Three areas of interior design encompass green concerns. These are:
- Indoor air quality and toxicity of chosen materials
- Buying locally
Avoid Products With VOCs
What many people don’t realize is that new items such as draperies, carpeting, and even furniture can give off toxic fumes. The key phrase in this area is volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs. These are gases emitted from a variety of chemicals, many of which are thought to have short- and long-term health effects. VOCs can be found in paints and finishes, building supplies, furniture, carpeting, and a host of other products.
While many are suspected carcinogens, VOCs often cause the following problems:
- Eye, ear, and throat irritation
- Allergic skin reactions
VOCs are used as drying agents in traditional paints and finishes and are responsible for the smell associated with them. Most paint manufacturers now have a line of low emission VOC products to satisfy rising consumer demand.
Energy Efficiency Compounds VOC Problem
Compounding this problem is the fact that houses are a lot more airtight than they used to be, in part because of energy efficiency. Remember when Grandma’s home always felt so cold? That’s because years ago old homes had about 20 air exchanges with the outside per hour, as opposed to two or three that occur now.
Better insulation, energy efficient windows and the like produce a closed environment, virtually locking bad chemicals inside. Thus, while cold or warm air stays outside, pollutants, which can even be something biological like dust mites, remain inside and heighten irritability.
Furniture Also Going Green. Many furniture manufacturers have also jumped on the bandwagon to produce furnishings with low- and zero-emission VOCs. Natural fabrics such as cottons and linens are green choices for upholstery and windows. But for some, other factors such as sustainability or repurposed pieces are important.
Finding such furniture and accessories is more difficult but not impossible. Try a source such as Green Home Chicago. Part interior design store, part remodeling source, this business offers a variety of eco-friendly products such as cabinets, tiling, countertops, wall coverings, and furniture.
Green Home Chicago has a 10-point classification system for the products it sells that addresses criteria such as whether an item is recycled, nontoxic, made locally, sustainable, artisianly made, helps alleviate poverty, or is repurposed. Repurposed means that a product is manufactured from recycled material that may not bear any similarity to its original form.
Other Aspects of Green Remodeling
Sustainability and buying locally are lesser known, but equally important aspects of going green. These aspects reduce the delivery and ultimate cost of a product and lessen carbon emissions, while supporting local economy.
Other trends include choosing sustainable woods such as bamboo, which grows faster than other types. Natural surfaces, such as granite and travertine, are also taking hold.
Not all eco-friendly products are more expensive than their traditional counterparts. Some products, such as tiling, however, cost more because of the recovery and labor involved in making the new product.
Going green means more than just being energy efficient. Virtually every choice homeowners make when remodeling can impact the environment directly as well as indirectly.