Earth-friendly designs bring beauty, function to homes and offices

Americans have been increasingly interested in creating less waste and being kinder to the planet. If we’ve learned anything from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s that our own homes need to be healthier.

Houston interior designer Yésely Love of Canaima Design spoke at a recent Access Design event — co-hosted by the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Design District — about creating healthier and more sustainable homes and workplaces.

Using an air purifier is a great start to cleaning up the air immediately around you, but Love urges homeowners to look for furniture and materials made from recycled goods, with fewer chemicals and more natural materials. Here are things to think about:

1. Plants

Trees and plants — living things — are nature’s air purifier. They do the same job indoors, as well. Love encourages all of her clients to incorporate live plants into their décor.

Dramatic installations might involve live walls using lichen or moss, plants that are easy to install and thrive in our humid climate. Our homes might be air-conditioned to dehumidify our living spaces, but many offices have these live walls, and they love the warmer air when air conditioning is altered on weekends, when many offices aren’t used.

2. Carpet and flooring

Natural fiber rugs, such as sisal or jute, are one way to go, but Love noted that great strides have been made in creating durable and attractive eco-friendly flooring.

Marmoleum — a brand of vinyl tile marketed as CO2 neutral and phthalate free — is made with a smaller carbon footprint by using natural renewable materials and some recycled materials. While Love has used this product in commercial design projects, she said it can work in homes, too.

Eco-friendly carpets and even cork flooring — recyclable and organic — are also good options, she said.

3. Paint

Most understand that paints give off fumes, though even after that initial new-paint smell has worn off, they can continue off-gassing for six months to two years. Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) or zero VOC paints are best options for healthier indoor air.

Zero VOC paints, however, tend to cost more. Sherwin-Williams SuperPaint with Air Purifying Technology is listed online for $71.99 a gallon, while its SuperPaint with Sanitizing Technology is $73.99 a gallon. Benjamin Moore’s ben Waterborne interior paint is $48.99 a gallon.

4. Wallpaper

Wallpaper’s comeback is still going strong. Look for options with certification such as Greenguard Gold. Specifically, wallpaper that is printed with water-based ink or low to zero VOC. Many are made with metals such as arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium or tin, so make sure they’re free of these.

The well-known UK-based Farrow & Ball brand uses its own low and zero VOC paints. Graham & Brown, York Wallcoverings and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Home are other popular brands touted as low VOC and healthier for the home.

Cork can also be used as a wallcovering because of its acoustic qualities, helping reduce noise in a room or protect it from exterior noise.

5. Certifications

Several organizations rate home products for air quality, energy efficiency and sustainability. Certifications to watch for include LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), Green Building Initiative (GBI), Energy Star, BIFMA (for commercial furniture), FloorScore, Green Seal, ISO 14000 and Greenguard.

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