Green Products & Materials
I’ve compiled this list to help you create a healthy home, with products and materials that have worked well for me. Consider gradually incorporating some of these products as you renovate and update. The industry is adding better non-toxic alternatives all the time, so please check the digimarcs that lead to my website for updates.
Two excellent books I suggest as references:
Green Building Products, The GreenSpec Guide to Residential Building Materials, (choose the latest edition), Brattleboro VT: Building Green
LEED Materials, a resource guide to Green Building by Ari Meisel, (based on the LEED Rating System Version 3 soon to be updated to Version 4), New York, NY, Princeton Architectural Press
I also suggest keeping a binder of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for every product you use in your home. An MSDS is a fact sheet prepared by the manufacturer that outlines known health effects, proper handling and recommended storage of the material.
Adhesives and Caulking-
Solvent-based adhesives can be a hidden source of VOCs. Consider using these products:
Gorilla Glue Original Formula
Grout Match Caulking
Improving indoor air quality with an air filter is one of the “greenest” decisions you can make. Fumes are emitted from many conventional home products, including carpets, plywood, paints and finishes. In a tightly insulated home, the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) build up over time, creating a mixture of toxins.
Austin Health Mate Plus
The Health Mate Plus uses solid activated carbon and zeolite impregnated with potassium iodide to remove VOCs, particles in the air including dust, pollen and pet dander, and viruses and bacteria.www.austinair.com
As you sleep, your liver works to detox the body from all the pollutants and toxins you were exposed to during the day. Conventional cotton comes from fields that are drenched in pesticides, so choosing organic bedding is a simple way to promote health.
Made with 100% organic cotton, their sheets, blankets, pillows, duvet covers, shams and more are all made with natural fibers, using a nontoxic process. They are certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), produced using fairlabor practices. www.coyuchi.com
As many as 120 separate chemicals may be present in carpet, found in dyes, backing, fire retardants and stain resistant treatments. Once wet, microbial growth and mold can quickly become a problem. Offgassing may continue for years after installation, and used carpet is neither recyclable nor biodegradable, all good reasons to consider alternatives.
Earth Weave produces all natural, non-toxic carpet, area rugs and padding. Products are made using undyed, untreated wool on the face, along with hemp, cotton, jute and natural rubber for the backing materials. Yarns are locked into place with a natural adhesive derived from the Rubber tree. www.earthweave.com
Elizabeth Eakins produces all natural fiber rugs and fabrics with environmentally friendly dyes. The company has an ethos of sustainability, with worker safety a priority.
Rugmark is a non-profit watchdog group formed by trade unions, human rights organizations and consumer groups to stop the use of child labor in rug factories around the world. Look for the Rugmark-certified label on all imported rugs.
Synthetic fragrances are used to mask the odor of petrochemicals in commercial cleaning products, actually polluting your indoor air with a toxic mix of VOCs. Some of the chemicals are suspected carcinogens or hormonal disruptors. Before World War II, most homemakers made their own cleaning supplies from simple kitchen items, or you can try one of these:
Seventh Generation Unscented
Plant-derived solutions with no dyes and no synthetic fragrances. www.seventhgeneration.com
Provides home care products free of dyes, perfumes and fragrances. The company has also been commended by animal rights groups for not testing on animals or using animal-derived ingredients.
Harmful chemicals and toxic dyes are, unfortunately, part of the manufacturing process for traditional fabrics. Not only are their residues present in the fabric in your home, but manufacturing creates pollutants that harm both factory workers and the earth. A number of companies now offer “green” fabrics.
Design Tex has made a commitment to operate as a carbon neutral company, and all their products can be recycled. The company worked with architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart to create a fabric capable of breaking down and returning safely to the earth. www.designtex.com
The Kravet Green collection is made of 100% recycled polyester, which is a unique blend of post-industrial and post-consumer fibers woven and treated with no additional chemicals. During the finishing process, they use water-based products and environmentally approved dyes. After years of use, these fabrics are recyclable. www.kravet.com
Maharam produces fabrics with a reduced environmental impact, and minimizes the use of chemicals that could be harmful to human health. Their natural fibers are obtained from animal or plant sources such as cotton, linen, hemp, jute, wool, silk, and cellulose, which can be replenished in less than three years.
