by Sarai Johnson
Eco-friendly living can cover a lot of ground, but generally it’s accepted that it refers to the use of low-impact materials, energy efficiency, quality and durability, reuse and recycling, sustainability, and renewability.
In keeping with that definition, Carol Bass of The Practical Decorator says her favorite buzz word is “redesign.” “I understand why redesign is the fastest growing segment of the decorating industry. Interior redesign reuses what the homeowner already owns to create a space that is warm, inviting, and functional with a designer look without the designer price tag,” she says.
Reusing and repurposing furnishings and accessories allows Gail Adkins of Change Magic Interior Redesign to refresh underused and overused spaces, she says. “How green is that,” she asks.
Cynthia Crego of More Space Place says her eco-friendly client is usually over 40 years old and is remodeling an existing home or down-sizing to a smaller home. “While smaller homes save money in the long run, the challenge is making smaller spaces more efficient,” she says. Her products include fold-away beds that fit in cabinets to create multi-purpose rooms.
Homeowners also see the value of purchasing environmentally responsible products that not only save them money in the long run, but also make them good stewards of the planet, according to Jamie Beckwith of Beckwith Interiors. “The true ‘eco-friendly’ consumer is someone who is concerned about the life-cycle cost of a product and the benefits they provide in the long term,” she says.
Certain ‘green products’ might not make sense for some homeowners, Beckwith adds, because “they will never see the return of the product, but this does not discourage homeowners from making small steps toward sustainable living.”
Interests and concerns of homeowners encompass multiple factors, according to J. Mark West, principal architect of eXoterra Solutions. “Depending on their view of ‘sustainability,’ many choose to be more conscientious of the environment and make it a point to use environmentally friendly products in their home. They’re willing to spend more money to incorporate regional, ecological, or recycled/reclaimed materials in their home’s construction.”
Other homeowners might be more concerned with saving, such as on their monthly utility bills. “These consumers typically only integrate energy saving features such as spray foam insulation, solar photovoltaic features, or rainwater collection if they see a return on their investment and a reduction in monthly expenses/maintenance,” West says.
Rachel Martin of (n) habit reports she sees two types of homeowners interested in eco-friendly living. “One group is 50+ years old and is just getting interested in sustainability. They may not necessarily have the knowledge, but are well established and have the finances to invest in ‘green’ products.
“The other group is young professionals—sometimes with families—who are quite knowledgeable but may be unable to invest in large sustainable renovations,” says Martin. “This group tends to work on smaller projects, piece-by-piece rather than full-scale renovations.”
(n) habit sells products rooted in sustainability, and offers design and consulting services to help homeowners incorporate sustainable products in their homes.
The popularity of eco-friendly home appliances continues to grow, as does the interest in options such as faucets and toilets that use less water. Water and energy efficiency related products save homeowners money, while flooring and tile made from recycled materials allow them to create guilt-free interior design.
Those who are interested in analyzing their own lifestyle can generally apply this rule of thumb—anything you think could be problematic or create a large “footprint” is probably not earth-friendly. For example, any material considered to be a non-renewable resource like wood obtained from an endangered rainforest that might be used in cabinetry is not considered earth-friendly. So, ask your contractor or interior designer about available product choices before beginning a construction of decorating project.
Products containing petroleum, toxic heavy metals, and similar harmful materials not considered healthy for the human body are not considered friendly for the environment. Materials that reduce harm to the environment would be bamboo, which is a highly renewable resource, paints that are not oil-based and paints with low or no VOC (volatile organic compounds) which are linked to asthma, dizziness, and cancer.
Homeowners interested in limiting their choices to environmentally friendly products can look for certifications like the “Green Seal,” an initiative that offers third-party certification based on sustainability standards.
Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints are important, according to Anna Aycock of Designs by Anna Aycock, because standard fresh paint can give off toxins for up to a year.
Pictured at the beginning of this article is a bathroom designed by Beth Haley Designs. The earth-toned bathroom features shower, flooring, and backsplash tile made of recycled content. The cabinetry is made from bamboo, all light fixtures are energy efficient, the hand held shower uses low-flow technology and a water efficient toilet is also included.
Energy Star, a program created by the EPA and the Department of Energy, is a program that allows homeowners to invest in eco-friendly products that both save the purchaser energy and money, but help reduce the nation’s overall energy use.
“Changing fixtures is a less expensive and fairly easy way to help conserve water and electricity—it can visually update your space too.” says Sara Ray of Beth Haley Designs.
And according to greenhome.com, replacing an incandescent light bulb with an energy efficient compact fluorescent or light emitting diode light bulb can save homeowners energy and money.
Energy efficient appliances tend to have a modern, sleek appearance. Homeowners are capable of updating their homes without sacrificing personal style. n
There are a number of sources for eco-friendly products and services in the Greater Nashville area including:
Beth Haley Designs
Designs by Anna Aycock
More Space Place
Practical Decorator, the