“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.” ~Wendell Berry (American author)
After spending more than two decades of my life dedicated to “green” home design, and the life-affirming value of “green” living, I’ve found that there are myriad ways to live in harmony with the earth. I know that many people are trying to leave a lighter footprint. Most of us recycle now, many of us carry canvas bags to the grocery store, some of us search for organic alternatives in food and other products.
But we can do more. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology estimates that Americans spend 80-90% of their time indoors, and with more than 77,000 new chemicals introduced into the environment since World War II, our homes are the most logical place to start. Indoor air quality can easily be compromised with the introduction of new furniture and carpeting, or by using chemical-laden materials in a renovation or building project. There are many hazardous toxins in the normal construction process, but there’s also a healthy substitute for every one of them.
My passion for green design came out of my desire to live in harmony with myself and with this beautiful planet. I’ve built two healthy waterfront homes for myself, one on Nantucket Island, and one on Long Island Sound in Connecticut. In 1993, I built my first Holistic House™ on the harbor on Nantucket, determined to make it a haven for healthy living and minimize its impact on our fragile ecosystem. Later, in an ironic twist of fate, I developed Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, resulting from exposure to pesticides on a farm as a child, and years of working in unhealthy construction sites. Fortunately, my home on the island was a clean environment where my body could heal.
If you’re not planning new construction or a major renovation project, there are still key spaces in the home that you can make as pristine as possible. Bedrooms should be first. While you sleep, your liver is working to detoxify the body of any contaminants encountered during the day. Adding a room air-purifier can be a great first step. Next, use only non-toxic products, including paints with low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), natural fiber carpeting without chemical treatment, and fabrics and wood furniture produced with non-toxic products. I tell my clients to begin with the nursery, then their own bedroom, then continue to examine opportunities to live lightly in their homes, and on the earth.
In future posts, I’ll share ideas for beautiful choices in interior design, keeping our homes healthy by using chemical-free home cleaning products, and adding to the soul and spirit of our homes through organic choices in lawn and garden care.