Gently Green Great Design What I love Nantucket Life Please Join Me Healthy Stuff

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.”

 

 

Flowers from a “Green” House

When our thoughts turn to love, we often turn to flowers. Long established as a romantic gesture, there is nothing like a bouquet of blooms to melt your loved one’s heart. Many people do not realize, however, that hothouse flowers are grown in greenhouses filled with pesticides, and the blossoms you bring into your home have been repeatedly treated with toxic chemicals.

There is a wonderful company that has changed the way we grow and buy flowers, however. Organic Bouquet is the largest online provider of organic floral arrangements and gifts. All of their flowers, from select farms in California, Colombia, and Ecuador, meet stringent standards for environmental safety, monitored by multiple certification agencies and associations.

Their eco-friendly flower arrangements include roses, calla lilies, tulips, gerbera daisies, hyacinths, sunflowers, alstromeria lilies and blue iris, and are shipped nationwide to all 50 states.

CEO Robert McLaughlin remembers the effect of synthetic chemicals on the environment and workers in the horticulture industry when he began his career in 1984. “I watched our head agronomist die at an early age from toxic chemical exposure,” he says. “He rarely wore protective gear and seemed to always return to the packing shed soaked in the chemicals that would eventually end his life. There had to be a better way.”

Today McLaughlin has created a company that positively effects the environment, the floral industry, and the people on the farms. They make choices every day to support responsible commerce, environmental stewardship, and the health of the people who work for them.

“All plants, flowers, vegetables, and livestock were grown or raised for thousands of years organically. Only in the last 100 years have we discovered synthetic chemicals and begun to overuse them,” he says. “This phasing out of synthetic chemicals and returning to natural methods proves that chemicals have been a brief but damaging fad, that hopefully will never be repeated.

Good things to know about Organic Bouquet:

  • Each time you make a purchase, the amount of carbon emissions from that shipment is offset by rolling funds into a project that reforests abandoned pasture land with native tree species.
  • Shipping boxes are made from recycled and recyclable materials.
  • Boxes are printed with water-based ink, naturally non-toxic.
  • Their glass vases are made from 100% recycled glass.

 

If that doesn’t convince you, consider this: the company is USDA Organic-Certified, follows America’s VeriFlora sustainability certification program, and is Fair Trade Certified, an international movement which ensures that producers in poor countries get a fair price for their goods.

For more information and to order your Valentine’s Day flowers, visit them at www.organicbouquet.com. 

 

 

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.”

 

Tractor spraying soybean field at spring

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

Gulls on the side of the Seine [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/file_search.php?action=file&lightboxID=4328606][img]http://www.erichood.net/paris.jpg[/img][/url]

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.”

paris

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.

se4all

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.

 

Paris home_EN-975x650

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. 

 

Time Travel: Antiques in Design

Using antiques to create distinctive interiors for my clients is a longtime signature of Dujardin Design Associates, Inc. Striking, original looks can be achieved by blending old and new, traveling across time to access the most beautiful furniture, accessories, objets d’art, paintings and rugs.I believe that every room has space for something old, a one-of-a-kind treasure that speaks of our shared past. Above, we used a wall hanging composed of 18th century Tibetan Buddhist prayers written on bamboo to bring Far Eastern calm to a contemporary space.


My favorite thing about using antiquesin my interiors? They’re the ultimate in green! Repeatedly recycled over decades, these pieces have been made from old-growth wood, protecting today’s forests, have long ago completed any off-gassing from the finishing process, and slow the resource intensive cycle of new production. Above, contemporary lamps, sconces and tables blend elegantly with an antique German Beidermeier armoire and mirror over the mantle.


There is beauty in contrasts. Rather than trying to achieve a single, monotone look, give your living spaces the dash and dazzle of opposites. In this Nantucket home, we paired a 19th century gilt mirror with 21st century whale art in hand-blown glass by Raven Skyriver.


Just as you might add a fabulous piece of vintage jewelry to complete an outfit, your room can use some jewelry too. The room above is bejeweled with the Tang Dynasty horse on the shelf near the window and the 18th century Chinese cocktail table, along with other priceless Asian artifacts.


