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Gently green conversations with Trudy Dujardin, FASID, LEED AP

Sailors for the Sea

 

I have always loved the sea. The ocean is a source of peace and strength for me. The beauty of its waves, beaches, animals and plants has been my design inspiration for years. My love for our oceans is part of my passion for creating homes that support our health and well-being, and that respect the fragile ecosystem around us.

 

 

My eco-elegant color palette often includes the infinite blues of sea and sky, the velvety greys of the fog, the bleached white of seashells, the sandy beige of the beaches, and the soft greens of pine trees and bayberries for island or coastal homes.

 

 

No wonder, then, that when I learned about the organization Sailors for the Sea, I knew I had to support their work, and share their message. A new friend who serves on their Board of Directors, Vin Cipolla, introduced me to Sailors for the Sea, explaining that their mission is to unite boaters to save the ocean. According to scientists and environmental groups, our oceans are in trouble:

 

 

The 8 million tons of plastic waste that enters the ocean each year? That’s the equivalent of about 1.5 million cars. While battling these problems is a formidable task, Sailors for the Sea refuses to be daunted by the challenge. Through four primary programs, Sailors for the Sea is working to reverse the tide of destruction.

 

CLEAN REGATTAS

 

The Clean Regatta Program unites sailors by offering support and resources to protect and conserve the ocean. Regatta organizers are equipped with a sustainability plan to reduce the environmental impact of their event. A “green team” is assembled to plan sustainable initiatives. The number of best practices followed determines a regatta’s certification level.

 

KELP

 

Kids Environmental Lesson Plans help children understand the oceans’ influence on them, and their influence on the ocean. The goal is to help today’s children become empowered as tomorrow’s ocean stewards. Lesson plans include topics such as Catching Fish; Beaches, Bays and Rivers;  Living Underwater; and Aquatic Animals. The KELP program wants children to know and love the ocean before we ask them to save it.

 

OCEAN WATCH

 

Ocean Watch is a resource where dozens of informative articles on topics such as ocean wind power, boat disposal, the loss of Lion fish, and how to save turtles are made available to the public. Knowledge is power!

 

GREEN BOATING GUIDE

 

Sailors for the Sea provides a free, downloadable guide for boaters, filled with critical information for everyone from the smallest boaters to the largest mega-yachts. Topics include: Pollution Prevention, Reducing Your Impact, Eco-Friendly Products, Greening Your Getaway, Wildlife and Habitat Protection, and Boat Maintenance. As someone famous once said, “When we know better, we do better.”

 

 

There are all kinds of ways to get involved and support Sailors for the Sea. My husband, Frank, and I have contributed as Ocean Guardians. Our participation with this wonderful organization is part of our commitment to give back to the ocean communities that sustain us, and that we love.

 

 

The American naturalist Henry Beston once said that “The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach.” Sailor for the Sea’s wish–and mine–is that everyone who hears the sound of the ocean may one day be assured that the water rushing to shore is clean, and remains a rich environment for all the wild things under and around its waves.

 

 

I hope you’ll join the more than 1.3 million people engaged with Sailors for the Sea. And “be the change you want to sea.”

 

 

Home ~ Health ~ Humanity

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A recent column by Nicholas Kristof entitled Are You a Toxic Waste Disposal Site? raised some disturbing issues. None of it, sadly, was news to me. The United States has delayed appropriate testing of industrial chemicals over and over again, largely due to the influence of lobbying groups. Mr. Kristof’s column said that “Scientists have identified more than 200 industrial chemicals–from pesticides, flame retardants, jet fuel–as well as neurotoxins like lead in the blood or breast milk of Americans, indeed, in people all over our planet.”

 

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Tractor spraying soybean field

 

As the pioneer of the sustainable design movement, I have spoken out for years in favor of non-toxic, chemical-free built environments to support our health, and the well-being of our families. I believe that your home, your health, and the future of humanity depends upon it. My clients know that whenever I can use a “green” alternative in fabric, upholstery, paints and floor finishes, wood furniture and cabinetry, that’s what I choose. I created the phrase “eco-elegant (TM)” to demonstrate to people that homes can be beautiful, sophisticated, and serene, and still maintain their health through clean air and furnishings that do not off-gas potentially dangerous fumes.

 

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My philosophy is simple: to live in a way that shows respect for all life on earth, we must be open to questioning the impact of our choices. One of my environmental heroes, Chief Oren Lyons of the Iroquois Confederacy, described to me the tradition of tribal leaders in making decisions: Not only do they consider the impact on the next generation, they also examine the consequences all the way to the seventh generation.

 

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I wrote my book, Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior, to show a healthier way of living. I urge anyone who cares about their health and a holistic approach to lifestyle and the earth to read it. On pages 232-233, you’ll find an easy-to-reference listing of green products that is the culmination of my lifetime of work selecting the most eco-friendly products. It includes everything from bedding and carpeting, to duct work and adhesives, to vacuum cleaners and products for your pets.

 

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I promise you, there’s a healthier way to live, and the changes are not difficult to make. Ready to protect yourself and your family, friends, and companion animals from a poorly regulated industry? I want to help. Click here to take the first step toward the Eco-Elegant Life.

 

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Small Shifts Cause Large Waves: Paris 2015

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The 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference, also known as COP21 (Conference of the Parties 21) is the twenty first meeting of what is now a near-universal membership of 195 countries. Begun in response to climate change at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the “Rio Convention” included the adoption of the UN Framework on Climate Change. That was the first framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. 

The COP meetings exist to review the Convention’s implementation. The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995. COP3 was where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, COP11 produced the Montreal Action Plan, COP17 was in Durban where the Green Climate Fund was created.

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Ed Mazria is the founder of Architecture 2030, an organization committed to protecting our global environment by using innovation to develop bold solutions to global warming. He has called COP21 in Paris “an end to the fossil fuel era.” The historic agreement signed there is a long term goal committing almost 200 countries, including the U.S., China, India and the EU nations, to keep the global average temperature increase to “well below 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees centigrade.”

According to Ed, “the Paris Agreement introduces a new world, one that envisions an end to fossil fuel emissions and secures a strong mechanism to address climate change.”

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photo courtesy of Architecture2030.org

COP21 attracted nearly 50,000 participants, including 25,000 official delegates. Multiple forums were held on a variety of related topics. In addition, thousands of demonstrators were permitted to gather on December 12, in spite of France’s tightened security after the recent terrorist attacks. 

The following is a guest post by architect Veronica Schreibeis Smith, of Vera Iconica Architecture in Jackson, Wyoming. Veronica attended the Sustainable Energy for All Conference at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, held from November 30 to December 12, 2015. I asked her to share her thoughts here.         –Trudy

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photo courtesy of Architecture2030.org

We’ll begin with a few questions:

Q: Veronica, what part of the Paris Climate Conference did you attend?

A: I attended Sustainable Energy for All.

