Gently Green

“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.

 

Our Russian Christmas Fantasy

Our Russian Christmas Fantasy

Once again, the end of November found the team at Dujardin Design Associates in full decorating mode at the Nantucket Whaling Museum. This year, we created a Russian Christmas Fantasy display for the Nantucket Historical Association’s 17th Annual Festival of Trees.

Inspired by my Russian heritage, the tree is a splendor in red and gold, with red glass balls, golden ribbons and over 50 handmade Russian ornaments. There are Russian Cossacks, snowflakes, Faberge eggs and matryoshka dolls (the traditional nesting dolls), all delicately hand painted in festive fashion.

We created the illusion of snow covered branches by wrapping the tree in hundreds of little white lights, and tucking fresh baby’s breath into the boughs. A silk tree skirt embroidered in red glass beads in a snowflake design is a work of art in itself, crafted for us by the same people who did the Christmas tree skirts for the White House.

A Nod to Antiquity Required Special Handling:

The museum is home to rare artifacts and aged documents such as original ships’ whaling logs, so the ornaments, although they appear to be cookies, are not made with any edible products. Likewise, the fabulous faux “gingerbread” cathedral, depicting St. Basil’s in Moscow, is a meticulously molded and painted replica.

St. Basil’s Gingerbread Cathedral

Accompanies the Tree:

Standing next to the tree on a red plaid skirted table is a replica of the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Approximately two feet wide and three feet high, its creation required over 200 man hours by the skilled craftspeople at Colette’s Cakes of New York.

St. Basil’s was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible in 1555. The building’s shape was designed to mimic the flame of a bonfire rising into the sky. Its full name is the Cathedral of Intercession of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat, Temple of Basil the Blessed, but it has been referred to as St. Basil’s for centuries. It comprises nine individual chapels, each topped with a unique onion dome.

The Story of BabushkaIf you would like a copy of this delightful Russian Christmas Legend please send us your contact information.Seven Simple Steps for a Sustainable Holiday Season

  • A gift is a thoughtful gesture and the same sentiment can be shown in sustainable ways. Consider exchanging time instead of gifts with the elderly or lonely during the holiday season, or making a sustainable donation to a local charity with the money you save. Put your money to work helping others and the planet with a “life-changing gift”, such as Heifer International, www.heifer.org or ChildFund International, www.childfund.org.
  • Be socially conscious with gifts that promote fair trade.
  • Use energy efficient LED holiday lights to add sparkle. (Install a timer!)
  • Give locally made products, help reduce the impact of transportation.
  • Purchase greeting cards printed on recycled materials with vegetable based non-toxic inks, or send email greetings.
  • Give gifts such as gift certificates or theater tickets – they don’t require a lot of gift wrapping. Avoid wrapping with glossy or metallic paper. Colorful fabric or reusable gift bags are an environmentally friendly alternative.
  • Choose toys that do not require batteries. Instead choose gifts that stimulate a child’s imagination without impacting the environment.

For more on sustainable ideas for your home, visit our website at www.dujardindesign.com.

The Q Collection

The Q Collection

I often talk to my clients about the importance of indoor air quality. Our super-insulated, warm homes can generate a poor air exchange system, so that chemicals that are introduced unknowingly build up and can cause allergies, asthma, and auto immune disorders.

Producing upholstered furniture and dyed fabrics requires the use of many chemical products, some of which may be harmful to us. The list includes things such as formaldehyde and polyurethane, flame retardants and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), all sources of noxious indoor vapors.

The Q Collection was one of the first fabric and furniture companies dedicated to eco-safe home furnishings. Their materials are free of chemicals that can pollute your home, such as toxic glues, finishes and dyes. Their residential fabric line includes biodegradable, environmentally-safe products made with natural materials such as alpaca, bamboo, Oeko-Tex certified cotton, hemp, leather, linen, viscose and wool.

I’ve used the Q Collection fabrics and upholstered pieces in several of my “green” designs, and recommend them as one more thing you can do to help make all of our lives a little healthier, and the earth a little cleaner, as well as more beautiful!

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Gifts, Decorations, and Recipes that Use Less and Mean More, by Anna Getty.

Another thing I love is a book entitled, I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas:  Gifts, Decorations, and Recipes that Use Less and Mean More, by Anna Getty. This charming paperback by a chef, mother, organic living expert and environmental advocate offers advice on everything from choosing the best tree (real or fake?) to homemade craft ideas, recipes and entertaining friends and family. She offers tips like The Ten Easiest Things You Can Do to Save Energy during the Holidays, and chapters on Nesting, Trimming and Giving.

A statistic from the book states that Americans throw away an additional five million tons of trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. This little book may be the start of a more sustainable holiday for you and your family.

Available from Chronicle Books. ISBN-10:  0811867676
List Price $24.95

If you’re on Nantucket, you can find this book at Parchment, Eleven Washington Street. 508-228-4110 www.parchmentnantucket.com. Heidi, Parchment’s gracious storekeeper, will be delighted to help you.