenerate quicker than the demand for the product, for example, cork, bamboo, straw and sorghum fall in this category. New uses for these materials are being discovered every day!
S is for Salvage. When taking on a renovation, salvage and re-use what you can from the project. Have a look at your local “ReStore”, a non-profit store operated by Habitat for Humanity full of salvage items like lighting, handles and knobs, new and used doors and windows, and much more. Check out architectural salvage stores, too.
T is for Treated. Many of the products we buy, especially those mass produced, have been treated with some chemical or other to promote colour fastness, durability, or preservation. Read labels – know what you are getting. Untreated natural fibres like cotton, linen and hemp are readily available.
U is for Use Canvas Shopping Bags. This new must-have fashion accessory is a real indicator that going green is chic and en vogue.
V is for VOC’s. Volatile organic compounds are everywhere. In carpets, furnishings, paint, solvents… Excessive exposure to VOC’s can cause short-term nausea, eye irritation and headaches. V is also for Ventilate.
W is for Wildlife. The list of critically endangered species is growing everyday – elephants, tigers, pandas, giant apes, marine turtles. Pretty soon, our forests could be endangered as well and I cannot imagine a world where my son won’t be able to climb a tree.
X is for Xenon. An inert gas used in some lamps to create a cooler colour temperature than standard incandescent bulbs. Xenon actually offers a longer life than halogen.
Y is for You won’t regret it. Making an environmentally conscious choice feels so good!
Z is for Zero Waste. Finding new uses for old items is fun, challenging and inspiring. Before you throw a piece of furniture or an accessory away, think about how it can be re-styled and re-used.About the Author: