Going Green

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There are the basic needs in life; food, water, clothing and shelter. Our homes, our shelters, are more than a mere physical structure. They are the place where we retreat for protection, comfort and spend time with friends and family. The materials used for and in our homes reflect who we are but these materials can come at a large cost to our environment.

Today, manufacturers, architects, designers and builders are stepping up to address their role in providing materials, designs and practices that pave the way for environmentally responsible homes.

You have a role too. Whether you are remolding or building new, choosing Green materials for your home will benefit your health, comfort, environment and finances.

Green flooring is any flooring that is sustainable, eco-friendly, contains recycled content, is recyclable, leaves a small carbon footprint or has low VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compound). There are different degrees of green when referring to different types of flooring.


Cork

  • Better than a renewable resource because it is a harvested resource (only the bark is harvested from the tree)
  • A recycled product because cork floors are made from the waste cork that makes wine stoppers.
  • A law in the 1930’s called “The 9 Year Law” was passed to keep cork from being harvested any sooner than every 9 years. The tree has to reach 60 cm in circumference before it can be harvested. The first harvest from a cork tree can only occur at age 25.
  • The tree is not destroyed or damaged when harvesting cork.
  • To complete the environmentally sound process, water based finishes and adhesives should be used.

Bamboo

  • Bamboo is a rapidly renewing resource that matures in three years
  • It regenerates without need for replanting
  • It also requires minimal fertilization or pesticides
  • There currently is no FSC certified bamboo so it is important to see what you can confirm about the bamboo you are interested in before purchasing.



Carpet

  • According to the Carpet and Rug Institute: The carpet industry is minimizing carpet’s impact on the environment through the new “3 Rs” which stand for reduce, reuse and recycle.  When carpet reaches the end of its long life, it is reused to make new carpet or is recycled into a variety of products, ranging from roofing shingles and railroad ties to automotive parts.
  • Factors that determine if carpet is “green”: carpet fibers, toxics content, dye, VOC emissions, and recycled content.
  • The Green Label and Green Label Plus from the Carpet and Rug Institute ensure that customers are purchasing among the lowest emitting carpet, adhesive and cushion products on the market.

Stone

There is no clear data on the impact of using stone as a building material on the environment; when the data is collected it will contain information on water and energy consumption, yields from raw materials, recyclability  and other measures that are considered in life cycle assessments, energy used in transportation, processing and selling the material.

  • Stone does have the following features:
  • It’s a natural product
  • It has an enduring life cycle so it doesn’t have to be replaced
  • Ease of care and maintenance
  • Recyclable
  • Quarry and manufacturing use best practices
  • Can be reclaimed



Hardwood

  • Natural Resource
  • Renewable
  • Recyclable
  • Suitable for a “healthy home” environment
  • Forests are managed for replanting



Linoleum 

  • Made from all natural materials
  • The natural raw materials used to create Linoleum are available in abundance: linseed oil, rosin, wood flour, cork flour, ecologically responsible pigments and jute.
  • These raw materials are harvested or extracted with relatively little energy consumption. The main energy resource for the process is the sun. The plants and trees that supply linoleum's raw materials also contribute to the production of oxygen and the subsequent reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thus reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses present in the atmosphere.
  • Can be recycled
  • The energy obtained from incinerating linoleum is roughly equivalent to or even more than that which is used in production.
  • Linoleum can be safely added to landfill refuse sites, where natural decomposition takes place. Linoleum is fully biodegradable and does not release harmful substances or gases such as chlorine and dioxins.
  • Adhesives are 100% solvent free and meet all low VOC requirements
  • Does not require maintenance from harmful chemicals
  • Linoleum contains virtually no trace of toxic material and is naturally beneficial to air quality.

Ceramic Tile

  • Rarely release emissions
  • Some contain recycled content
  • Long lasting and not replaced frequently
  • Requires little maintenance
  • Value is unclear due to it’s weight causing more fuel during transportation





Carpet Cushion

The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) has established the Green Label program to test for VOCs in cushion used under carpet.  This program helps you choose low-emission cushion. You can identify these products by looking for the program’s green and white seal. These products are continuously monitored to ensure that they maintain compliance.
Cushion products are characterized as prime polyurethane, bonded polyurethane, mechanically frothed polyurethane, rubber-hair, rubber–jute, synthetic fiber, resinated or coated synthetic fiber, rubber and rubberized polyurethane.
Cushions are tested for total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), formaldehyde and 4-phenylcyclohexine (4-PCH).
Carpet cushion can be:

  • Made from100% recycled bonded cushion from polyurethane foam or 100% recycled content in Rebond Carpet Cushion, a bonded polyurethane product
  • Made with 97% recycled rubber for carpet underlayment
  • Made with no CFC’s, latex or chemical additives
  • Made with 100% recycled tire rubber carpet pad.  Withstands temperatures from 40 to 120 degrees.  Free of toxic materials such as PCB, mercury, and formaldehyde
  • Made from ground tire scrap rubber granules bonded with latex and 92% recycled tire rubber