I love the look of this marine-encrusted, glazed stoneware storage jar, dating from the 15th-17th centuries and found in the South China Sea.

One way to showcase old pieces is to use them in unusual ways . Here we took an antique rug and hung it on the wall as a stylish piece of art.

Juxtaposing a sleek white bedside table with an elaborately carved antique bed from the West Indies is a beautifully soothing contrast.

Don’t be afraid to use color to enliven an old piece. Unless it’s a priceless treasure, go ahead and paint it, refinish it, change the drawer pulls, and make it your own. Or let it keep its timeworn patina. Either way, it’s a fascinating addition to your living space.

Let your antique collections add fun and a little surprise. These small articulated artists’ models are the whimsical touch that brings this space to unexpected life. Another wonderful thing about antiques is that they add a completely unique look to your home. You won’t find these models available in catalogs or at mass market retail stores.

Ready to go shopping? Don’t miss the The Nantucket Historical Association’s annual Antiques and Design Show, this year from July 29th to August 3rd. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Serendipity!

serendipity 1

What does Serendipity mean to you? It’s most often the occurrence of events by chance in a happy or fortunate way. That certainly describes my pleasure in meeting the Home Editor of Serendipity Magazine, Stephanie Horton, and her wonderful feature on a home I designed not once but twice on Nantucket Island. It’s in the June 2015 issue!

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If you can pick up a copy of the magazine, I encourage you to do so.

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If not, I tell the story here  of the house that was moved from its precarious location on a bluff three times to save it from the rapidly encroaching sea. Island erosion can be dangerous to homes, but this beautiful Edwardian-era house was successfully moved and brought back to new life.

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Take a closer look!

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.

cosmetic factory

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.

Portrait

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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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

Dog Scratching Flea

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.

Little sad dog

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.

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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

 

 

 

 

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.

 

A Window to Our Future

design future 2

Earlier this month, I participated in the Leadership Summit for Sustainable Design, hosted by the Design Futures Council, as a member of the Delegation of 100.  The Summit was an amazing gathering of leaders in the sustainable design movement, who share a belief in our ability to shift the relationship between humans and the environment, and to create systems that are truly sustainable.

My involvement with the Design Futures Council is one of several commitments I have in place to work toward a more sustainable earth. It encompasses both my “green” design work and my dedication to educating my clients and readers, as well as a personal passion for protecting the environment.

Trudy in Minneapolis 2DFC Trudy and Jim Cramer

Held this year in Minneapolis (guess whose statue this is!), the participants and speakers inspired me to believe in a future for our children and grandchildren that can support both the growing numbers of humans on the planet as well as the fragile environment we live in.

I’ve heard the term “a conga line of geniuses and scientists” applied to the Ted Conferences before; it certainly applied to the Summit as well.  It was hard to choose what is most important to share from such a list of exemplary individuals, all who exhibit such “intellectual rigor” (one of the bywords of the conference!).  I finally chose architect and author Ed Mazria, for his work with his organization Architecture 2030.  It’s so important for all of us to understand what’s at stake in the world, and what we can do to help!

I am greatly concerned, along with leading environmental scientists, about climate change and global warming.  The risk to us all, and to future generations, is in doing business as usual.  We need to make changes to bring the world’s temperatures back to where they were in the pre-industrial era; at the very least we must keep our global warming to under a 2 degree increase.

Ed Mazria

 Ed Mazria, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030: architect, author, educator

The architecture and design community must take the lead in transforming the way we live, work, and utilize the eco-system.  Our built environments must reflect a genuine concern for the next generations, and a willingness to engage with government, business leaders and public policy to find the right balance.