(Referred to as SE4all, “Sustainable Energy for All is a call for both revolution and reform; a radical vision where everyone can access and afford the reliable energy they need to live a productive, healthy, secure life, while respecting the planetary constraints that we all face as a result of climate change.” –Rachel Kyte, SE4All CEO/Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General)

Q: Why did you attend the Conference?

A: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Many times, our good intentions have unintended consequences. As the SE4All initiative focuses on powering the world, we need to simultaneously be working on initiatives that empower (people) to make the right decisions on how to use the energy once they receive it.

Buildings consume almost half the world’s power production. If we deliver power to exponentially more people, while only focusing on doubling the efficiency of the infrastructure and doubling the amount of of sustainable energy, we likely have not made a positive impact, but rather have continued on a track of more consumption.

My focus is how can we implement grass roots movements in Third World countries that educate people on how to have healthy and sustainable homes, and make healthy decisions for their families regarding consumption and preservation of culture, once they receive the energy.

To date, my role has been as a participant in think tank type of discussions to brainstorm what initiatives and actionable steps could be viable for making this come true.

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photo courtesy of SE4All.org

Q: What was your takeaway on the most actionable steps?

A: To get involved. Not just wait and see what others are going to do, but to donate your time or money; if you have an idea, to reach out to the United Nations Foundations and share (what) you want to put into practice and just need financing for; to promote and encourage yourself and others to get involved as a public + private relationship to make meaningful change.

What do you think were the key accomplishments?

A: For the Paris talks in general, the level of unprecedented participation from around the globe. There was a social media survey from the UN that was mostly electronic, but in some areas they had paper ballots hand-delivered to UN outposts, and tallied by staff there. For every one thousand humans on this planet, one person responded to the survey. That is 7 million people from around the world uniting to create change and a better life for a healthier planet. That alone is huge. Good will follow–in exponential increments!

From that survey, the UN defined the 17 top priorities for the 21st century. The top five are:

  1. Poverty
  2. No Hunger
  3. Good Health
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality

The movement asks all of us to become a global citizen. This video explains more:

Veronica continues:

  • Nature is integral to human wellbeing, and a shift in the realization of our interconnectedness to the environment is continually growing. We can see this vast change in only six short years since the unsuccessful climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009. Last month, an unmistakeable belief in a successful outcome for the Paris Climate Talks was clear after the first week.

 

  • There is no doubt that alterations in timing and logistics played a part. Most notable was the change from the world leaders’ involvement as the negotiators in 2009 to their limited role as speakers and advocates early in the first week, followed by relinquishing final negotiations to environmental and policy professionals. The greatest contributing factor came from outside the closed doors, and even outside Paris.

 

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photo courtesy of United Nations Conference on Climate Change

  • The Earth to Paris movement reached an unprecedented number of people across the planet. The Internet allowed access for all, which diminished the chasm that has distanced us in the past, such as residing in a developed versus developing countries, age gaps, social and economic backgrounds, and more.

 

  • Thousands of videos hosted by celebrities grabbed our attention on social media, surveys invited us to express our opinions, and finally, the call for Love Letters to Paris invited our thoughts to be hand delivered to leaders behind those closed doors. And it worked.

 

 

  • What keeps me going back to the United Nations Foundation discussions is the focus on how public and private sectors can unite to transform ideas into reality, to move from talk to walk. We heard success stories from Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, examples of how companies like Phillips Petroleum are leaping toward carbon-free operations and incorporating holistic, circular economy strategies, and how start-ups are innovating solutions, such as Mobilsol, which delivers off-the-grid solar energy via drones in Africa.

 

  • A subtle shift in perspective and an increase in awareness, followed by one actionable step after another is the catalyst needed to inspire individuals, companies, and economies of scale to make meaningful change, toward better husbandry of the earth.

 

  • Small shifts in perspective can cause massive ripples. After all, thoughts are things, and the unification of humanity’s thoughts will certainly cause waves. A connected world is powerful. A united world is power. Join in the efforts. Do your part. You make a difference as a collective part of the whole.

 

Veronica

Veronica Schreibeis Smith is the CEO and Founding Principal of Vera Iconica Architecture. Veronica’s entrepreneurial half is driven by the vision of creating company structures that support and empower individuals to reach their highest potential, while the architect in her is driven to raise awareness of the profound effects our surroundings have on our wellbeing. She has practiced architecture on four continents, and continues working internationally. She chairs the Wellness Architecture Initiative for the Global Wellness Institute, and recently founded Designed Developments, a B Corporation that invests in a new model of building to inspire and perpetuate the celebration of the richness of culture, pay homage to the natural landscape,and create environments that nourish our wellbeing and feed our souls. 

 

Design Futures Council: Senior Fellow

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This has been an especially gratifying year for me. In the past twelve months, I’ve published my design book (Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior), I’ve been named to the College of Fellows for the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), and I have just received word that the Design Futures Council has named me a Senior Fellow.

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Ed Mazria reporting on the climate, 2014

The Design Futures Council (DFC) is an interdisciplinary network of leaders in design confronting global challenges. I’ve been a longtime member and contributor, happy to join with my friend and respected colleague James P. Cramer, who became the DFC’s primary founder and facilitator of information and inspiration throughout the organization.

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To be named as a Senior Fellow by this highly esteemed group of professionals is recognition for “significant contributions toward the understanding of changing trends, new research, and applied knowledge that improve the built environment and the human condition.”

Jim Cramer says, “The leadership role of design is of critical importance toward the creation of a healthier and happier planet. The new Senior Fellows of the DFC have been selected for the tremendous impact they have had on our world.”

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A happier, healthier planet is what I’ve worked for throughout my career. I’m proud to join the other Senior Fellows in that endeavor.

 

Come See Me On Nantucket!

I’m excited to have two wonderful events coming up on Nantucket the first week in August. If you’re on the island, I hope you’ll come by and say hello. At both, I’ll be talking about my favorite topics: green design, healthy living, and being kind to planet earth. I welcome your questions and am looking forward to celebrating summer with all my island friends!


On Wednesday, August 5th,please come to the panel discussion on Eco-Friendly Building and Design, hosted by Audrey Sterk’s Nantucket Color & Design Studio at 18 Broad Street.


I’ll be appearing along with my good friend Tom Ayars, a renovation and restoration expert with 35 years of experience, from 5 to 6 p.m. Tom will talk about how restoration and renovation can be “green,” too. If it’s a nice day, we’ll be outside on the patio.


On Friday, August 7th, I’ll be helping to celebrate the Dane Gallery’s 20th Anniversary with a Comfort Zone book signing from 6 to 8 p.m. Please join us for refreshments and great conversations at 28 Center Street. I’ll be answering your questions about healthy homes and green design, and what I mean by “eco-elegant.” (You can have a beautiful, sophisticated home, and have it be “green,” too!)


Hope to see you all there!

Clean Slate

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My commitment to living sustainably is a 365 day a year endeavor, and I know that’s true for many of you, too. Earth Day, though, provides us an annual opportunity to reflect on our connection to to the earth, and to make a fresh start with a clean slate. Andy Goldsworthy, a British sculptor and environmentalist, says, “We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say we’ve lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.”

