As we become more aware of environmental problems and our role in causing them, many people are developing a genuine interest in being more eco-friendly in their daily lives. Our homes are one area where we can make a great deal of improvement and impact; traditional goods and manufacturing processes are problematic in numerous ways, ranging from the use of toxic chemicals to making furniture and other products from unsustainable materials. If you are looking to make some green home improvements to your interior design, here are some ideas to get you started.
Natural Paints and Finishes
Traditional paints, finishes and strippers are loaded with toxic chemicals that are not only bad for the environment, but your health as well; while the term ‘’air pollution’’ typically conjures up images of factories and urban areas packed with cars, did you know that the air inside our homes is often more polluted than the air outside? Indoor air pollution is one of the top hazards for human health and these products are major contributing factors.
For years after they are applied, these products release toxic chemicals into the air you are breathing each and every day. You can combat this problem by purchasing products that are low in, or free of ,these volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These water-based products can perform just as well as their conventionally produced counterparts. You can find a listing of suitable products here.
Flooring is a biggie when it comes to being more eco-friendly with your interior design. Traditional wood flooring is typically harvested from unsustainable sources and forest management practices harm the environment in numerous ways from pollution to harming local wildlife. If you have your heart set on wood, look for products that come from forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC.) This organization employs a strict certification process and any forest management program that passes muster is engaging in earth friendly practices. You can also look into reclaimed wood that was once used somewhere else.
There are some great alternatives to hardwood as well, such as bamboo and cork. Because it grows abundantly and quickly, bamboo is a good alternative to wood flooring; though it is a grass, certain bamboo products are even harder than oak and maple. It is also highly resistant to mold and bacteria. Cork is another good choice; even though it is a soft wood, it is highly durable and easy to clean. Its eco-friendliness stems from its fast regeneration and the fact that the tree does not even need to be cut down to harvest the flooring material—it can be taken right from the bark.
Eco-Friendly Furniture Options
When it comes to your furniture, one of the most eco-friendly things you can do is see if you can do anything with what you already have than purchasing something brand new. Maybe a paint job can salvage that book shelf or you can reupholster your couch. Look for furniture made from recycled materials—but it is important to note that anything produced before 1978 may contain lead-based paint. Look for pieces made with natural fabrics and dyes—conventional fabrics are often loaded with VOCs and heavy metals, both of which are used to treat and color; anything made with conventional cotton is also saturated with pesticides.
Mattress, futons, chairs and couches that are stuffed with natural latex foam are much more eco-friendly. If you are looking at furniture marked as stain resistant, you should know that the substances used to make them can be toxic to both the environment and your body—tests have shown a particular contaminant produced when these substances break down to be found in the blood.
This guest post was submitted by Kelli C., on behalf of Agee Woodworks. Kelli is a freelance writer who covers a wide range of home improvement topics.