Furnishings

e1logoI’m not going to list every piece of furniture that we’ve chosen for the house, but I wanted to quickly highlight our master bedroom furniture.

We’ve chosen a bedroom set (seen here) that is very environmentally friendly.  It is made of FSC wood and has received the European E1 rating.  This rating is “a European Union certification system that states that the materials used in the construction of the furniture do not off gas formaldehyde or other dangerous fumes.”  Think of it as the furniture equivalent of low- or no-VOC paints. 

Also, the mattress we’re using is an all natural latex mattress.  According to the website, “Latex does not off-gas toxic petrochemicals as does memory foams or synthetic chemical mattresses. Latex is naturally hypoallergenic. Bacteria and dust mites cannot reside in natural rubber.”  So again, no off-gases, no petrochemicals.  The mattress cover is unbleached cotton.

The furniture is shipped from Colorado, so that is a little troublesome, but given the other benefits and the fact that it is exactly the look that we wanted, we decided to buy it.

Paints and Finishes

primerlowvoc02072009I can’t believe that anyone reading this wouldn’t have heard of low VOC paints and varnishes.  VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds are what makes paint have that “freshly painted” smell.  The EPA broadly describes them as “any organic compound that participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions.”  VOCs commonly used in the home are found in carpets, paints, varnishes, dry cleaner solvents, and household cleaners.

You can learn more about VOCs and how they can contribute to “sick building syndrome” by clicking here.   These are pages on a website from the EPA that do a great job of outlining the many contributors to sick building syndrome, including a listing of 12 common indoor polutants.

We have avoided VOCs in several ways:

  • No carpet (we actually get a LEED for Homes point for having no carpet!)
  • No VOC Paints.  We’re using Sherwin Williams’ Harmony series for our paint and you can see from the photo above, our primer has no VOCs either)
  • We do dry-clean some of our clothes, but we get our clothes without plastic bags.  The plastic bags concentrate the VOCs and don’t allow them to dissipate (and we avoid throwing away dry cleaning bags every week).
  • We have specified formaldehyde-free plywood and formaldehyde-free binders on our plywood finishes and furniture.
  • Our cleaners are natural.  We like the Seventh Generation brand.
Flooring – It’s About The Bamboo

hardwoods01312009It took us about 2 seconds to decide that we wanted to use bamboo flooring in the non-bathroom parts of the house.   While we had beautiful 50 year old oak floors in the old house, there wasn’t enough of it to use in the new house other than to cover the floors of the 700 square foot studio space above the garage (we’ll sell the rest). 

Bamboo is the new “it flooring” for those looking for a Green product.  It probably goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that bamboo is very sustainable (it can grow up to a foot a day), is durable and is just about at the same price point as a nice oak or maple flooring.  So what are the downsides?

We’ve heard horror stories about bamboo harvested too young (I wouldn’t use anything younger than 5 years old) that sprouted when gotten wet.  And I even had an architect rant to me about how the floors she installed were too soft and got totally marked up just by walking on them.  And the bamboo is typically shipped from China  – which, by the way, isn’t known for it’s great human rights and workers’ rights history.

Here are two articles on Treehugger.com that I’ll refer you to.  They’re a bit dated (from 2004 and 2005) but they provide good background.  The first one outlines the case for and against bamboo (they come out For with a few caveats).  The second one provides a profile of one manufacturer of bamboo flooring, Teragren (which they misspell as “Teragen”), which is the flooring that we chose.  I have to admit that we chose Teragren before I read this article.  Good thing we did the right thing even without reading it!  Be sure to check out the “Environmentally smart” tab at the top of the Teragren home page – lots of good information there.

By the way, the bamboo floors were installed this week – see the photo above!