Once our house or school is sustainably built or renovated (or even if it isn’t), it is time to look at how we furnish our spaces and live in, and maintain them.
Furnishings and Finishes:
- How harmful are the chemicals used as fire retardants in our mattresses and upholstered furniture? There is not a lot of information available on this topic – most of the reporting is by mothers with blogs. The bottom line is that there is no bottom line, but what I did learn is: ditch any mattress made before 2005; skip the memory foam; if you are very sensitive to these chemicals you can get a letter from your doctor to get a mattress without flame retardants. Do your own research before you buy!
- As for sofas, that hand-me-down sofa may be better than new.
- For carpets, we know more and have more options. Start with natural fibers or responsible manufacturers such as Interface. This is a good primer: http://www.mnn.com/your-home/at-home/stories/buying-eco-friendly-carpet
Think about alternatives to carpet such as bamboo flooring. Hardwoods floors are easier to clean and it don’t harbor dust and mites.
- Use Low or No VOC paints. There are great alternatives on the market at various price points. Resources:
And how do we live in our homes and schools?
- Avoid toxins. One might carry out a wonderfully sustainable renovation of a home, school or office and thenclean the floors and tables with toxic cleaning products that are absorbed through the skin and are inhaled by the occupants.Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit, does an excellent job of rating products – from cleaning products to cosmetics –
- Plan a method of drinking water filtration in homes, schools and offices. Quit buying water in plastic bottles!
- Recycling. We all recycle, right? I am now so surprised and disappointed when I am in a café that doesn’t recycle (and don’t get me started on the airlines!) So now the next frontier is composting. Do you garden? If not, perhaps a community garden or neighbor would love your compost.
It is all about becoming educated and making decisions. And before you let out the heavy sigh, isn’t that true about everything else in life as well?
Nancy K. Harrod