Going green is not just a cute catchphrase or a saying. It is the wave of the future, and it is important for new home construction to be built in a green manner, as well as existing homes being renovated, office and commercial use buildings and any major construction project.
Let’s start with “green” paint. No, you do not need to paint your walls the color green. This has to do with the type of paint you use. Most non-environmentally friendly paints contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These chemicals include formaldehyde and benzene amongst other noxious chemicals and cause the paint to smell for days or even weeks. This smell is not just “unpleasant” – it is downright dangerous to your health and dangerous for our planet’s sustainability.
What is happening because of these chemicals is cancers, respiratory problems and ozone layer damage. While we do not know for sure what kinds of quantities produce what kinds of effects, we do know these are very negative results and not something we want! Not for ourselves and not for our Earth.
Green paints have been around for awhile and have been improving. In the past, these paints were not always as good as their chemical counterparts but were lower quality and had far fewer choices in terms of color and texture. That is no longer the case. You can now choose from vegetable based paints, milk based paints, low biocide and low VOC latex paints as well as acrylic and water based paint. You can ask for the information on the VOCs in your paint. An acceptable minimum is no more than 250 grams per liter in “low VOC” paint. When shopping for paint, you can look for low VOCs, low biocides and natural pigments. You are able to call the paint company directly to find out the safety information as well, rather than just accepting the advertising from your local store, who are after all, interested in selling you something.
Another material in your home is carpets. EPA studies have found that we have more indoor pollutants in our own homes than we do outside. This is especially bad for small children, sickly people and elderly people, who are all more vulnerable than hearty adults. Carpeting can be treated with highly toxic chemicals intended to protect from things like moths or to repel soil and moisture. Also, when you come in from outside bringing toxic lawn chemicals with you, these toxins get trapped in your carpet.
Carpet padding is often made with petroleum, which is an environmentally damaging and unsustainable resource. In addition the glues used for carpet adhesion are often toxic and full of VOCs.
When choosing new carpeting, consider the material of the carpet itself, the padding and the installation procedure and materials. There are many companies out there selling more eco friendly products and all a consumer has to do is ask. These carpets will be made with natural fibers, and with little to no chemical treatment as well as fiber backing.
Another important factor in the home are the types of fabrics you use. When we say fabric, we often think of only the clothes that we wear. But there are fabrics everywhere in your home: chair upholstery, couch covers, couch material, beddings, curtains, and more. These fabrics, similar to non-stick cookware, contain toxic chemicals that are not good for your health. But as with everything else, there are more and more safe fabric options out there, and you can shop around online or at a store to find what you’re looking for.
In addition to paints, carpets and fabrics, dangerous chemicals including formaldehyde, phthalates, BPAs, toluenes and more are found in things like wood paneling, cabinetry, vinyl tiles, flooring adhesives and furniture.
These chemical substances have been found in infant cord blood, in pregnant women and others. They have been linked to fertility problems, asthma and parkinson’s disease. US laws right now are very weak on these chemical substances and it is up to individual retailers, companies and builders to be ethical, scrupulous and environmentally (not to mention personally) responsible.
The good news is that these toxins have been recognized as dangerous for people’s health and unsustainable for the health of our planet and there are tons of choices out there that are not only better for you and your family but cost effective as well. You only have to be informed to ask the right questions and get the answers you need. You can demand safer substances for your family and in your home and the changes do not have to disrupt your lifestyle or your tastes. For almost every product, there are environmentally safe choices that will not in any way diminish its usefulness.
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Written By: Bob Jenkins
Budget My Build
P.O. Box 72987
Phoenix, AZ 85050
Office: (602) 579-9660
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