There is a lot of detailed information on the environmental issues affecting choices and the wide range of product solutions, most of which do not cost any more than ordinary ones. It’s simply a matter of knowing the right places to look and the right questions to ask.
Some of the eco or green issues for us to be aware of involve sustainability, deforestation, indoor air quality, energy and resource conservation, and toxic pollutants.
Many buyers want proof that the raw wood fiber in the building materials and furnishings they purchase come from sustainable sources. Wood enjoys an excellent environmental life cycle rating, and desirable aesthetic and construction characteristics make it one of the most popular green building materials. Overall, wood production consumes less energy, emits less green house gases, releases less contaminants into the air, and generates much less water pollution compared to steel and concrete.
Indoor air quality is another very important issue. According to the American Lung Association, air pollution contributes to lung disease, including respiratory tract infections, asthma, and lung cancer. Poor indoor air quality can cause or contribute to the development of chronic respiratory diseases, as well as cause headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea, and fatigue. Some of the most common indoor air pollutants in our homes are asbestos, biological contaminants, chemicals, combustion, formaldehyde, lead, ozone, particulates, pesticides, radon, tobacco smoke and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s).
As stewards of our planet, we must actively strive to reduce, recycle, and reuse our energy and resources wisely. The US government, since the 1970s has encouraged the public to conserve energy because our consumption of nonrenewable types of energy, such as oil, has increased while the supplies have been diminished. Even without an accurate estimate of oil reserves, we are certain of three facts: the cost is escalating, the world’s reserves are dwindling, and our consumption has been rapidly increasing.
Energy consumption is an ever-expanding area of concern, from how manufacturers produce their goods to how consumers use them.There are a few areas where homeowners can make a difference in their daily energy consumption. As a basic guideline, when buying new products get low flow showerheads, water saving toilets, Energy Star rated appliances, and insulated double pane low E windows. There have been great strides in solar energy panels that can operate as the main source for the total home supply of energy, and pool heat pumps.
Toxic Pollutants or hazardous substances surround us in our daily lives. The following 20 substances pose the most significant potential threat to human health because of their known or suspected toxicity and potential for human exposure.
- Arsenic – wood preservatives
- Lead – batteries and metal products
- Mercury – light Bulbs
- Vinyl chloride (PVC) – PVC piping, PVC siding, packaging
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) – coolants, insulation for electrical equipment
- Benzene – dyes, rubber, detergents
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) – dyes, plastics, roofing tar
- Cadmium – batteries, pigments, plastics, metal coatings
- Benzo(a)pyrene(PAH) – incomplete combustion from coal, oil
- Benzo(b)fluoranthene (PAH) – wood burning
- Chloroform – swimming pools, plant growth chemicals
- DDT, p,p’ – pesticides
- Aroclor 1254 – rubber and synthetic resin plasticizers, adhesives, sealants
- Aroclor 1260 – PCB waste materials and products in landfills
- Dibenzo(a,h)anthracene (DbahA) – product of incomplete combustion
- Trichloroethylene (TCE) – adhesives, paints, paint removers
- Dieldrin – insecticide
- Chromium, hexavalent – leather tanning, wood preserving, dyes, pigment
- Phosphorus, white – pesticides, fireworks
- DDE, p,p’ – pesticides
(Source: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)
As the eco or green movement gathers momentum, it reaches out to all of us to understand it and embrace it.
Sandy just completed an intensive course in sustainability and received my certification as an Accredited Professional. The course is an industry first developed in conjunction with the Sustainable Furnishings Council and approved by Rainforest Alliance, World Wildlife Fund and one of the two co-founders of United States Green Building Council (USGBC): Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED). The program was written by a LEED Accredited Professional (AP) and is designed to pick up where LEED leaves off, focusing specifically on the furnishings themselves and other interior design issues.
It provided a ton of detailed information on the environmental issues affecting choices and the wide range of product solutions, most of which do not cost any more than ordinary ones. It’s simply a matter of knowing the right places to look and the right questions to ask.