Silhouette of Man Raising His Hands or Open arms when sun rising up

One of the ways we lose that connection is through the use of pesticides and dangerous chemicals. Warning people about the dangers of these toxic materials has been a large part of my life’s work; you can read some of what I’ve written before here, and here. My book, Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior, offers several helpful resources, from a guide to green products, to a recommended reading list, to my own personal stories of being exposed to pesticides and other chemicals, beginning as a small child. We have options rather than resorting to dangerous and toxic products. Learning more is the first step.

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The half life of some pesticides is over 500 years, and the drift when sprayed can be over a mile. There are surprising ways to be exposed to pesticides, for instance, an alarming number of pesticide ingredients can be found in ordinary house dust.

Pesticides and fertilizers can also find their way into groundwater over time, in one of two ways. Chemicals can enter groundwater through a stream after a rainstorm as runoff. Or they can reach groundwater by leaching, which is the downward movement of a substance through soil. Not only does this result in algae bloom, which removes oxygen from the water and results in “dead zones,” but the 75 million pounds of pesticides Americans spray on their gardens each year can be ingested by fish, who become diseased. Once we eat those fish, the cycle of pollution has come full circle.

Beautiful child with sunflower

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), pesticide use has increased over 50% in the past three decades, and today totals 8 pounds for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. Approximately 875 pesticide ingredients are formulated into 21,000 different products. Our children are most at risk, according to the The National Academy of Sciences, due to their immature systems and a more rapid metabolic rate. In addition, children frequently consume fewer different types of food, possibly leading to higher exposure through their diets.

strawberry girl

Good news! A highly toxic pesticide and known carcinogen used primarily in strawberry fields, methyl iodide, has been withdrawn from the market by its manufacturer.

If that isn’t enough to concern us, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has identified at least ninety six different pesticide ingredients registered for use that are potential human carcinogens. The link above will take you to a page where you can order the booklet that lists them.

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We also know more today about products that include parabens, known to be endocrine disruptors, that are commonly used as preservatives in many popular cosmetics. They are also used as food additives. Dr. Frank Lipman, a leading holistic physician, offers an overview of dangers and tips on how to avoid them here. We all need to read labels. Whole Foods has wonderful, safe, clean products for your hair, skin and face. I also like Nurture My Body products, available online.

I have been stirred to action by leading environmentalists, scientists and authors who have spoken out about the dangers we face. One of the books I often recommend is Our Stolen Future, by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers. Rachel Carson, in Silent Spring, published in 1962, said, “Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called ‘insecticides,’ but biocides.”

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Rachel Carson

She went on to explain that the pesticide industry grew out of World War II with chemical testing. Once scientists realized they had the ability to kill insects, they envisioned a new and better world for people.

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A book titled Our Daily Poison: From Pesticides to Packaging, How Chemicals Have Contaminated Our Food Chain and Are Making Us Sick, by Marie-Monique Robin, is also a film by the same name, a documentary that reveals a broken safety system. You can watch a three minute video about the film here.

Being aware of the dangers of pesticide use is not enough to protect us. Unfortunately, we can be exposed to very toxic chemicals without our knowledge or permission. Several years ago, I lived in a beautiful apartment in Greenwich, Connecticut with stunning views of Manhattan and Long Island Sound. My apartment was pristine and clean and chemical free, so at first I was puzzled about my dizzy spells.

When I spoke to other tenants in the building, they affirmed that many residents were being made sick by something in the air. I hired an Industrial Hygienist to investigate, and found that the building management was using a rodenticide that had been banned from use for over fifteen years, since it had been linked to kidney cancer. The force of air from the elevators was pushing the vapors of this toxic chemical from the basement onto each floor.

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On April 9th of this year, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an account of a Wilmington, Delaware family that was poisoned after being exposed to a banned pesticide at a vacation condo in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A couple and their two teenage sons were hospitalized after occupying a condo one floor above a space that was sprayed with an odorless pesticide called methyl bromide, that can cause convulsions and coma. It was banned for us in residential settings in 1984, but it is still marketed for some agricultural uses.

methyl bromide

Two weeks later, the EPA reported that there is evidence that methyl bromide has been used improperly at locations in Puerto Rico. In addition, Virgin Islands newspapers have reported that companies on two other islands, St. Thomas and St. Croix, had stocks of the pesticides.

It’s easy to become frightened and even overwhelmed by what’s happening on our planet, but knowledge is power. I have always believed in the Power of One, the ability each of us has to make a difference. By being informed, and by informing others, we can protect ourselves and our planet. Let’s start today!

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Creating Comfort Zone

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Why write a book?

Writing Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior, the book that capsulizes my design work over the past decades and that shares my message on the importance of sustainable design and living, has been one of the most rewarding periods in my career. It has also been one of the most demanding, when combined with a busy professional and personal life!

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At an installation on Nantucket with Senior Designer Price Connors

Here’s why I did it: I have a story to tell. Part of my story is about the importance of creating a home that is a place where we can rest and restore ourselves, a place of comfort. Part of my story is about the importance of surrounding ourselves with beauty, because beauty elevates our hearts and minds. Beautiful, high-style design is intended to both soothe and inspire.

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Rooms in a home are not merely functional. When properly appointed, our home’s interiors provide a true background for all the important moments of our lives. How an interior designer assembles a room, piece by piece, is always unique to the individual, and combines the best training, background and experience, our own vision and feeling for a home, and the client’s dreams.

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Comfort Zone is a peek behind the curtain: a look at the process, and the results!

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And part of my story, a very large part, is about my belief that having the best means doing the best, for our homes, our health, and the environment.

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As a LEED Accredited Professional with a specialty in Interior Design and Construction, a public speaker at environmental forums, as well as an adjunct professor at Fairfield University, a large part of my career has been devoted to educating clients, students and friends about the importance of living “green.” I agree with the wisdom of author Rita Mae Brown, who said, “I believe you are your work. Don’t trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That’s a rotten bargain.”

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Comfort Zone shares my knowledge about how to create a healthy home, knowledge I’ve accumulated over a lifetime. There is a wealth of information, including step by step plans for renovating your own home sustainably. You can read it to find out more about why antique furniture is a surprisingly eco-friendly addition to your home, or why you should consider No-VOC paints, organic wool carpets and FSC-certified woods. You can learn how to make a home lightly green, moderately green, or deeply green. You can read it simply as a beautiful design book, but all the information is there to help you live more healthfully.

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Perhaps the most valuable page or two is a directory of green products and services, my carefully vetted list of sustainable resources.  An up-to-the-minute feature is an app called Layar, interactive print technology that adds a touch of magic. By downloading the Layar app to your smart phone or tablet, you can hover above any of six pages in the book and Layar will take you to additional on-line information. That information that will be updated regularly so that you will always have access to the latest ideas, products and thoughts on eco-elegant living.

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Of course Comfort Zone was created using acid -free, FSC-certified cotton cloth covers and interior vellums, and printed with vegetable-based ink from renewable sources. Next month’s posts will describe more about my trip to Venice to oversee the latest in eco-responsible printing processes there.

