Many people know the value of making “green” choices, like reducing their carbon footprint. But you need to make sure that your “green” choices don’t inadvertently compromise the health of your home. Check out our tips below for making your green choices, healthy ones too!
Go Green, Literally
Natural decorations, particularly houseplants, can add a refreshing splash of life and color to any design scheme. Additionally, living plants serve as natural filters that can help improve your home’s air quality.
But…be careful not to overwater plants and make sure keep the areas around plants dry so mold doesn’t start to grow!
Revive and Restore
Buying new, mass-produced furniture is often seen as an affordable way to furnish your home with attractive items. However, many such products are manufactured with toxic materials and using less-than-green methods. Every new thing created leaves some form of carbon footprint. So why not reuse what’s already there? Search antique and thrift stores as well as garage sales for older pieces that have already off-gassed. You can use the piece as is or choose to refinish it.
But…be sure to choose non-toxic solvents, paints, and finishes and be sure to work in a well-ventilated space. If you’ve bought older furniture, consider replacing the foam, whether or not you are reupholstering, with foam that is free of all fire retardants. Also, use extreme care when refinishing older painted furniture. Chances are if it was painted before 1978, the paint will have lead in it, which is very dangerous.
If antique or vintage isn’t your thing, you might consider buying from local artisans or furniture makers. Not only can you find unique pieces, but you can often talk with the maker to ensure that the pieces are made with non-toxic materials and finishes rather than from materials that contain formaldehyde, glues, and binders that outgas toxic fumes.
But…don’t stop at natural furniture. Make sure your flooring choices are also free of formaldehyde, glues, and other toxic materials. Skip the wall-to-wall carpeting in favor of area rugs made from jute, seagrass, organic cotton or wool. Better yet, go for a smooth surface like cork, stone, or sustainably harvested wood made with a non-toxic finish and installed with non-toxic adhesive or without adhesives completely! Also look for natural fabrics, like cotton and wool, and avoid all fabrics treated with fire retardants!
Chemicals are in almost every product we bring into our home and many of them are only minimally tested for their impact on human health. So keep your décor choices as chemical-free as possible by avoiding fire-retardants, stain-repellants, and anything with formaldehyde (such as some laminate floors and carpeting.) If your redecorating plans include painting, choose low- or zero-VOC paint.
If you do purchase anything and notice a strong odor once you get it home, leave it outside in the sun for 2-3 days to speed the off-gassing process. Also, keeping your house well-ventilated is a great way to make sure chemicals don’t accumulate.