A Healthy Home is the Ultimate Luxury: Part Two
I am pleased to have Trudy Dujardin, ASID, LEED AP+ID+C continue as our Guest Blogger for February. Trudy is nationally known for her passion for eco-elegance, as well as award-winning interiors that combine sophistication, elegant use of color, and an intuitive understanding of her clients’ lifestyles. Her graceful approach to gently green design reflects a deep respect for Historic Preservation, the surrounding landscape, and abundant comfort. If you haven’t done so already, please read our January blog for Part One.
Trudy~ I’ve spent most of my professional life promoting green building and design practices. The growth of sustainable design, with more people embracing the importance of holistic lifestyles, brings me great joy. It is my fervent hope that through gentle education efforts more of us will come to believe in our ability to change the world, especially by beginning in our own little corner of it: our homes.
6. Use Eco-Friendly Wood for Cabinetry and Trim
Chemicals such as formaldehyde and polyisocyanurate can be emitted from plywood and manufactured wood used for cabinets, stairs, banisters, and trimwork. Hardwoods are the best choice, although many homes today are built using softwoods, as it can be produced more cheaply. (Woods are classified as either hardwood, such as maple, oak or birch, or softwood, such as pine.) The natural resins in softwood lumber, however, can outgas terpenes and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Eco-friendly wood products are also available that are FSC-certified, a designation from the Forest Stewardship Council ensuring that the wood was grown and harvested in a way that protects forests for the long term. If you are planning to build a new home, or intend to renovate an existing one, I urge you to consider these materials.
7. Keep Your Home Free of Mold
You may not see mold spores, but even when invisible to the eye, they can be present in the air you breathe. Asthma, coughing, sneezing, and rashes may be a clue that something unhealthy has permeated your home. As insulation improved and homes became more air-tight, exchange with fresh air from outside has slowed, creating perfect conditions for mold to flourish.
An air filtration system, running a dehumidifier and eliminating water leaks will go a long way toward eradicating it. For small amounts of mold, wear a face mask and goggles, and clean with ammonia and water. Homeowners with heavy mold or water damage should call a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), and have their homes thoroughly investigated for microbial growth.
8. Choose Hardwood, Tile or Stone Floors
As luxurious as it seems, carpet can harbor dust mites, mold, dander, and allergens. Chemicals used in the manufacturing process, as well as stain retardants and fireproofing can be hazardous to both humans and pets. A better choice is the beauty of hardwood, tile, or stone. Organic cotton or wool rugs can be placed where softness under foot is desired; either can be easily taken up to be cleaned.
9. Be Clean and Green with Non-Toxic Cleaners Many conventional cleaning products, rather than cleaning your home, actually pollute it with a toxic mixture of petrochemicals. Synthetic fragrances are added to mask the odor of chemical vapors, implicated in headaches, dizziness, skin rashes, and respiratory problems.
You can make your own cleaning products from items you have in your pantry, such as baking soda, kosher salt, lemon, and olive oil. I’ve given instructions on my blog, Holistic House: http://dujardindesign.com/blog/spring-cleaning-be-both-clean-and-green/. As an alternative, good commercial products are made by Seventh Generation. Located in Burlington, Vermont. This socially responsible company has been making non-toxic cleaning products for twenty years.
10. Plant an Organic Lawn
Once your home is a haven for health and clean living, you won’t want to surround your living space with harsh fertilizers and pesticides. Lawn and garden chemicals are poisons to things that live, including humans and pets. They’re easily tracked into the house, polluting your pristine space.
A study from the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) found pesticides in 100% of the people who had both blood and urine tested. Many of these chemicals are linked to cancer, birth defects, and liver or kidney damage. You can have a lovely lawn and good health; here’s how:
- Healthy soil is “alive,” teeming with bacteria and organic content that is naturally resistant to pests and disease. Boost your soil’s health by spreading organic compost or alfa meal.
- Corn gluten is increasingly used as a high-nitrogen, organic fertilizer. Organic fertilizers feed your lawn slowly. Quick-release chemical fertilizers encourage rapid growth that weakens the grass.
- Tolerate a few weeds. You can dig them out by hand if they bother you, or you can adopt the philosophy of “live and let live.” A few weeds in the garden can also provide a home for beneficial insects, which keep the overall landscape in good health.
- De-thatch and aerate your soil by raking and aerating compacted lawns. By removing plugs of soil, air, water and nutrients can reach the roots of your grass. When your lawn is healthy, birds and worms will continue to aerate it for you!
- For the first and last mowing, mow down to 2 inches, which prevents fungus growth. For the rest of the year, keep your grass higher, at 3 inches, to shade out weeds and foster deep roots. Short grass promotes weeds, shallow roots and thatch.
I believe in the “power of one,” the power each of us has to make an impact, create change, and help heal the earth. Creating a “green” house respects the health and well-being of everyone involved in its creation, and everyone who calls it home. And that’s the very best place to start.