December 11, 2009
Green – it’s the hot new color that has nothing to do with decor and everything to do with product choice. But, outside of being a buzz word, what does “green” really mean? If you visit Wikipedia, after paragraphs on the color itself is a sentence directing you to the “Green Movement” or ” Environmentally Friendly”.
Environmentally friendly (also eco-friendly, nature friendly, and green) are synonyms used to refer to goods and services considered to inflict minimal or no harm on the environment. To make consumers aware, environmentally friendly goods and services often are marked with eco-labels. But because there is no single international standard for this concept, the International Organization for Standardization considers such labels too vague to be meaningful.
Green is a loose term thrown around by companies to instill consumer confidence while having to prove nothing to anyone. The end effect is commonly called Green Washing; ie. the term is meaningless because there is no substance behind it.
But there are still ways that you can be ecologically conscious when remodeling your home. Beyond the “Green” label, look for these qualifications:
- Is the product manufactured domestically? This question is ecologically based for two reasons. First, less traveling time from the manufacturer to your home equals less emissions. Second, the US EPA regulations are more strict than those of developing countries – less pollution emitted, however you will see a higher price tag because compliance with these regulations is expensive.
- Is the material in the product recyclable? This is a no brainer. On a global level, Americans, in general, consume goods faster than any other nation. When you are finished with a product, if you cannot resell/donate it for another person to use, you should repurpose the materials in that product for another task.
- Is the natural material in the product a renewable resource? Wood is the best example of this. Choose product that can comes from companies that practice sustainable foresting activities. You don’t have to buy cork or bamboo floors to do your part. These materials are typically forested in China, think of the emissions from transportation alone. Buying locally harvested wood can actually be a more effective choice. Stay away from anything marketed as “exotic.”
- Are the solvents/adhesives in the product low-VOC? VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds. VOCs are what outgas from a product after manufacturing. It’s the smell of new paint, new carpeting, new furniture… and it is an irritant, and may cause short term and/or long term illness. Some people have no reactions to these outgasings, other people are more sensitive – regardless, they are not healthy for anyone.
These are guidelines you can apply to any purchase you are thinking of making, it doesn’t just apply to improving your home. Don’t get snowballed by marketing when the label says “Green” – ask why. Just because the salesperson tells you it’s natural and that’s why it’s “Green” – take a moment to think.
As an example, one of the biggest misconceptions in this industry is that natural stone countertops are “Green” because they are natural. Think about the amount of diesel spent in cutting stone out of the ground, shipping it across the world, fabricating it into a top and then throwing the cuttings away. The end-user then repetitively uses a chemical sealant to keep the stone from staining. However – if you want a stone counter, and you are committed to living with that counter for the next 30 years or more, then the choice becomes more ecologically sound.
Want other ideas on how to make your remodel more friendly to the environment and to yourself? Post a comment and I’ll get back to you. Remember, the money you spend is your vote on what the world manufactures.
Written for Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. by designer Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.
July 9, 2009
“Indoor air is on average seven to ten times more polluted than outdoor air.” ~United States EPA
We try to contain indoor air as much as possible. We pay to heat it and cool it, why would we want it leaking outside. Newer homes, of course, are tighter than older homes.
But by limiting fresh air to enter our homes, we are in fact creating a pollution problem.
Indoor air pollution comes from a variety of places: radon from the ground leaching into our basements, formaldehyde out-gassing from furniture and carpet, particulates from the breaking down of biological matter, and gasses from household cleaners and chemicals—not to mention odors and moisture that encourages mold and mildew growth. When we limit the passage of air between the indoors and outdoors we are harboring these contaminants.
Vents in the kitchen and bath are excellent at expelling odors and moisture to the outdoors. When running, they are also removing indoor pollutants. This exchange of air is very healthy for your home and for you.
When air in your home exits through a vent, replacement air needs to be available to make up what is lost. This make-up air can come from an open window, leaky doors, down-drafting of a chimney or a recovery system specifically put in place to exchange household air. If your home is well sealed, you may find the operation of your vent fan disappointing. If replacement air is not available, a vent fan will starve for air. Not only will it not perform well, but it may prematurely age the motor.
A vent will also under perform if it is not clean. We recommend vacuuming your bathroom vent fan when cleaning. In the kitchen, clean or replace your grease filters often. These filters are in place to keep grease from building up in the ducts in your walls.
Determining what size vent you need for your application can be a complex calculation that takes into account not only the size of the room but also the length of the ductwork for your vent. Vents are sized by “cfm” (cubic feet per minute). For example, this simply means if you purchase a 100 cfm bathroom vent fan, this fan will replace 100 cubic feet of air per minute.
There is a caveat however, and this lies in your walls or your ceiling. The material, length and twists and turns that your vent ductwork takes as it sends the expelled air to the outside will have an effect on the efficiency of your vent motor. If the complete venting system is not accounted for correctly, you could find your 100 cfm vent fan only pulling 40 to 60 cfm – and if you don’t have adequate makeup air to replace what is being expelled that number gets even lower.
The manufacturer’s website and paperwork that comes with your vent fan should help you with your calculations to insure a proper installation. There are other independant websites that offer the formulas as well. If in doubt, hire a professional to assess the size of the room and what it will take to properly get the air to the outside.
The other important factor when buying a vent fan is “sones.” Sones rate how loud a fan is, the lower the sone – the quieter. However, lower sones also usually equate to a higher price tag. It may be worth the extra money however if you will be running the fan often or if you have sensitive hearing.
Fresh air in your home not only smells better, but is healthier for you too. We all have experienced dank air from time to time, but if you are experiencing chronic issues with dank, musty or smelly air for which you cannot pinpoint a source, it may be a sign of a larger problem and an appointment should be made with a remodeling specialist.
Selections from this article will appear in Imperial Kitchens and Baths next newsletter mailing.
Written By Imperial Kitchens and Baths Designer, Stephanie Bullwinkel (CBD).