Mr. Mazria has reshaped the international dialogue on energy and climate change to incorporate building design through his organization Architecture 2030.

ed mazria 4

Architecture 2030 recognizes that buildings are the major source of global demand for energy and materials that produce by-product greenhouse gases.  Mr. Mazria’s impassioned support for innovative sustainable design strategies is leading a new generation of concerned industry leaders to embrace his vision for the future.

energyconsumption_updated2011

Specifically, Mr. Mazria has emphasized the need to keep the global temperature increase below the two degree centigrade threshold.  Entire species disappear when the temperature changes only a fraction of a degree.  The recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPPCC) Fifth Assessment Report concludes that to keep the increase below two degrees, global greenhouse emissions must peak by 2020, and then begin a rapid decline.

Mr. Mazria has focused on China, currently urbanizing at a rate unmatched in human history, as an opportunity to create healthy, resilient and integrated regional infrastructures, cities, towns and buildings that are models of economic and urban sustainability.  Projections indicate that within 20 years, China’s urban population will grow by 350 million people, creating 221 cities with more than one million inhabitants.  In order to take advantage of the opportunity to plan and design sustainable, carbon neutral built environments that protect and enhance natural resources, Mr. Mazria and Architecture 2030 are working toward a carbon neutral China Accord.

Old Chinese Village

The China Accord urges that cities, towns, urban developments, new buildings and major renovations in China be designed to be carbon neutral, meaning they use no more energy over the course of a year than they produce or import from renewable energy sources.  If reaching carbon neutral is not practical, then they urge developments to be designed to be highly efficient with the capability to use renewable energy sources in the future.

Architecture 2030 is organizing signatures from all those who have offices in China, or current or future plans for projects in China, to add their signatures and pledges to the Accord, to influence urban development in China and throughout the world.  More information is available at architecture2030.org.

Architecture 2030 isn’t just concerned with China, however.  Mr. Mazria’s 2030 Challenge is about reducing the carbon footprint of architecture everywhere, first by eliminating the use of fossil fuels in new construction, and then by cutting the use of fossil fuels in existing buildings by 50% by 2030.  He plans to hit those targets through a new initiative called the 2030 PALETTE:  an online design tool to help produce low impact, people friendly projects.

2030-Palette-3

For instance, this “green” school utilizes daylighting from multiple sides to cut energy consumption.  It provides more even lighting, and reduces glare, often created when light comes primarily from one side. The online tool gives advice on how to properly daylight a building, from providing windows on opposite walls, to incorporating high ceilings and walls with light shelves to direct sunlight deeper into a space.

The online tool provides information ranging from the micro–daylighting in buildings–to the macro–defining growth boundaries to limit urban sprawl.  The work of Architecture 2030 is critical to our future, and will help to determine whether climate change is manageable or catastrophic.

Important work is being done by other concerned groups as well.  In late September, I attended the annual conference of The Nantucket Project, an organization that hosts a gathering of some of the world’s leading thinkers and visionaries to help shape the dialogue on the most important issues we face. I was gratified to attend this year along with Senator John McCain, Chris Matthews, Greg LeMond, Michael Pollan, Louis Schwartzberg, and many others for presentations, discussions and education from experts in a variety of fields.

Nantucket Project John McCain

trudy and john mccain

Here I am with John McCain at The Nantucket Project

I learned so much at both of The Nantucket Project and the Leadership Summit; there’s so much more I wish I could share with you.  Here are three more inspirations:

Check out Jim Harris, the author of A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste.  The book presents hundred of case studies showing how environmental leadership can drive profitability and improve the bottom line.

And available through Netflix, there is a must-see documentary film called Chasing Ice.  It’s environmental photographer James Balog’s record of the world’s changing glaciers, captured through time-lapse photography. He compresses years into seconds to show how these ice mountains are disappearing at an alarming rate.

Last, please watch the film Nature’s Beauty Inspires Gratitude, a short film by award-winning cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg shown at a TEDx talk.  His time lapse photography captures breathtaking images through, as he says, “beauty and seduction–nature’s tools for survival.”   I was so moved by his film treatise on water, “One Drop.”  I hope it becomes widely available for viewing soon.

hummingbird

Our world is vast and fragile, and climate change is real and deadly.  I”ll continue to share my thoughts on how we can take action together.  I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.