"Green” interiors are not a new style, a preferred color choice or even a new trend. “Green” interiors means using energy-efficient, non- or low-polluting products, built with sustainable resources and can be maintained without the use of toxic cleaning products, to create interiors that are both for people and good for the environment. Why should it make a difference in our interiors and our lives? Because most people want their home to be a place where they feel comfortable, secure and at ease knowing they are living in a safe and healthy environment that is also beautiful.
The “green” movement started in the ’90s as interior designers, architects and the public became more environmentally aware of the materials, glues and vast array of chemicals used to manufacture interior home products. Living with these pollutants daily caused many people to become ill. The “green” transformation has slowly come about because we all want to live in homes that are healthy, more sustainable and more environmentally sensitive. The home industry has now produced an array of products giving us huge amounts of choice in everything we install at home.
The first green product that comes to mind for many people is the use of bamboo flooring, which is 27 percent harder than northern red oak and about 13 percent harder than hard maple, making it a durable, long-lasting floor that just needs damp mopping. Bamboo is a renewable product, maturing in four to five years and re-seeds itself. Bamboo flooring is pressure-flattened and veneered together to create one single ply with a white nontoxic glue, and planks are available in an array of stain colors and tones.
You’ll be hearing more about Mohawk’s SmartStrand carpets because the company has teamed up with DuPont, and after years of research and development, they have added renewably sourced polymers (from corn sugar and other sources) to a synthetic weave. This product has integral stain resistance, making dog owners and wine connoisseurs very happy because it eliminates the need to add toxic chemical stain resistant treatments to the carpet. Thoroughly airing out any new carpet installations at home or the office to make sure any chemical fumes and outgases are gone before inhabiting the space is a good plan. Only a few carpets and area rugs have never been made from petroleum-based materials — they are sisal, wool, cotton, silk and other natural fibers.
Appliances in the past fifteen years have improved their functions and features reducing energy use due to programs such as Energy Star and Energy Guide labels. As yet, there are no Energy Star labels for residential ovens, ranges or microwave ovens. The biggest energy hog in the house is the refrigerator because it is always on and those that are older than fifteen years use more energy. One large Energy Star kitchen refrigerator is more efficient and does a better job of storing food than an old one in the kitchen and another one draining energy in the garage. Green appliances use less energy and save on electric bills.
Paint companies, such as Dunn-Edwards and Sherwin-Williams, have put years of development into lowering VOCs (volatile organic compounds such as lead and other heavy metals). The new generation of paints have ultra low VOCs and are mostly water-based latex. Dunn-Edwards employees spend several weeks in paint school learning about VOCs amongst other paint characteristics so they can better help customers make choices. Sherwin-Williams has paint workshops, seminars and conferences for designers to educate them in the extensive qualities, the variations and benefits of each specialized type of paint they have available.
The cabinet industry at large like the carpet companies have been followers — not leaders — in the arena of environmental responsibility and pollution control. Up to the mid-1990s, only one or two semi-custom high-end or European manufactures were not using particleboard saturated with formaldehyde, it was everywhere. Only in 2006 did the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association launch an in-house sustainability benchmark called the Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP seal) that has taken steps to clean up their practices and products.
To get a better idea of the green home products and their applications take a trip to Tucson and visit the Vision House located in Armory Park del Sol, “America’s greenest community”. This is a house built for the average American family that is both affordable and comfortable without sacrificing style or the cost of ownership. The house includes the most efficient features, materials, and technologies available on the market today. Prospective homeowners can have peace of mind knowing that the home is safe, healthy, and durable, and that energy and maintenance costs will be much lower that a conventional home. This home is an example of a sustainable community that carefully addresses the specific ecological issues of the surrounding natural environment and is respectfully mirroring the adjacent historical buildings. For more information, visit www.greenbuildermag.com/VISION-House/Vision-House-Tucson
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Carol Sampson is an award-winning interior designer and author of 35 years. Reach her at (480) 759-6763 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org.