Formaldehyde Free Glued-up woods
Composite, pressed woods such as plywood and particleboard can offgas formaldehyde, introduced by the adhesives used in processing. Consider these alternatives:
Medite 3D Medium Density Fiberboard
Soy-based hardwood plywood
Sustainable flooring can be made from a number of materials, including bamboo, cork, ceramic tile or stone. If it’s a wood-based product, look for certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which promotes environmentally sound management of the world’s forests. www.us.fsc.org
Floor finishes can contain hazardous chemicals, such as formaldehyde, petroleum distillates and mineral spirits. Many are combustible, and some contain neurotoxins.
Basic Coatings, StreetShoe
Basic Coatings offers safer products that allow you to prepare and finish wood floors with Low VOC, NMP-free and low impact green products. StreetShoe is one I’ve used, but they’ve since added others to their line. www.basiccoatings.com
An independent nonprofit group that certifies products that voluntarily comply with rigorous standards and testing, promoting the manufacture, purchase, and use of environmentally responsible products and services. www.greenseal.org
Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems release tons of CO2 into the air annually, making buildings one of the largest contributors to climate change. Heating and cooling methods can be a major cause of fatigue, dizziness, headaches and bronchial irritation if they aren’t properly installed and maintained.
Heat Recovery Ventilation by Honeywell
Exchanges interior air with outside air several times an hour, then filters and conditions it, recovering up to 80% of the heating and cooling energy. This lowers VOCs which build up in tightly insulated buildings. www.honeywell.com
Aprilaire Filtration Systems
Aprilaire is well known for their high-efficiency, whole house air cleaners built into the HVAC unit that remove germs, bacteria, dust and VOCs such as formaldehyde. www.aprilaire.com
Steam-injected Resdelux Humidification System by Nortec
A humidification system should keep your home between 40% and 60% humidity, but I prefer closer to 40% to discourage mold growth. The Nortec steam-injected system distributes clean steam, precisely controlled, uniformly into the air stream, void of any condensate spray, and avoids contaminated standing water. www.humidity.com
Clean ducts once a year without the use of chemicals; children are particularly vulnerable to airborne particulates. Industrial strength hydrogen peroxide is safe to use if there is microbial growth, and will not contaminate the system.
Other Green Alternatives
The U.S. Energy Information Association (USEIA) estimates that buildings use at least 40% of total U.S. energy consumption. There are many alternatives to consider to make us less dependent on fossil fuels, among them: solar energy, wind energy, biomass energy, heat pumps, whole house fans, installing double glazed windows, strategically placed windows and skylights to reduce need for daytime electricity. We must continue to develop better methods.
Traditional fiberglass insulation can offgas formaldehyde and its fine particulates can become airborne and spread through the home, irritating the lungs.
Bonded Logic Ultra Touch
UltraTouch is made from recycled denim, without chemical irritants and no particulate matter. www.bondedlogic.com
Reflectix Polyethylene Bubble Wrap
This corporation is dedicated to the research, development, and manufacture of technically advanced energy barriers, which are designed to reduce consumption and be non-detrimental to the environment. www.reflectixinc.com
Joint Compound and Textures
Dry-wall joint compound installed before the 1970s may contain asbestos and should only be removed by professionals.
Murco M-100 and Murco HA 100
Murco products are earth friendly with low VOCs. Their joint compounds and texture products, whether pre-mixed or in dry powdered form will conform to ASTM specification No.C475, as well as federal specification No.SS-J-570a.www.murcowall.com
B-I-N Primer Sealer
B-I-N serves as a wonderful vapor barrier to seal off the toxins emitted from a surface. It is alcohol-based and although strong smelling dissipates quickly. Workers should wear a respirator during installation. www.zinsseruk.com
Your healthiest option is 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 aschromium, copper and zinc, and end up as waste in rivers and soil. You can request “no fire-retardant chemicals” be used on your mattress; this requires a prescription from a doctor.
The Organic Mattress Store
Carries organic mattresses from several manufacturers, including Royal-Pedic, Green Sleep, Shepherd’s Dream (wool) and their own Private Label. All mattresses are made from certified organic cottons and have met the strict standards of the USDA/National Organic Program. Investigate to find which is most comfortable for you. www.theorganicmattressstore.com
That “just painted” smell is actually the offgassing of toxic chemicals into your indoor air, including benzene, formaldehyde, toluene and xylene, all of which are carcinogens or neurotoxins.
