GREENING THE HOLIDAYS, 2011

This past week, my goal was to create my very first Video blog.

Unfortunately, this didn’t go exactly as planned.

In its place, I offer you these timely tips for celebrating the holidays with an eco-friendly twist, based on personal experience and advice I’ve collected over the years.

And if you’re really lucky, the video will still appear sometime this week.

 

TREES & DECORATION

The prevailing wisdom still dictates that a live tree is preferable to an artificial one, since the latter is made almost entirely from plastics, non-renewable petroleum by-products that can’t be recycled.

The bottom line is that while it can seem wasteful to have a living tree from one year to the next, it is actually more beneficial to the environment, especially if you support what is grown or manufactured locally

Another alternative is to plant a living tree, one that grows in a pot and can be re-planted later – a great idea, but one that requires a lot of acreage (or ingenuity) for the re-planting phase.

Especially if you still have many more Christmases to look forward to.

I literally cringed when I read that I should avoid using tinsel, because it can’t be recycled. In my family, tinsel on the Christmas tree is a tradition that goes as far back as I can remember. When it came to decorating the tree it was always my father’s crowning achievement. He would add the tinsel at the very end, ever so carefully and always very meticulously.

Other ways to invite the outdoors into your home, is by collecting pine cones and branches of holly berries, or whatever else you might find that suits your holiday decor.

If you have children, old standbys like strings of cranberries and popcorn continue to entertain; when the holidays are over these can easily go in your yard waste.

 

LIGHTS

Did you know that LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are at least 90% more energy efficient than regular incandescent bulbs? Cool to the touch, they also pose less of a fire hazard, and will last for thousands of hours longer than incandescent bulbs.

LEDs are widely available in many different colors, and shapes, and can be found at your local retailer. By switching to LED’s you will save electricity and enjoy a lower electrical bill!

Be sure you don’t throw away your old lights; check your local listings to find out how they can be recycled.

 

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THE PRICE OF LAMINATE

As you probably know by now, I recently upgraded my home office.  

As you may also know, if you follow this blog regularly, I’m a big advocate for protecting the environment and the health of my clients.

My motto is “Healthy Home, Healthy Body, Healthy Mind.”

That means low-VOC paints, eco-friendly fabrics, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) woods, and water-based finishes – in other words, zero toxins wherever possible.

This remodel was no exception.

For this very reason, I took the extra step of ordering ‘green’ cabinetry – manufactured to my specifications, to ensure a non-toxic environment.

Why?

Standard cabinets are made from formaldehyde-containing particle board that typically will off-gas formaldehyde for up to five years.

Needless to say, this can contribute to significant health problems.

(In today’s market, there are a wide variety of sustainable options for cabinetry manufactured with water-based glues and adhesives, and particleboard that does not contain formaldehyde).

Which brings me to the countertop.

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THE FABRIC OF OUR LIVES

A few weeks ago, I attended an innovative & enjoyable interior design event, held at the Theo Chocolate factory in Seattle.

If you’re wondering what chocolate has to do with design, this struck me as such a fun concept I couldn’t resist the opportunity to learn more.                                                                    

As it happened, the chocolate fest was held in tandem with the viewing of a locally owned fabric collection from O’Ecotextiles.

What these two companies – and their products  – have in common is an environmentally conscious footprint. In other words, from start to finish, both the chocolate, and the fabrics, are sustainably manufactured!

On their website, Theo’s Chocolates boasts they are “the ONLY Organic, Fair-Trade, Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Factory in the United States!”

O’Ecotextiles describes their fabrics as “Opulent, Yet Organic” and “Sensuous, yet Sustainable”.

Tempting, yes?

Well, I’d like to share some sobering statistics about the many fabrics, luscious and otherwise, that we surround ourselves with on a daily basis.

What most of us don’t realize, is that there are over 2000 chemicals used in fabric production.

That’s right – 2000!

You can be sure that most of them are highly toxic, and harmful to both your health and the environment.

Yet the average person has no idea.

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HOW TO TRAVEL ‘GREEN’

Ah, the joys of travel.                                  

Not only do we have to deal with the hassles of flying, but other healthy habits such as diet and exercise also often fly out the window, which only adds to our level of frustration and fatigue.

For myself, I have the added challenge of travelling with gluten intolerance and food allergies, so staying ‘Green’ can seems fairly low on the list.

I know it can be very hard to maintain our eco-friendly ways while on the road. We tend to opt for convenience when crunched for time, or when we’re tired and far from home.

Still, it is possible, and needn’t take too much effort.

So here are my tips on How to Travel Green:

Staying Hydrated

Yes, it’s definitely important to stay hydrated while traveling, especially while in the air. But my point here is more about the bottle you drink out of, than your fluid intake.

Yet, how do you do that without going through gallons of water packaged in plastic bottles?

My method isn’t foolproof, but here it is:  I travel with a stainless steel water bottle. I empty it prior to passing through security at the airport, then request a refill at the nearest Starbucks.

A friend of mine gave me this tip a few years ago, and it really works!

Your second option is to buy bottled water, refill the stainless steel bottle, and then recycle the plastic container in the nearest recycle bin.

It may not be possible to find a recycle bin every time you need one, but I think this is more about doing what you can. Every little bit helps!

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GOING FAUX

Are you familiar with the term trompe l’oeil, French for ‘fool the eye’?

At some point, you’ve probably seen a painting, or wall finish, such as the one to the right, which looks so realistic you’d swear it was the real thing.

In this case, the life-size statuary and carved moldings, appear to be the classical edifice of a building.

Except that it isn’t.

Paintings such as this can be especially deceiving. You think you are looking at statuary, or a still-life arrangement of books that are so convincingly 3-dimensional you feel you could reach into the painting and pick them up.

It literally fools the eye.

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