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Last, the book itself was designed to be a lovely piece of art. Book designer Stafford Cliff, part of the wonderful team at Pointed Leaf Press, publishers of Comfort Zone, brought my ideas to life with his intuitive understanding of my work, and my passion for the earth.

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He and the very talented Dominick Santise produced the stunning end papers, vellums, and details that make Comfort Zone the treasure that it is. I will always be grateful for the way their hearts and hands contributed to this work.

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A famous American architect, Daniel Burnham, said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood…Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.” I have aimed high in hope and work with Comfort Zone. I want you to aim high in hope and work in making your home a healthy sanctuary for yourselves, your families, your pets and your friends.

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Because A Healthy Home is the Ultimate Luxury. (TM)

Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior is available online at Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, or through Pointed Leaf Press. You can also find it at your own local book store, or ask to have it ordered there.

Happy reading!

 

Don’t Just Sit There

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Whenever we sit down, to work, to eat, to meet with others, or to relax, we don’t tend to think much about what we’re sitting on. A sofa or a chair or an ottoman all have been engineered for our comfort over the years, with fabric, foam filling, and a sturdy structure to support our bodies as we rest. And since 1975, according to the Green Science Policy Institute, upholstered furniture has been designed for our (supposed) safety as well, with the introduction of flame retardant chemicals.

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The chemicals intended to keep our homes from going up in flames have been linked to cancer, neurological defects, developmental problems, and impaired fertility. Manufacturers first began adding fire retardants to furniture due to a California law that required foam cushions to withstand a candlelike flame for 12 seconds. A now defunct group known as Citizens for Fire Safety, led by chemical manufacturers, was instrumental in getting the law passed, according to a Chicago Tribune article. (Read it here.)

Broom, Dust & Fur Ball on Parquet Floor

In 2004, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) warned of high levels of toxic fire retardants found in house dust, in every single home sampled. The average level of brominated fire retardants measured in dust was more than 4,600 parts per billion (ppb). Like PCBS, the fire retardants known as PBDEs (polybrominated biphenyl ethers) are persistent in the environment and build up in people’s bodies over a lifetime. In minute doses they impair attention, learning, memory and behavior in animals.

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Recently the EWG released a new study done with Duke University, where they found evidence of exposure to a cancer-causing fire retardant, TDCIPP, in the bodies of all 22 mothers and 26 children tested. The children had an average of nearly five times as much as the mothers of a chemical formed when TDCIPP breaks down in the body.

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I’ve shared my concerns about chemically laden upholstered furniture before. In addition to PBDEs, your furniture likely contains formaldehyde, polyurethane and dioxins. All of these toxins infiltrate your home and the air you breathe through “offgassing,” the release of chemicals into the air through evaporation.

Today, we can choose soy-based versus foam cushions, recycled filling for pillows, water based stains and organic upholstery fabric.

In addition, the EWG shares these tips:

  • Do your homework before buying baby products. Many kinds of baby products still use harmful chemicals. Find out before you buy.
  • When buying a new sofa, choose one made without fire retardants. New regulations make it much easier for furniture manufacturers to sell products that have not been saturated with chemicals. Contact the manufacturer to ask if fire retardants are in its furniture.
  • Want to reupholster your sofa? Replace the foam, too. The old foam likely contains fire retardants. Ask your upholstery shop to find retardant free foam, or choose an organic filling.
  • Inspect foam cushioning for damage. Exposed foam can cause fire retardant chemicals to leach out more quickly. Items such as car seats and mattress pads should always be completely encased in protective fabric.
  • Use a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter. These vacuums will remove more contaminants and allergens from your home.
  • Be careful when removing old carpeting. The padding is typically made of scrap foam that contains fire retardants. Old carpet padding can become somewhat pulverized by the time it is exposed for replacement. Isolate the work area from the rest of your home.

There’s a petition to the Consumer Product Safety Commission asking for national furniture flammability standards that do not encourage or require fire retardants. Find it here, and get toxic chemicals out of our couches!

Pets and Pesticides

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Spring brings warmer weather, and with it, the re-emergence of our pets’ worst tormentors: fleas and ticks. Pet owners can spend more than $200 per year per pet on flea shampoos, flea collars, and topical flea and tick controls. The hidden cost isn’t in the damage to your bank account, however, but the potential damage to your pet’s health.

The Humane Society of the United States has added its voice to the The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in warning that some flea and tick products contain chemicals, specifically permethrins, that not only can cause the death of your dog or cat, but are likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

At least 1,600 pet deaths related to spot on treatments with pyrethroids were reported to the EPA over the last five years. They account for more than half of major pesticide pet reactions, including brain damage, heart attacks and violent seizures.

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The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) has a report entitled Poisons on Pets that details the risks to both pets and children. Because children’s bodies are still developing, they are more sensitive to the effects of toxic chemicals than adults. Toddlers’ hand to mouth behavior makes it easy for toxins to be ingested, for example, and children spend time where toxins from pet products tend to accumulate: crawling on rugs, playing with pet toys and holding their much loved pet dog or cat.

As bad as the products are for people, they’re worse for pets. The NRDC says that based on the available data, hundreds and probably thousands of pets have been injured or killed through exposure to pesticides. Just like small children, pets can’t tell us when they’re being poisoned at low doses.

Sleepy kitten

Flea control products on the market include seven specific organophosphate insecticides (OPs). OPs work by blocking the breakdown of the body’s messenger chemical, acetylcholine, and interfering with the transmission of nerve signals in the brains and nervous systems of insects, pets and humans. In the presence of OPs, acetylcholine builds up in the body. The resulting interference with nerve transmissions is of such a magnitude that it actually kills insects. But even at normal doses, it can also harm pets and children (from the NRDC’s Poisons on Pets.)

The seven OPs are chlorpyrifos, dichlorvos, phosmet, naled, tetrachlorvinphos, diazinon and malathion. Another commonly used pesticide in a popular topically applied product is fipronil. According to Virginia Dobozy, a veterinarian at the EPA, fipronil products are classified as carcinogens, producing malignant as well as benign tumors in laboratory tests. Exposure to these insecticides can more than double the risk of Parkinson’s later in life. For pregnant women exposed to pesticides, their children were 250% more likely to be diagnosed with brain cancer before their fifth birthday.

children and pets

We want to believe that all of the products available for sale have been tested and proven safe. But that’s just not so. According to the CPI, “The EPA cannot make its own assessment because unlike the regulations directing the FDA’s approval of human products, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act does not require pet products to undergo field trials prior to approval.”

