My Eco Home

My new home is a project and a half:  An older, 17th century stone cottage in need of a lot of TLC.  It stood empty for about a year and had been seriously neglected prior to that. The cobwebs would have made Miss Haversham green with envy.  It does have great potential, though, and I am busy renovating with a view to creating  a quirky yet stylish living space and at the same time a healthy home.

One big attraction to the property in spite of it’s rundown state, is the fact that it predates the use of modern, building materials.  I am a great lover of green low impact living and this enables me to keep my carbon footprint low and the amount of chemicals in the home to an absolute minimum by using eco-friendly organic lime based natural paint and plaster to repair and update. Auro natural paints, decorating and finishing products are fantastic and easy to order online, with fast delivery.

By using natural materials I aim to keep embedded energy values as low as possible.  Stripped back style is one that really appeals to me, with elements of ‘industrial’ thrown in, and Country Living’s Special Edition Modern Rustic Magazine, Issue 2, has been one of my sources of inspiration.

Where to start? Using the Permaculture principles enabled me to come out of overwhelm and start to take some action. Principle 9, Small and Slow Solutions, was my starting point: moving in and making gradual changes would enable me to keep costs to a minimum as I had been living in rented accommodation while looking for a project. It didn’t take long to decide that the 80’s style gas fire needed to go, to be replaced by a traditional log burner.

log burner in gunmetal grey
Log Burner in Gunmetal Grey

Continue reading “My Eco Home”

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Why are Sofas drenched in Fire Retardant Chemicals?

According to recent findings in the US it may be that:

  • Chemicals that are used in household furnishings such as sofas and chairs to inhibit them from catching fire do not work.
  • Some fire retardant materials used over the years may pose serious health risks and have been linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility. Most modern household furniture is saturated in flame retardant chemicals which escape from the furniture and settle in dust. That’s particularly dangerous for toddlers, who play on the floor and put things in their mouths.

It would appear that our furniture first became full of flame retardants thanks to the tobacco industry.  A generation ago, tobacco companies were facing growing pressure to produce fire-safe cigarettes, as so many house fires started with smoldering cigarettes.  Flame retardant furniture, rather than safe cigarettes, was put forward as the best way to reduce house fires.  Cigarette lobbyists organized an advocacy group which succeeded in covertly manipulating bodies of fire professionals, educators, community activists, burn centers, doctors, fire departments and industry leaders. to push for measures to be introduced.  The Citizens for Fire Safety group has only three members, which also happen to be the three major companies that manufacture flame retardants.  Surprised? Apparently a prominent burn doctor’s misleading testimony was part of a campaign of deception and distortion on the efficacy of these chemicals. The chemical industry “has disseminated misleading research findings so frequently that they essentially have been adopted as fact,” the authors wrote.

Organic Linen and Cotton Canvas for upholstery in four colours
Winthrop Organic Linen and Cotton Canvas for Upholstery in Four Colours, White, Grey and Delphinium and Sandwash Blue

So how do we create a more healthy home?  Fortunately companies like OEcotextiles are making it possible to furnish a home safely.  The new Two Sisters range of natural eco fabrics for soft furnishings is now available in the UK and can be found at www.designercushionsandthrows.co.uk.  If you are thinking about recovering a sofa or some chairs and want to safeguard your family’s health and well-being, the organic linen and cotton canvas blend upholstery fabric is an exceptional quality weave with tightly twisted yarns that comes in a range of 17 colours, something to complement every design scheme.

For those with children and small babies concerned about chemicals in the home, you can read more here

Life after Plastic

Plastics are everywhere. But although it is a very affordable and convenient material, plastic is very often toxic to produce, toxic to use and also toxic in its disposal.

Scientists are increasingly finding that there may be hidden costs to our health. Some common plastics release harmful chemicals into the air and into food and drinks. Maybe you can’t see or taste it, but if your dinner came in a plastic tray, you’re likely eating a little bit of plastic with your dinner.