Benjamin Moore Natura
Natura Paint is a zero VOC product that is easy to find, although it may contain biocides and mildewcides that can affect people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, or allergies. www.benjaminmoore.com
What sets EnviroSafe apart is that they have no fungicides or added biocides. Since municipal tap water has been found to contain VOCs in just about every major metropolitan area throughout America, the water EnviroSafe uses in their paints is pure, filtered water pumped from a private well located in a rural area. Made in small batches, you may need to plan ahead when ordering. You can reach EnviroSafe at 830-232-6467.
Because of their smaller size and close proximity to the ground where chemicals are frequently used, pets can be at higher risk for toxin-based illnesses. Choosing organic foods, bedding, toys and flea/tick control is an excellent choice. No fire retardants or fabric protections should be used around pets, especially cats. Be aware that even vet-approved flea and tick formulations are dangerous. Some contain a pesticide called Fipronil, which is also in Roach Bait and is used to kill termites. There are health risks to the dog or cat treated, but also to the people who closely interact with animals treated with these toxins.
Natural holistic pet care and pet health products, and natural flea and tick control
Tile Thinset & Grout Sealer
Grout between tiles is porous and can harbor mold and mildew. Seal it with a low toxic sealer to prevent hazardous growth.
Laticrete Gold #253 Low Impact Tile Thinset
Star Impregnator ASF Tile and Grout Sealer
Removing allergens, dander, dust, pollen and other potential allergens is an integral part of maintaining a healthy home. A vacuum with a HEPA filter prevents particulate matter from recirculating indoors.
Specifically made for allergy sufferers, Miele offers a 12-stage HEPA filtration system with self-sealing dust bags. www.mieleusa.com
Electrolux offers vacuums in several price ranges that include HEPA filters. www.electroluxappliances.com
Eureka offers HEPA vacuums in both canisters and upright models. Eureka also makes a pet friendly odor absorbing HEPA filter. www.evacuumstore.com
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Indoor air pollutants or chemicals that are produced by many household products, including paints, cleaners, dyes and glues.
Tap water can contain a number of undesirable chemicals; some communities do not comply with clean drinking water standards. Install a filter, or consider drinking spring water.
Mountain Valley Water
Mountain Valley Spring Water is pristine, naturally high pH water, in glass bottles. It’s important not to drink from plastic bottles. Mountain Valley is dedicated to ensuring their bottles, caps, and labels remain safe for chemically sensitive people. The water is filtered and ozone is added as a protectant against potential contaminants. www.mountainvalleyspring.com
Trudy Dujardin Dujardin Design Associates
Trudy believes that a healthy home is the ultimate luxury. Her “green interiors” use eco-friendly fabrics, sustainable woods, and contemporary furniture, combined with rare antiques and healthy building materials. The finished projects are beautiful, environmentally sensitive and elevate not only your residence, but also your quality of life.
203-838-8100 Westport CT ~ 508-228-1120 Nantucket MA
Author of Less Toxic Alternatives: A Complete Guidebook for Natural Healing, Gaining and Maintaining Optimal Health
Marilee Nelson specializes in working with people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.
The House Doctors/www.branchbasics.com
William Sothern, Microecologies
A Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and LEED AP, William Sothern identifies and corrects indoor environmental hazards, including water damage and mold problems; chemicals; construction and renovation dust infiltration problems, among others. www.microecologies.com
Matthew Waletzke, Healthy Dwellings
Matthew Waletzke is a Certified Building Biology Environmental Consultant (BBEC), available for in-home consultations, healthy home presentations and workshops throughout the New York Tri-state area. Phone consultations available nationwide. www.healthydwellings.com
The Center for Green Building in Connecticut
For information on all the above products and more. Their mission is to provide products that are safe for everyone ~ the people manufacturing them, the people exposed to them, and for the environment. They ship anywhere in the world. www.centerforgreenbuilding.com
Nutritional Ecological Environmental Delivery System (N.E.E.D.S)
Mail order resource with products and information for people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and/or Environmental Illness, as well as other health concerns.