What should you do instead? There is no question that ticks carry dangerous diseases that are transmitted to humans, including Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF), among others.Some of these are transmitted by ticks in their nymph stage, or even at full grown size, but are no larger than a poppy seed. Here are some of the non-toxic alternatives available:

  • Earth Animal, a holistic pet care retail store and website begun by a veterinarian and his wife, offers a natural flea and tick prevention program that is based on adding powder and drops to your animal’s daily diet. A combination of vitamins, minerals and herbs helps to change the odor of the pet’s blood chemistry, so fleas, ticks, mosquitos and black flies do not like either the odor or taste of the blood. The odor is undetectable by humans. During the flea and tick season, you can mist your dog’s belly, paws and coat daily with an organic bug spray to help repel insects.
  • Another safe, environmentally friendly product I use is Damminix Tick Tubes.  Since Lyme Disease begins with mice, not deer, Tick Tubes rely on the natural nesting instincts of mice to fight the battle. Placed on your property in areas where mice frolic, the biodegradable, cardboard tubes are filled with permethrin treated cotton balls. Mice collect the cotton to build nests in their burrows. Young ticks feeding on the mice are killed by the mild insecticide before they can spread Lyme Disease to you and your family. It is important to use this only on the perimeter of your property, in safe places that are not accessible to pets or children. Even mild insecticides are poisons, and must be used carefully and responsibly.
  • I use organic cedar mulch as another layer of protection in my garden beds. It’s a natural pest repellent, but does not harm beneficial insects such as butterflies and bees. You can even place a small amount in an open container in your pantry or closets for a pleasant cedar aroma that will deter indoor pests.
  • Buck Mountain Parasite Dust, available only through veterinarians and pet stores, can be used to rid animals, gardens and buildings of flies, fleas, ticks, mites, ants and more. Its active insecticide is a chemical derived from the Neem tree, which is both a repellant and provides disinfectant and healing properties. You can sprinkle the dust on your pet’s back from head to tail, and brush against the hair to bring the dust into contact with the skin. A teaspoon of the dust can also be placed on a window sill to eliminate fleas, flies and other bugs in your home. It is safe for use in your garden as well.
  • Essentria IC3 Insecticide Concentrate (formerly labeled as Eco Exempt) is USDA National Organic Program (NOP) compliant, so it can be used in restaurants , schools, animal clinics and healthcare facilities without danger. Recommended by Chris Baliko, Accredited Organic Land Care Professional (AOLCP) of Growing Solutions LLC, Its active botanical ingredients include rosemary oil, peppermint oil and geraniol (found in many essential oils). These act as octopamine blockers, disrupting insects’ central nervous systems. Because mammals, birds and fish do not have receptors for octopamine, botanical oils are very safe to use.

I’ve written extensively about non toxic flea and tick control:  read more here. 

In addition, follow these steps:

  • Wash your pet with a pesticide-free shampoo, and brush or comb frequently.
  • Vacuum carpets and upholstered furniture on a regular basis. Dispose of the bags immediately after use.
  • Keep your lawn mowed.
  • Cats should be kept indoors at all times.
  • The NRDC has reviewed the ingredients of more than 100 products and published a guide called Greenpaws Flea and Tick Products Directory.  Make informed choices, and keep your pets, your family and the earth safe from harm.

dogs and the sea

 

Earth Week 2014

earth

Earth Day is on Tuesday, April 22nd this year, but many organizations and individuals are celebrating the entire week as Earth Week. From Monday April 21st to Friday, April 25th, you can help mark the event in your community, your workplace and your home. Every little step counts, often for the littlest creatures among us.

butterfly 2

For a new approach to celebrating with family and friends, the Earth Day Network is suggesting an Earth Day Dinner,  prepared with as many local, seasonal and organic products as possible. Look for new sources of locally grown produce and organic meats and vegetables. Include information behind the history of each food, and if you know something about the farm where it was grown, or the farmer who grew it, share that, too.

Colorful vegetables and fruits

This is also a good week to make the switch to “green” household cleaning products.  See my March blog post on ways to Clean Green.

clean green

In this month’s What I Love, I share information on how to keep your pets free of ticks and fleas, without resorting to chemicals that are toxic to them, and to you and your family. Read it here.

itchy dogs

Seventh Generation offers excellent green living tips on their website for the entire month. Some of my favorites are:

-Open windows and doors occasionally (even in winter) to bring in fresh air and rinse out pollutants that have accumulated inside. I also suggest investing in a whole house air filtration system. Learn more here.

-If every home in the U.S. replaced just one 12-pack of 300 sheet bathroom tissue with Seventh Generation’s 100% recycled product, we could save 1.9 million trees and 690 million gallons of water.

-Dust with a damp cloth to ensure that household dust, the final resting place of many toxins that enter our homes, is removed and not stirred back into the air.

red bedroom

My five things that everyone should do to live more healthfully are here. 

Tips on creating a “green” and healthy bedroom are here.

There are many more posts on my blog about choosing non-toxic products and materials, and living a clean, holistic life. I encourage you to read through the archives and learn more!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtfully committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”–Margaret Mead

garden 3

 

 

 

 

My Environmental Hero: Chief Oren Lyons

oren lyons 3There are many passionate activists working to educate people about the dangers of climate change, and doing what they can to make a difference. They are my environmental heroes, and I’d like to introduce them to you on Holistic House. As the first in a new series,  I decided to begin with Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga and Seneca Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy). He is also a member of the Council of Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee. You may have heard of him as a professor, author, publisher, outspoken advocate of both environmental and Indigenous causes, and if that weren’t enough, honorary chairman of the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse team!

Years ago, I sat with him at my first sustainable design conference. He said that when the tribal council of elders gathers to consider a decision, they look at its impact not to the next generation, or even the next, but all the way to the seventh generation. He also told me that while we in our culture call the trees “resources,” that his people call them relatives. Those thoughts have guided me in making many decisions in the years since.

Jesuits & Onondagas - Oren Lyon

Chief Oren Lyons is a voice for the rights of indigenous peoples around the world. He describes it like this: “At first I wanted to defend the Iroquois. Then my sights broadened to embrace other Indians. Then I saw this had to include defending indigenous peoples all over the world.”

In the same way, he has a commitment to protecting the earth. His words are powerful, and I hope that by sharing them with you here, together we can help his audience to continue to grow. I believe that we are in the midst of a crisis on our planet, but it is not too late to take action, wherever we can, to help heal the earth.

Chief Lyons says:

“It seems to me that we are living in a time of prophecy, a time of definitions and decisions. We are the generation with the responsibilities and the option to choose The Path of Life for the future of our children, or the life and path which defies the Laws of Rengeneration.

“We can still alter our course. It is NOT too late. We still have options. We need the courage to change our values to the regeneration of our families, the life that surrounds us. Given this opportunity, we can raise ourselves. We must join hands with the rest of Creation and speak of Common Sense, Brotherhood, and PEACE. We must understand that The Law is the Seed and only as True Partners can we survive.”

He also says:

“Global warming is real. It is imminent. It is upon us. It’s a lot closer than you think, and I don’t think we’re ready for what’s coming. We’re not instructing our people, we’re not instructing our children, we’re not preparing for what is coming. And it surely is coming. We’ve pulled the trigger and there is nothing we can do now to stop it. The event is underway.