On top of this the use of plastics cause an enormous amount of enduring pollution as every bit of plastic that has ever been created still exists, except for the small amount that has been incinerated,  releasing toxic chemicals in the process. Plastic waste is accumulating in huge quantities in the sea where fish are ingesting toxic plastic bits at a rate which means they may become unfit for consumption.

So how can we reduce chemical in the home?

Making Better and Safer choices

  • Reduce use of plastic. Look for natural alternatives like textiles, solid wood, bamboo, glass, stainless steel, etc.
  • Look for items with less plastic packaging or better none at all. If you cannot avoid plastic, opt for products you can recycle or re-purpose (e.g. a yogurt tub can be re-used to store crayons or sewing cottons and bits).
  • Get to know your plastics – see guide below:

The most common plastics have a resin code in a chasing arrow symbol (often found on the bottom of the product).  This list is just a rough guide and by no means definitive.

PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): AVOID
Common Uses: Soda Bottles, Water Bottles, Cooking Oil Bottles
Concerns: Can leach antimony and phthalates.

HDPE (High Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Milk Jugs, Plastic Bags, Yogurt Cups

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride, aka Vinyl): AVOID
Common Uses: Condiment Bottles, Cling Wrap, Teething Rings, Toys, Shower Curtains
Concerns: Can leach lead and phthalates among other things. Can also off-gas toxic chemicals.

LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Produce Bags, Food Storage Containers

PP (Polypropylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Bottle Caps, Storage Containers, Dishware

PS (Polystyrene, aka Styrofoam): AVOID
Common Uses: Meat Trays, Foam Food Containers & Cups
Concerns: Can leach carcinogenic styrene and estrogenic alkylphenols

Other.  Includes:
PC (Polycarbonate): AVOID – can leach Bisphenol-A (BPA). It also includes ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile), Acrylic, and Polyamide. These plastics can be a safer option because they are typically very durable and resistant to high heat resulting in less leaching. Their drawbacks are that they are not typically recyclable and some need additional safety research.

Green and White Flower Cotton Bag
Green and White Flower Cotton Bag

A few suggestions to become more green:

Textile bags are reusable, washable, biodegradable, eco-friendly and can be easily made from fabric remnants.   Watch for our post on How to make a Textile Shopping Bag – coming soon.  See here for textile bags or visit our eBay shop for bags and fabric remnants.

Make your own yoghurt and recycle the same pot each time, or use your own ceramic or glass pot. There are a number of online sites that give instructions and if you have an airing cupboard it is very easy and costs a fraction of the price in the shops (about 55-60p per 500ml using organic milk.

Have you got ideas to share?  Please let us know your ideas.

Healthy Home

The fact that we are all now striving to reduce our heating costs by increasing our levels of insulation, installing double glazing to make our houses airtight, and that we barely open a window in the winter months means that we are suffocating in a toxic brew that is almost certainly endangering our health.  Each individual regulation on its own may well be under the limit when tested, but when you add the cocktail together the results are staggering!  And it’s not just sensitive adults, what about children and young babies?

It is quite usual that in the excitement of welcoming a new baby into the world we often choose to decorate the room in preparation for the new arrival.  This may just be the worst thing we could do.  Offgasing from chemicals in new furnishings can be a source of respiratory irritants and more.  On top of carpets, sofas and upholstered chairs being treated with flame retardant chemicals, and curtains often being treated with formaldehyde to make them crease resistant or containing residues of heavy metals (read more in our post of 6.12.2009 https://888lorna.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/eco-for-health/ ), bedlinen and clothing are often impregnated to make them ‘easy care’.  Are these combined levels of airborne pollutants really safe?   I recently came across  an article about the potential harmful effect of chemicals on children’s hormones through plastics and skincare products http://greenpeopleorganicskincare.blogspot.com/2009/11/home-life-may-be-affecting-childrens-hormones Just what are we exposing our children to?  We’d love to hear your comments or your experiences.

Organic fabrics offer a healthy alternative.  In partnership with OEcotextiles we can supply a range of organic fabrics for all your soft furnishing needs.  Find ways to create a healthy home at www.designercushionsandthrows.co.uk

Curtains in organic linen by OEcotextiles