Flooring: There are so many factors to consider when you are choosing a new floor. Will it be exposed to moisture or heavy traffic, or be used to exercise or play on Beyond the level of anticipated use, location, and installation issues, there are style and aesthetics to consider. Luckily, many eco-friendly flooring options are available today, so finding one that you like the look of and that serves your purposes should be easy.
The materials you surround yourself with—from flooring and window coverings to furniture and accessories—have a great impact on the health of your home. A common misconception is that to have a green home you must choose finish materials that are unusual or have a certain «au naturale» style. This is far from true. What building materials and furnishings are made of, where they come from, and how they are finished are what counts. The style is completely up to you.
Flooring: There are so many factors to consider when you are choosing a new floor. Will it be exposed to moisture or heavy traffic, or be used to exercise or play on? Beyond the level of anticipated use, location, and installation issues, there are style and aesthetics to consider. Luckily, many eco-friendly flooring options are available today, so finding one that you like the look of and that serves your purposes should be easy.
Even if money is tight, try not to pick something you think of as a short-term solution. Buying high-quality, long-lasting building materials will save you money in the long run and is better for the environment, as well. Reclaimed wood, cork, bamboo and recycled carpet tiles are a great place to start.
Window Treatments: Whether it’s a pair of drapery panels hung to frame a pleasant view or shutters to complement the aesthetic of the home, homeowners often dress up their windows for beauty rather than function. But with the right materials and proper placement, these decorations might actually help lower your monthly energy bills. The impact can be significant. According to the United States Department of Energy (DOE), something as simple as a set of medium-colored drapes backed with white plastic reduces solar heat gain by as much as 33 percent.
Since the DOE considers window shades the simplest and most effective way to save energy with window treatments, proper installment is key. Mounting shades as close to the glass as possible and right up against the adjacent wall creates a tight seal that minimizes both heat gain and loss. Shades with dual layers of fabric—a light color on one side and a darker color on the other—add more functionality. Try reversing the shades based on the season; the light color will reflect heat in summer, while the dark color will absorb heat during winter.
Wall Treatments: Think of your walls as the backdrop for the design of your room. Depending on the look you’re going for, you may want something bold like stark white, a highly saturated color, or a funky pattern. Or, you may want a soft neutral that plays a supporting role.
There are eco-friendly options for all of the standard wall treatments, including paint, plaster, wainscot, wallpaper, and tile. Adding a fresh coat of paint is one of the least expensive ways to improve the look of a room, so it’s one of the most popular home improvement projects. When you buy paint, you are expected to know three things to place your order—the color you want, the sheen (flat, eggshell, semi-gloss, or high gloss), and whether you prefer oil or latex. You can also choose low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint to improve air quality and protect your own health (VOCs are used in paint to help bind pigment and resin together, but have been linked with cancer and other health issues).
Furniture: Just like floor and window coverings, the furniture that we sit on and live with can be made with materials that are bad for the environment and our health. Couches are often filled with petrochemical-based foam and covered in toxic flame and stain retardants. Wooden tables and chairs are coated in oil-based finishes, and low-cost furniture made of particleboard or MDF (medium-density fiberboard) can off-gas formaldehyde. There’s a certain smell we associate with newness when we get a piece of furniture delivered, but that smell may be negatively affecting your indoor air quality. Fortunately, a number of conscientious furniture companies are coming to the rescue by making organic upholstered and FSC-certified wooden furniture with nontoxic finishes.
Accessories: There are bowls, placemats, towels, and sheets made of bamboo; plates and night lights made of recycled glass; placemats, waste baskets, and bags made of old candy wrappers and billboard posters; candlesticks and bowls made of recycled aluminum; and much more in any category you can think of. Repurposing items you already have in your home is another sustainable and authentic way to design your space.
What eco-friendly interior design flourishes have you incorporated into your home?
Interior designerKerrie Kellyenjoys providing expert advice on window treatments for Home Depot. Kerrie is the author ofHome Decor: A Sunset Design Guide, and her tips on curtains and blinds are based on many years of working with clients, as well as her own research. For a collection of window treatments available at Home Depot, including those discussed by Kerrie, click here.