“The chiefs, and I personally, feel that we have not passed the point of no return. Not yet, but we’re approaching it. And the day when we do pass that point, there will be no boom, no sonic sound. It will be just like any other day.”

global warming 2

Chief Lyons was born in 1930, and raised in the Iroquois culture on the Seneca and Onondage reservations in upstate New York. He served in the United States Army, and received an athletic scholarship to Syracuse University. In this video, he describes the beginning of his commitment to environmentalism, during a conversation with his uncle after his graduation.

You can learn more about Chief Lyons by watching Bill Moyer’s PBS documentary, Faithkeeperor by watching Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary The 11th Hour. 

 

How to Garden Green

Blooming Tulips in Garden

Spring is here, and another season of rebirth and growth is upon us. We have a new opportunity, as gardeners, as homeowners, and as earth’s citizens, to make choices that support life, down to the tiniest creatures. Although you may not see evidence of it every day, your garden is teeming with life: bees lazily buzzing from flower to flower, birds flitting through trees brimming with nests and berries, and rivers, streams and ponds in wetlands throughout the region you call home

To really see just how many creatures are part of your micro ecosystem, try this: Sink a clean glass jar, without its lid, into a hole in the ground, and leave it overnight. The next morning, walk outside and enjoy your coffee with the beetles and other little visitors who came to your garden while you slept. Each one is part of a delicate balance that exists in every square foot of your property.

praying mantis

Make Your Garden a Sanctuary

Lawn and garden chemicals are poisons to things that live, including humans and pets. They pollute our water, harm wildlife, and interrupt the delicate balance of our ecosystem. They may also be endocrine disruptors, interfering with the body’s hormonal system in both humans and wildlife. If you’re not part of the suburban quest for the perfect lawn, then your neighbors might be. Killing weeds and encouraging rapid growth of thick green grass may seem the natural thing to do, but nothing could be further from nature.

One hundred million pounds of lawn care chemicals are used by homeowners every year. These include chemicals that kill weeds, insects, and a variety of plant diseases.  A study from the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) found pesticides in 100% of the people who had both blood and urine tested. The average person carried 12 of the 23 pesticides they searched for. Many of these chemicals are linked to cancer, birth defects, and liver or kidney damage.

This Year, Garden Green 

It’s possible to have a beautiful lawn and garden without resorting to dangerous and toxic chemicals. Make this year your “Garden Green” year.

Boy lies on a grass

Here’s how for the lawn:

  • Healthy soil promotes healthy plants. This is your foundation for every other thing you do in the garden. How do you get healthy soil? Add organic compost. You can make your own, or buy it.
  • Corn gluten is increasingly used as a high-nitrogen organic fertilizer. Organic fertilizers feed your lawn slowly; quick release chemical fertilizers encourage rapid growth that weakens the grass, promotes disease and leaches into nearby surface waters.
  • Tolerate a few weeds. You can dig them out by hand if they bother you, or you can adopt the philosophy of “live and let live.” A few weeds can also provide a home for beneficial insects, which keep the overall landscape in good health.
  • For the first and last mowing, mow down to two inches, which prevents fungus growth. For the rest of the year, keep our grass higher, at three inches, to shade out weeds and foster deep roots. Short grass promotes weeds, shallow roots and thatch.

toddler gardening

Here’s how for the garden:

  • Just like in your lawn, add organic material to your garden soil to make it healthier, and less likely to be a host to disease.
  • Spread mulch (chopped leaves, shredded bark, compost) to smother weeds and keep soil moist.
  • Put up birdhouses and bird feeders to encourage nature’s pest patrol to help with insect problems.
  • Carefully choose plants that are suited to your year round temperatures, rainfall and amount of sun required. Look for disease resistant varieties of ornamental trees and roses.
  • A diverse biosphere in the garden best mimics nature, and makes a stable ecosystem. Plant a mix of trees, shrubs, flowers and herbs.
  • Remember that even organic chemicals and pesticides can cause damage if overused, so apply with care, and be sparing in their use!

A few other ideas to make your garden a home for wildlife and a pleasure for everyone:

butterfly

  • Instead of putting up fences, plant hedges.  A hedge can provide food, shelter and a nursery for wildlife, including birds and butterflies. If you want a fool-proof way to bring butterflies to your garden, plant a butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii)! Monarch butterflies love the purple variety. 
  • Set up a wormery. If you have a compost system, add worms! You can buy a full kit, and they’ll eat virtually any organic kitchen waste. You’ll be making the best compost in the world. You might try Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm.
  • Encourage other beneficial insects. Lady bugs that eat aphids can be purchased online (Gardens Alive offers lady beetles by mail) or, if you live in Connecticut, at Gilberties Herb Garden in Westport.
  • If you have the space, you can even add a few chickens to provide your family with eggs. They enjoy foraging for garden insects, so they’re a benefit in two ways. Check out Backyard Chickens for more information!

Enjoy nature, and feel good about keeping your little piece of the earth safe and clean. Happy Spring!

 

 

Shifting Sands

© kenneth brizzee

The sea level is rising. That’s an indisputable fact, along with the increasingly dramatic storm forces that are part of climate change. The next century will certainly bring more significant erosion to coastal areas, particularly in New England.

Scientists have a wealth of information about the ocean and the tides, primarily because sailors and fishermen have kept weather logs and sailing records for more than two hundred years. We know for a fact that the average sea level has risen a little over 8 inches since 1880. That doesn’t sound like a lot, perhaps, but it contributes greatly to beach erosion during calm weather, and damaging higher tidal surges during storms.

It’s the emission of large amounts of greenhouse gases that’s driving the change. The difficulty for coastal towns on the East Coast is that even while sea levels are rising, the land mass is actually sinking. All the way from southern Maine to northern Florida, and fastest in the Chesapeake Bay region, coastal flooding is getting worse, in part because of the lower land levels.

The New York Times published an excellent article, The Flood Next Time, identifying average sea level increases along the East Coast. In Norfolk, Virginia, as an example, neighborhoods are flooding even without storm surges. You can read the Times article here.

When I attended Greenbuild in Philadelphia in November 2013, architect and environmental expert Ed Mazria said that 2013 was the hottest year on record. His organization, 2030 Architecture, was established in 2002 in response to climate change, with a mission of changing the way the built environment and communities are planned, designed and constructed. Environmentalists first thought they could turn things around by 2030, but now they know that climate change is accelerating at a faster pace than thought. Read his thought-provoking Special Bulletin here. 

Top climate scientist James Hansen, retired from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City (1981-2013) and a spokesperson for the dangers of climate change, continues to warn us about the dangers of ignoring what’s taking place. You can watch his informative and persuasive TED talk here. He tells us we’ve passed the tipping pout of CO2 levels able 400ppm, but we must carry on and do the best we can.

The question is: what is our best? Attempts to mitigate the beach erosion and save homes on Nantucket aren’t always successful, or popular. In an article written for Treehugger.com, Sarah Oktay, the vice-chairman of the Nantucket Conservation Commission, explains the problem with “beach nourishment,” which is the dumping of tons of sand on eroded beaches to slow their disappearance, as well as putting up retaining walls.

