What Does it Mean to Design Green?

Posted in Accessories, Bedding, Furniture, Home Design, Interior Design, Lifestyle on December 3, 2019

What Does it Mean to Design Green?

Have you ever wondered what your furnishings are made of in your home? Unfortunately, things like bedding, carpet, flooring, textiles, and furniture can be made with toxic materials that can lead to health problems and environmental damage. I learned that some of these materials are causing obesity, endocrine disruption, cancer, mental health issues, and more. And these toxins are harmful to the earth. This led me to want to understand more about sustainable furnishing alternatives and educate others, so I decided to become a Green Accredited Professional (AP) for my interior design business. In addition to the many wonderful partnerships I have attained over the span of my business, my goal is to offer these eco-friendly alternatives to clients that are seeking a green space.

The Green AP certification is granted through the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC). According to their site, sustainable furnishings are “eco-friendly” or environmentally safe, and are “made and distributed in ways that protect our planet. SFC members take immediate steps to minimize carbon emissions, waste stream pollutants, unrecyclable content, and primary materials from unsustainable sources from any product platform under their control.”

As part of my design work, I am incorporating suppliers that keep out toxins like PVC (vinyl), flame retardants, volatile organic compound (VOC) treatments (like formaldehyde and other solvents), fluorinated stain treatments, and antimicrobials, which, according to my extensive training, have all been linked to poor health and pollution. The way that some products are made, especially those that cannot be broken down and are sitting in landfills, causes poor air quality and leads to the ill effects of global warming.

In his book Clean, Green, and Lean, Dr. Walter Crinnion talks about how the oil shortage of the 1970s resulted in houses being built with less air exchange between the inside and the outside. This can lead to “sick building syndrome”—toxic furnishings are off-gassing and those toxins are staying in the home, and in your body. VOCs are lurking in carpet, caulking materials, adhesives, vinyl flooring, paints, stains, and particleboard. The EPA conducted a study in the early ’80s that proved our exposure to harmful VOCs is coming from inside air, not outside air like was previously thought. And not to mention other global problems that arise from poorly made products: illegal logging, deforestation, child labor, and heavy metals and plastics in the water supply.

So what can you do to mitigate these problems when furnishing your home or office? Here are some sustainable ideas and greener alternatives:

  • Look for items made from certified wood. For example, wood from mango trees is a good green choice; once the trees no longer produce mangos, they can be used to make furniture.
  • Avoid veneers, which are the wooden tops of particleboard attached with harmful adhesives.
  • Latex made from rapidly renewable rubber trees is a great non-toxic mattress and cushion fill.
  • Instead of linoleum flooring, try bamboo, cork, solid wood, or “phthalates-free” vinyl flooring.
  • Look for the Fair Trade label on textiles—workers are paid much better wages. And get digital textile samples to reduce waste.
  • Avoid polyurethane foam fill in furniture. Wool, kapok, and down are better alternatives and are biodegradable. And wool is a natural flame retardant!
  • Buy local. Organic cotton is one of the best fabrics you can buy, especially when it’s made in the US, where it can be traced right back to the field it was grown in. Think about how much gas and fuel has to be used to bring in product from far away.
  • See if your area has a program for recycling old mattresses. They are one of the most challenging products to dispose of sustainably, even though 80% of mattress components can be recycled. This website has links for places near you that take old mattresses; some offer innovative ideas for reusing an old mattress, like using it for animal bedding.
  • Recycle, Reuse, and Upcycle whenever possible. Habitat for Humanity will take granite, glass, stone, and old kitchen cabinets, to name a few.
  • Check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit dedicated to safer and healthier living. Their site has tons of helpful information, including a healthy home living guide.

And, of course, I am here to help if you have any questions on “greening” your home. As a professional interior designer with a Green AP certification, I can offer options that make your remodel, new build, or refresh look beautiful and have a better impact on the environment. Contact me for a consultation.

Warm Regards,

Julie Ann



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