Unless you have been living in a cave for the last few years- you know what “Green” is (its been elevated out of mere colorhood). Green is literally everywhere. Its in magazines and commercials. Its slathered on every imaginable household product. Its the topic of conversation and news sources from here to high heaven (Mea culpa, by the way). Its the pet subject of the Architecture and Design field. Green is what you should be. Its what you should be buying. Its what you should be doing.
I think that Sustainability and Green platforms are very valid. However, with so much media saturation and “green washing”, it can be really hard for the average person to navigate this new world of green and white, (rather than shades of gray, we now have shades of mint green and sea foam). What most people don’t know, is that there are a lot of bona fide ways to institute green practices and purchases when building, designing and living in a house.
Here are ways that everyone can be green. These considerations are things that anyone can integrate into a construction or design project, regardless of style preferences, (its not just for the modern folks!).
-Buy Quality Products.When you purchase something of great quality, you increase the longevity of that item. When you purchase an item that will become dated or wear out in a few short years, you increase waste by throwing out the old and you increase consumption by buying new again. Buying for the long term is earth friendly. In the long run, you also end up spend less on great quality because you don’t have to replace it time and time again. Consider purchasing the best quality seating, carpet/rugs, and case goods your budget allows for.
-Use quality materials with longevity. When you are selecting surface materials, think longevity and quality. Use materials that are durable and will stand the test of time. Consider materials that won’t look dated in the future. Not everything needs to be made from recycled materials to be considered green (in fact, a lot of the hottest “green” materials of today will look dated in the not too distant future). Using and properly maintaining natural stone for counter tops and flooring is, indeed, a green practice.
-Use Green building materials and systems.This is attainable when involved with new construction and additions. When you start a project, tell the architect or designer that you care about the siting and natural heating and cooling of your home. Also ask them to specify green materials (such as formaldehyde free plywood, recycled insulation materials, etc.) and green systems (HVAC vent placement, lighting, window planning, solar panels, etc.) . Green design features that are laid out in planning and green materials that are utilized during construction can be applied to ANY home style. Green building materials are also better for your health (one very important component to the Green movement).
-Buy a built home. When you can, strive to buy an already built home. It is estimated that for every new home, 2.5 tons of construction waste and materials are used. If you buy an already built home, you reduce waste and evade using new resources.This option is not always desirable, but its worth heavy consideration when you are planning on buying a home.
-Buy antique and vintage furnishings.This goes hand in hand with buying an already built structure. By buying vintage and antique furnishings, you prevent using new resources and also prevent the waste associated with producing new furniture. Become familiar with local antique shops, tell them what you are looking for. If you are intimidated, hire a designer to walk you through the ins and outs of buying antiques. Its nothing to be afraid of! (Warning- it can become addicting!). Even people with modern tastes can think about integrating Bauhaus, Mid Century Modern, Art Deco or Post Modern vintage finds.
-Refrain from buying products that use endangered resources. Look for products that use reclaimed wood or other reclaimed materials. Avoid products that use endangered or rare species of wood, stone or metal. The general definition of Sustainable is: “providing for present needs without detracting from tomorrow”. Use products that source not only from sustainable materials, but sustainable forests as well (contrary to popular thought, not everything has to be bamboo!).
-Use low or no Volatile Organic Omissions (VOC) paint. Everyone uses paint. May as well use the healthiest option. Check out Benjamin Moore’s line of green paint called Aura.
-Use natural cleaning products. Stop buying household brand cleaning products and laundry detergent. They contain lots of chemicals and fragrance that are slowly degrading your health. Use basic cleaning methods and natural, fragrance-free products. Just because a product has a little green “seal” or earth-friendly looking logo does not mean its truly green. Start reading ingredients and do some homework when in doubt.
Janelle Steinberg specializes in classic residential interior design for estates and houses of architectural distinction. Her work incorporates the exterior architectural style of a home and accurately echos history on an appropriate level for contemporary living. For more information on interior designer Janelle Steinberg and her residential practice, visit http://jsteinbergdesign.wordpress.com