The attempts to slow erosion, she says, cause harm to someone else. “If you take beach bluffs or dunes and you cover them in rocks so it can’t go anywhere, then it no longer provides that feeder material to downdrift beaches, so you’ll lose the beach in front of those rocks, and you’ll lose the beach downdrifts. It’s basically telling your neighbors, ‘Well, I want my home more than you want your beach.’ That doesn’t mean it’s not sad.”

This photograph of the beach in Madaket on Nantucket Island shows the way the rising tides come in, and when they recede, drag sand back out to sea. There used to be a home on the site shown below.

nantucket erosion 1

A clear view of beach erosion. Baxter Road on Sconset Bluff has been hardest hit.

Nantucket erosion 2

There are a number of homes that have been moved to higher ground, or farther inland, including some that have been island landmarks for generations.

Nantucket erosion 3

The home below is jacked up on steel beams.

Nantucket erosion house jacked up on steel

Here’s another home getting ready to be moved farther inland.

nantucket erosion house raised because of creek madaket

We’re facing the limits of human intervention in combating a situation we created. We’ve lost time arguing over whether or not global warming and climate change are real concerns. Rather than feeling helpless, however, we need to take what action we can to support a healthy earth, and protect our coasts. There are so many good people doing good work for the environment. I urge you to support the environmental groups of your choice. I believe in The Power of One. You and I together can make a difference for the generations yet to be born.

 

Gardening with Nature

garden

Someone once said that a garden (and lawn, for that matter) has very little to do with nature.  A walk through the woods is proof that wild vegetation is opportunistic and provides only the toughest competitors with space, sunlight and nutrients.  By contrast, we fill our garden with tender annuals and plants that have gone through multiple hybridizations until they bear little resemblance to their original form. Add to that that we prefer our lawns and gardens weed free, carefully edged and mulched, and there’s a sharp divide between a wild meadow and suburban landscaping.

iStock_000010384726Medium

The real difference, however, is our dependence on chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides to keep our properties looking as nature never intended.  The best way to create a garden fit for children and pets is to make it a sanctuary for life:  bees buzzing through the flowers, trees brimming with nests and berries, and soft grass that’s safe for bare feet.

growso image

Lawn and garden chemicals are poisons to living things.  They pollute our water, harm wildlife and interrupt the delicate balance of our eco-system.  100 million pounds of lawn care chemicals are used by homeowners on their lawns every year.  These include chemicals that kill weeds, insects and a variety of plant diseases.  Many of these chemicals are linked to cancer, birth defects, and liver or kidney damage.  There is a way to have a healthy lawn and garden without resorting to chemicals, however.  Here are three simple steps you can take right away:

  • Healthy soil = healthy plants.  Good soil is alive, teeming with bacteria and organic content that is naturally resistant to pests and disease.  You can boost your soil’s health by spreading organic compost or alfa meal.
  • Use corn gluten as an organic fertilizer.  Organic fertilizers feed your lawn slowly; quick release chemical fertilizers encourage rapid growth that weakens the grass, promotes disease and leaches into nearby surface waters.
  • Tolerate a few weeds.  You can dig them out by hand if they bother you, or you can adopt the philosophy of “live and let live.”  A few weeds in the garden can also provide a home for beneficial insects, which keep the overall landscape in good health.

SONY DSC

Worried about fleas and ticks?  Here are four ways to combat these pests without toxic chemicals:

  • Use Natural Flea and Tick Controls on Your Companion Animals: Look for Buck Mountain Parasite Dust, available only through veterinarians and pet stores.  Its active insecticide is a chemical derived from the Neem tree, which is both a repellant and provides disinfectant and healing properties.  A favorite pet store is Earth Animal, which offers a three step process for natural flea and tick control.  Learn more here.
  • Reduce the tick habitat naturally:  Ticks like moist and shady areas, so let in more sunlight.  If there are many trees, it’s possible to thin their crowns to let more sunlight reach the ground.  Clearing away leaf debris (a favorite tick home) is important, as is cleaning up along stone walls and keeping them free of branches, weeds and other plant debris.
  • Establish a Tick Border: A Tick Border is a three to four foot wide woodchip border that is established between the woody edges of your property and your lawn.  Ticks are loath to cross the sunny, plant free zone.
  • Put up Deer Fencing to stop “tick buses:”  A single deer can be host to more than 200 ticks, so by removing their hosts, you reduce the number of ticks.

Here’s Where to Learn More

Earth

We’re all connected to each other and to every living thing.  The earth is one planet, with air and ocean currents that ignore international boundaries and continents that are impervious to lines drawn on a map.  On a much smaller level, the chemicals you use on your lawn and garden do not stay on your property.  It’s up to each one of us to research and find less-toxic solutions to our pest problems.  You can start here:

  • Integrated Pest Management:  IPM is an environmentally sensitive approach that suppresses pest populations and reduces use of pesticides.  It’s a safer means of controlling pests, with an emphasis on control, not eradication.  IPM holds that wiping out an entire pest population is impossible and environmentally unsafe.  Natural biological processes provide control with minimal environmental impact.  That may mean using beneficial insects that eat target pests, or biological insecticides, derived from nature. The EPA has more information:  read it here.
  • Bio-Integral Resource Center:  BIRC is a nonprofit organization that offers leadership in the development of IPM methods.  BIRC works with homeowners, farmers, cities, park and water districts, schools and pest control professionals in pesticide use reduction.  Visit their website here. 
  • Two books to add to your library:  Common Sense Pest Control, by William Olkowski and Sheila Daar, and Less Toxic Alternatives, by Carolyn Gorman.

book Common Sense Pest Controlbook Less Toxic Alternatives

 

The Power of One

 

I often speak about my belief in the Power of One, the power each of us has to make a difference in this world.  Sometimes the problems we face as human beings can seem insurmountable, but they are not.  Together we can create a better world and a kinder planet, but someone has to take the first step.  The second step is easier, the third step easier still.  That’s when you find other people following you.

Here are a few of the things that inspire me to take a step:  Earth HourLight It Up Blue for Autism Speaks;  Her Haven, a new organization I’ve joined as a board member; and sharing what I know about eco-conscious living.

EARTH HOUR 2013

 

Dare the World to Save the Planet.  Switch off your lights on Saturday, March 23rd at 8:30 p.m. your local time, and show the world what you’re willing to do.  The world is using the equivalent of one and a half planets to support life on earth today.  Earth Hour is the single, largest, symbolic mass participation event in the world.  Born our of a hope that it could mobilize people to take action on climate change, Earth Hour now inspires a global community of millions of people in 7,001 cities and towns across 152 countries and territories to switch lights off as a massive show of concern for the environment.

There is no doubt that the world is facing some of the most critical environmental challenges in history.  That may make a sustainable future seem difficult to imagine, but it is possible.  Change this big needs you.  It needs every one of us. Join the global community at Earth Hour to see where change is already underway.

 

LIGHT IT UP BLUE

 

 

Light It Up Blue, annually observed on April 2,  is dedicated to raising awareness of Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. This initiative is intended to raise international awareness of autism as a growing public health crisis in support of World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month in the United States.