Installation

  • Use adhesives with low VOC’s
  • Choose water based finishes over solvent based
  • Acceptable adhesives are listed here: http://www.greenhomeguide.com

Adhesives

Adhesives are just as important to consider when purchasing flooring as the flooring itself. Adhesives with harmful toxins can damage indoor air quality by giving off harmful gasses.
Tips for Adhesives:

  • Choose low VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds)
  • Do not contain formaldehyde
  • Qualify for the Carpet and Rug Institutes Indoor Air Quality green label
  • Once installed, floors still give off gas compounds
  • Less durable floors have to be replaced more often
  • High maintenance floors use more harsh chemicals
  • Consider floors that don’t have to be refinished

 Did you know?

 

  • The US is a source for 25% of the world’s green house gas emissions?
  • The average American family uses 102,000 gallons of water
  • Each day 5 billion gallons of potable water is used just to flush toilets! (10,000 tons per day!) However, the detergent that is used to clean cloth diapers can be just as harmful, more water, energy and detergent are used to clean them. Washing in bulk, line drying and choosing diapers that are biodegradable and chemical free is the best bet.
  • More than 18 billion disposable diapers are thrown away each year.
  • The average American’s ecological footprint (the area of land required to sustain consumption and waste) is more than 25 acres which is 5 times more than what is sustainable globally.
  • One third of the trash tossed in the US is a packaging material. Americans toss more that 75 million tons of packaging and containers. (that’s 532 pounds per person into landfills each year) Sad thing is, less than 40% is recycled.
  • The US transportation system is the largest in the world and accounts for 1/3 of our greenhouse gas emissions. (more that 515 million tons of CO2 each year or 70% of the oil consumed in the US and more that we produce as a nation)

Stats around green and Recycling – From the EPA:

  • In 1999, recycling and composting activities prevented about 64 million tons of material from ending up in landfills and incinerators. Today, this country recycles 32.5 percent of its waste, a rate that has almost doubled during the past 15 years.
  • While recycling has grown in general, recycling of specific materials has grown even more drastically: 52 percent of all paper, 31 percent of all plastic soft drink bottles, 45 percent of all aluminum beer and soft drink cans, 63 percent of all steel packaging, and 67 percent of all major appliances are now recycled.
  • Twenty years ago, only one curbside recycling program existed in the United States, which collected several materials at the curb. By 2006, about 8,660 curbside programs had sprouted up across the nation. As of 2005, about 500 materials recovery facilities had been established to process the collected materials.

Your Role
Lifestyle changes – live as simply as possible

These changes may seem small and simple, but when they are combined with the efforts of others, the impact is multiplied and successful!

  • Recycle household goods (click here for EPA recycling guidelines on recycling)
  • Turn off noisy or unneeded appliances
  • Purchase recycled products
  • Start composting - Composting yard and kitchen waste can reduce the amount of household trash by up to 70%.
  • Use filtered water instead of bottled water
  • Recycle cameras, computers and cell phones
  • Plant a tree to offset carbon dioxide contributions
  • Choose cookware and utensils that are high quality so they do not have to be replaced often
  • Eat natural foods rather than foods that are processed, packaged and require additional re-heating.
  • Using a pressure cooker can reduce cooking times, and energy, by as much as 70%.
  • Buy local as often as possible. Look for products with minimal packaging.
  • Buy in bulk and cook in bulk; just make sure you can consume what you purchase and produce!
  • Take your own bags to the grocery store or recycle the bags you use.
  • Carpool, shop together and share!

These changes may seem small and simple, but when they are combined with the efforts of others, the impact is multiplied and successful!

What this means to you – The extent that you participate in this green movement is personal preference. There are so many different ways to contribute to saving the planet. The more savvy you can be about products/services you use, the better.

Being a Smart Green Consumer
Greenwashing – What it means and how it effects you:

  • What it means – it is a term that is used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. The term Green sheen has similarly been used to describe organizations which attempt to appear that they are adopting practices beneficial to the environment. The term came into use around 1990. The term is generally used when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being green (that is, operating with consideration for the environment), rather than spending resources on environmentally sound practices Environmentalists often use greenwashing to describe the actions of energy companies, which are traditionally the largest polluters.
  • How it affects you - This is often portrayed by changing the name or label of a product, to give the feeling of nature, for example putting an image of a forest on a bottle of harmful chemicals.
  • How you can avoid it – You can very simply read the ingredients on the back of the bottle to see if harmful ingredients are listed. If you are feeling more ambitious, you can check the manufacturers website for more information and even contact them to ask questions directly.

 

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