The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Last October I wrote about my participation in The Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design, held in Boston and sponsored by The Design Futures Council.  One of the best parts of attending such an inspirational conference was the opportunity to meet many of the movers and shakers in the environmental preservation movement, people who are passionate about their work, and about the health of our planet.

One person I was privileged to meet is William Kamkwamba. Mr. Kamkwamba is a self-educated Malawian inventor who gained fame in his country when in 2002, he built a windmill to power electrical appliances in his house in Masitala using blue gum trees, bicycle parts and materials collected in a local scrapyard.  His story is told in his inspirational book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, written with journalist Bryan Mealer.

The good news is that a Young Readers edition will be released on January 19th, 2012.  Telling the story about how 14 year old William spent his days in the library and figured out how to bring electricity to his village, it is a tale of persevering against the odds. There is a real need to inspire students with an interest in science and engineering:  this is a wonderful gift for the young people in your life.

Guest Blogging at New England Home Magazine

New England Home Magazine has invited me to be a guest blogger.  I’m excited to share my thoughts on good design and good living with readers of this wonderful magazine.  You can find me there from February 21st  to 27th, and  from March 6th to 12th at http://blog.nehomemag.com/.

New England Home is the premier regional architecture and interior design magazine in the northeastern U.S.  They cover all aspects of the New England residential design world, from the hottest new talent to the most beautiful spaces to the fine art and accessories that provide a finishing touch.

You’ll find a very special Dujardin-designed home in New England Home’s Cape and Islands issue, available summer, 2012.  Shhh:  it’s top secret!

Painting the Town Green!

EnviroSafe paints used on these interior walls set off the vintage tin sand toys, a whimsical touch.

Your health isn’t bordered by your body.” —Michael Pollan

  According to the EPA, one of the top five hazards to human health is indoor air. Research teams there have found that pollutants can be two to five times higher inside your home than outside, regardless of whether you live in a rural or highly industrial area.  After an activity like paint stripping, toxic chemicals can test 1,000 times higher indoors than outdoors.

If that surprises you, consider the hundreds of gallons of paints and finishes used over the lifetime of your home, from floor to ceiling, and from wall to wall. As those paints and finishes  “off-gas, ” they may be releasing a variety of chemicals and toxic by-products, and the air in your home suffers.  Your health may suffer as well.

Paints with high concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) have been used for years.  That just-painted smell in a new or renovated house is actually the off-gassing of chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, toluene and zylene.  The fumes from these paints last far longer than the odor, however, as can fumes from floor stains and finishes, sealants and caulks.  Harmful fumes can even leak from closed containers, which is why it is recommended that you only buy the amount of product you’re going to use, and never store leftover products inside your home.

As a designer, I’ve spent my life creating homes for my clients that are as healthy as they are beautiful. I believe that a healthy home is the ultimate luxury.  I’m also concerned for the health of the workers who are exposed on a daily basis to chemicals that leave them with headaches, fatigue and asthma.  My commitment to environmental awareness, both personally and professionally, has led me to find highly effective products that protect the health of humans and homes alike.

In renovating my new home on Nantucket Island, I used No VOC paints from EnviroSafe on all interior surfaces, as they are specially formulated for clean air and healthy interior environments.  That’s more important than ever in today’s airtight, energy-efficient homes.

I’m delighted that consumer demand has led to the development of many new, healthier products, including Low Odor or Low VOC paint, Zero VOC paint, and non-toxic or natural paints.  Low VOC products use water as a carrier instead of petroleum-based solvents, reducing the levels of heavy metals and formaldehyde.  Look for paints with the Green Seal Standard, which certifies that they meet certain industry standards for VOCs.

Green Seal is an independent, non-profit group that sets standards for environmentally responsible, or “green” products.  Do be aware, however, that even low VOC paints can contain toxins like fungicides and biocides, chemicals that are used to prevent mildew growth and extend the shelf life of the product.  What sets EnviroSafe apart is that they have no fungicides or biocides at all. They were one of the very first companies to create a line of No VOC paints for their chemically sensitive customers.  Since municipal tap water has been found to contain VOCs in just about every major metropolitan area throughout America, the water EnviroSafe uses in their paints is pure, filtered water pumped from a private well located in a rural area.

Their paints are available in a wide spectrum of colors, but since it’s made in small batches, you may need to plan ahead when ordering.  You can reach EnviroSafe at 830-232-6467.

EnviroSafe interior paints are available in flat, satin and semi-gloss, just like the nationally known brands you may know better. Chemically sensitive clients rely on products like these.

We can’t make toxins vanish into thin air, but we can do a lot to improve the air we breathe when we’re home with family and friends.  Visit my website at www.dujardindesign.com to see luxurious examples of eco-elegance.  A healthy, beautiful home is possible for all of us.