OK, so you’ve cleaned the air of toxins, but what about dust? What’s the best way to deal with it? Heloise, from Hints from Heloise advises to keep dust at a minimum by first vacuuming it away and then using a micro fiber cloth to pick up the residuals, even on fabric surfaces. Just doing basic maintenance on your HVAC unit will also help. Change the disposable filter on your A/C unit monthly and frequently vacuum it if your filter is reusable. Another great tip to cut down on dust and dirt in your home is to have walk-off mats at each door, and remember to take off your shoes upon entering your home. I have some clients who keep a basket of slippers at the entrance for their guests once they are shoe-less.
We are living in the most technologically advanced time in our history. But what is the price we’re paying for all of this information, data, music and convenience? Electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) and the AC electric and magnetic fields surround us and disrupt our nervous systems. The AC electric field emanates from most appliances, whether they are turned on or not. The AC magnetic field originates from the current radiating from water and gas pipes, ungrounded household wiring, appliances and high-voltage lines. These electric fields have been shown to cause everything from insomnia to chronic fatigue and leukemia.
In terms of decor and design, how can you make a difference? Barrie Gillies wrote in the article, What can you do about the Environment?, that by taking “small steps, we actually make a difference.” I agree. With gas prices hitting all-time highs and healthcare costs growing increasingly unaffordable, it makes sense to be pro-active in creating healthy working and residential spaces. Whenever possible, use environmentally responsible paint, textiles and wall coverings. Do your research, and when in doubt ASK.
***A typical 3-bedroom home being built today can have more than 2,000 pounds of petrochemical products incorporated in the construction materials. This includes: carpet, paint, mastics, wire insulation, laminate flooring, foam sheathing, weather stripping, PVC sewer and vents, flexible duct systems, additives and bonding agents. ***
As previously stated, paint can off-gas VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into your space. VOCs, considered essential until recently, include benzene and formaldehyde. They have been shown to cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and eye, throat and ear problems. Anyone who has painted a room has experienced any one, if not all of these, when proper ventilation wasn’t available. When buying paint, you want something that contains low or no VOCs. Most paint manufacturers make this type, but you must ask for it. Oil-based paints off-gas more than water-based or latex paint.
***The EPA has classified formaldehyde as a probable carcinogen. This toxin is found in clothing, draperies, paint, and any permanently pressed fabric and carpeting. Formaldehyde is a pungent smelling gas that can cause watery eyes, nausea, breathing difficulties and trigger asthma attacks. ***
Great strides have been made in the manufacturing of fabric. Paper, recycled soda bottles, straw, wool and tires are just a few examples of recycled materials being made into fabric. When in doubt, look for naturals: cotton, wool and the like. A note should be made when buying anything cotton. The cotton industry is notorious for its use of pesticides in the growing and cleaning process. Look for NATURAL or ORGANIC labels when making this purchase. Cotton is also bleached to make it pristine white. If you have any sort of environmental sensitivity or are prone to allergies or other upper respiratory illnesses, stay away from the bleach. All of this information is listed on the label.
Wall coverings are also being created from natural and recycled materials, & printed with water-soluble inks containing no metals. When purchasing wall coverings, look for these options, as they will help your walls “breathe” and decrease the chance for mold/mildew build-up. They also help with room ventilation. It should also be noted, that you can get low or no VOC adhesives/glues and water soluble application products to put up your wall coverings. It would defeat the purpose to buy a natural wall covering, only to apply it with an adhesive that will off-gas into the space. Check with a sustainable builder or designer in your area or visit the Healthy Home or GAIAM websites where these products are also available for purchase.
While carpet provides a visually pleasing floor covering, adds warmth & cushion underfoot, extra care must go into its purchase. Although I personally enjoy the look and feel of a hardwood floor, partly due to the fact that it’s easy to maintain and is pet-friendly, there are some good carpet options. Eco-friendly carpets, adhesives and carpet pads, made of recycled plastics, are available. Carpeting can off-gas up to three years after installation! Take care to minimize this risk if you must have wall-to-wall carpeting. Remember, most carpeting is made of man-made synthetic fibers that have gone through a major manufacturing process in its creation, not to mention all of the color, stain guarding and anti-static products that are added.
Before you lay down your new wall-to-wall carpet remember to thoroughly vacuum your EXISTING carpet before it gets pulled up. You will be amazed at the amount of dust and dirt that is trapped in the fibers, and will be released into the air (even if you vacuum regularly.) It is also OK to ask the carpet retailer to unroll your newly purchased carpet in a well-ventilated area BEFORE installation. If possible, make sure the room is well ventilated up 48 hours during and after installation.
When deciding on what flooring to put into your home, evaluate your lifestyle.
Do you have pets and kids? If so, do you really want to be vacuuming every day? Does anyone in the home have allergies or any other upper respiratory ailments? Do you entertain often? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may want to look at hard flooring options and get area rugs to add warmth and color to the room. If you are having problems finding a particular size, color or pattern of area rug, you can have any style of “wall-to-wall” carpeting custom cut and bound for you. Ask for pricing on this option at any carpet retailer.
Green Carpets Conventional Carpet
Natural fibers Synthetic fibers
Low VOCs High VOCs
Naturally stain resistant Spray-on stain resistant chemicals
Natural jute backing Synthetic rubber backing
Lower toxicity Potentially high toxicity
Hard flooring options include: bamboo, any other hardwood, tile, marble, terrazzo or limestone, just to name a few. While the initial costs may be higher than other types of flooring, in the long run these materials are cost effective as well as environmentally responsible. You are installing a longer-lasting material than traditional carpet that can end up in a landfill when replaced. Nationwide, about 4 billion tons of carpet and padding end up in landfills EVERY YEAR!
***When replacing your old, worn-out carpet, ask what the retailer’s carpet reclamation program is. Some carpet manufacturers recycle old carpet instead of dumping it into landfills. ***
OK, so you’ve decided to pull up all of your wall-to-wall carpeting and install a hardwood floor, but how do you keep that beautiful hardwood floor from becoming dull? Easy-black tea. Steep the tea and let it cool to room temperature, then use a mop or soft cloth, ring out and wipe onto floor. Used dryer sheets are also great in picking up stray hairs and dust. Be warned though NOT to use a fresh dryer sheet as this can leave a mark.
***Instead of air freshener, fill your home with the fresh scent of spring, even in FALL. Sprinkle dried lavender on floors and carpets before vacuuming. The lavender’s natural oils will heat up and circulate in the vacuum and air. ***
DeAnna Radaj, owner of Bante Design LLC, can enter a space and help to tweak (or remodel, re-design) the space to work better to suit its function AND the lifestyle of the occupants of the space. Using Integrative Lifestyle Design, life quality can be increased AND be supportive to any transitions occurring, lifestyle changes or health challenges. She is an “Eco-Shui” designer, writer & consultant who helps those who are looking to lead a more healthy, balanced & proactive lifestyle. Unlike other interior designers or Feng Shui practitioners (besides a specialized focus on BEDROOMS & OFFICES), DeAnna integrates the Western (eco-friendly, universal, sustainable) & Eastern (Feng Shui) design principles & techniques, combined with goal-setting (12+ years in corporate before starting Bante Design LLC) & clutter-busting exercises to create healthy & supportive indoor environments. Spaces that reflect the lifestyle & goals of her clients, as well as helping them “design the life of their dreams”. Designing spaces that are not only beautiful and comfortable, but also bring out the client’s personality, is her design philosophy. She states that she is in the business of “improving the relationship that you have with your home. To find out more about DeAnna & her publications, view her author’s page on Amazon.com here.