Iconic landmarks around the globe – including the Empire State Building in New York City and Willis Tower in Chicago along with the CN Tower in Toronto and Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia – as well as airports, bridges, museums, concert halls, restaurants, hospitals, and retail stores, are among more than 100 structures in over 16 U.S. cities and nine countries around the world lthat lit up in bright blue on the evening of April 1, 2010 – the first night of Autism Awareness Month in the United States and the eve of World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD).

Here are a few ways you can help in 2013:

  • Wear your Autism Speaks puzzle piece pin every day throughout the month of April, and tell people about autism if they ask about it. To purchase your pin and other Light It Up Blue items, visit the shop at autismspeaks.org
  • Wear blue clothing and ask your friends, co-workers and schools to wear blue too.
  • Take a group photo and upload it to www.lightitupblue.org
  • Purchase blue light bulbs and lanterns from Home Depot and replace your outdoor lighting with these blue bulbs, or you can buy blue lighting filters to cover existing lighting.
  • Buy a Light It Up Blue yard sign to show your support throughout your community
  • Visit www.lightitupblue.org and download the free Light It Up Blue iPhone application so you can add your photos to the Light It Up Blue website.  Visit the website for lots more ideas!

 

HER HAVEN

 her-haven

I recently was invited to join the board of a wonderful charitable organization called Her Haven, dedicated to giving women in need a serene and comfortable space for themselves, Her Haven aims to honor women who are inspiring, deserving and giving by redesigning a room in their home or work environment. I’ll be providing information on sustainable design and keeping it “green” for the clients helped by Her Haven.  Visit their website here to find out ways that you can help us in our mission to design a difference.  

SPREADING THE WORD

Debbie Phillips, founder of the fabulous organization Women on Fire, a membership organization of women dedicated to making a difference in the world,  interviewed me on Monday, February 18th.  She wanted me to share my passionate belief that A Healthy Home is the Ultimate Luxury with her 3,000+  dynamic followers.  We talked about the fact that when we begin to embrace the idea of change and holistic living, we must first start in our own homes. 

My website, blog, Facebook page and personal outreach efforts are all dedicated to helping people understand the importance of sustainable design and healthy lifestyles.  I hope if I’ve been able to help you learn more, that you’ll pay it forward by sharing my social networking sites with your friends and family.

It all begins with education.  I’ve also been asked to work with a Sustainable Design class at Keane University, and will be skyping with them on March 27th.  I’m excited by the opportunities I’ve been given to share the knowledge I have gained in my years of living an eco-elegant life, and sharing it with my clients, friends and followers.

Theodore Roosevelt said to “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  That’s what I’m doing.  I hope you’ll do it, too. 


 

 

 

Connecting the Dots

There’s so much information about health risks bombarding us every day, warning us to avoid things or add things, do this and don’t do that.  It can make your head spin.  Scientists and environmental physicians agree that exposure to chemicals can be dangerous for your long term health.  The problem is that illnesses, including cancer and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, can take decades to develop.  We’re all exposed to thousands of toxins both inside and outside our homes:  how do we connect the dots and protect ourselves and our families from harmful chemicals?

You wouldn’t take a bath in paint thinner or breathe gas fumes for fun, as Mehmet Oz, M.D., and Michael Roizen, M.D. said in a recent article they wrote for Real Age.  But little risks, such as breathing paint fumes one day and cleaning with ammonia another, may add up.  Melanie Haiken wrote a wonderful informative piece on how to cancer proof your home, including how to replace seven carcinogens you may not have recognized for Yahoo Health.

To keep it simple, here are my top five things I believe everyone should do.  Remember that a healthy home is the ultimate luxury!

1. Make your bedroom the cleanest room in the house.

During sleep, your body works to remove any toxins you were exposed to during the day, and to restore energy and health for body and mind.  Replace your mattress and bedding with an organic mattress, made with natural latex, wool or organic cotton.  Be sure your pillows are all natural as well.  Non-organic cotton is grown in fields soaked in insecticides; dyes and color fixers use heavy metals such as chromium, copper and zink.  You can request “no fire retardant chemicals” be used on your mattress; this requires a prescription from your doctor.

2. Keep the air in your house pure.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America rates indoor air quality as one of the top five environmental health risks.  Clear and purify your air by adding a room air-purifier, or go further and install a central filtration system.  Models are available that can remove particulates such as dust and pet dander, along with molds, spores, pollen and chemical gases such as sulfuric acid, ammonia and formaldehyde.  Commercial cleansers are often overlooked culprits in polluting indoor air; some of their ingredients are carcinogenic and toxic to the lungs, liver and kidneys.

3.  Reduce or Eliminate VOCs with Water-Based Paints.

That just-painted smell is actually the off-gassing of chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, toluene and zylene.  The Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from paints last far longer than the odor does, as can vapors from floor stains, finishes, sealants and caulks. According to the EPA, some of these VOCs are known to cause cancer.  Low- or No-VOC products use water as a carrier instead of petroleum-based solvents, reducing the levels of heavy metals and formaldehyde. Even low VOC paints, though, can contain fungicides and biocides, used to prevent mildew growth and extend shelf life.  A product I use and recommend is EnviroSafe Paints, which uses no fungicides or biocides at all.

4. Be Clean and Green with Non-Toxic Cleansers
Many conventional cleaning products, rather than cleaning your home, actually pollute it with a toxic mixture of petrochemicals. Experts say chemicals inside our homes may have concentrations of up to 100 times higher than outdoor air. Synthetic fragrances are added to mask the odor of chemical vapors, implicated in headaches, dizziness, skin rashes and respiratory problems, as well as deadly diseases.  There are many good green cleaning products on the market made from natural ingredients, such as Seventh Generation:  look for products containing citrus oils and enzymes.  You can also make your own from items you have in your pantryI’ve given instructions on an earlier post.  Read it here.


5.  Protect your lawn and garden from contaminants.

Once you’ve made your home a safe-haven from fumes and toxic chemicals, you won’t want to live surrounded by pesticides and harsh fertilizers.  Lawn and garden chemicals are poisons to things that live, including you and your pets.  The residue from these products are too easily tracked into your house, polluting your pristine space.  A study from the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) found pesticides in 100% of the people who had both blood and urine tested.  Many of these chemicals are linked to cancer, birth defects, and liver or kidney damage.  Learn to tolerate a few weeds, or get the family outside in the fresh air to dig them out by hand.  Healthy soil is “alive,” so boost your soil’s health by spreading organic compost or alfa meal.

To do even more for your health, be vigilant about BPA in plastic bottles and pitchers, and in canned goods.  Cook with glass, cast iron or porcelain or ceramic-coated pans rather than old nonstick cookware.  And choose skincare products made from natural and organic ingredients.  Doing just these few things will help to minimize the effects of unavoidable exposure to toxic chemicals and fumes.

Finally, believe, like I do, in the Power of One:  the power each of us has to make an impact, create change, and help heal the earth.