INTERIOR DESIGN: Greening your home

Greening your home

Interior Design
Namh Tuohy

Part 2
DOING your bit for the environment doesn’t just stop with recycling your milk cartons and taking the odd trip to the bottle bank.  If you’re in the process of doing some works on your home, then there’s a huge amount you could be doing to ensure that the materials you use are as eco-friendly as possible. 
It’s of vital importance to not just look at the ‘here and now’, but to plan for the future and create something that will enhance and protect the environment, not deplete it of all its resources.  And before you let out a big sigh and throw your eyes up to heaven, let me try and pre-empt the stress by telling you that it couldn’t be easier to play your part.  And here’s how...

Electrical appliances
All appliances are now rated on a grade from A to G, A being the most environmentally efficient and G being the least.  Where possible, buy an A-rated machine.  While it may be more expensive to purchase, it will undoubtedly save you money in the future.  But most importantly, the running of it will take less of a toll on the environment.

If you’re in the market for wooden floors, then do a bit of research and find out where the wood is being sourced from.  If possible, buy local, as it will cut down on transport costs which in turn will result in a lower carbon footprint.  Another important factor is to ensure that the wood is being harvested from sustainable sources ie: regenerated forests.

Recycling furniture
It’s entirely possible to create a whole new look by using your old furniture and giving it a face lift.  Rather than throwing away a perfectly good sofa suite for example, have it recovered.  Chances are, the frame is still in perfect condition.  It may not save you much money as the difference in cost between making a new purchase and recovering is miniscule, but you’ll most certainly be doing your bit for the green movement.

By virtue of the fact that paints cannot be recycled in the same way that other materials such as wood and stone can, it is important that we try to make up for this by using ecologically sound products.  Go for paints that are non-polluting and non-poisonous.  Alarming as it may sound, the standard mainstream paints on the market are comprised of varying levels of hazardous and toxic components which are harmful to not just you and your family, but also to the environment as they are produced in a highly inefficient way.

Between now and September 2012, lighting in this country will be slowly replaced with more energy efficient solutions.  While more expensive to purchase these LED lights can last up to fifteen times longer than their original counterparts, so again, pain now, gain later.  They’re not everyone’s cup of tea and many are dissatisfied with the options available to them now, but there will no doubt be more stylish, less cumbersome and more effective ones on the market before too long.

Water displacement systems
Here’s a crazy fact – toilets account for thirty percent of the water use for your average household.  This seems like a ridiculous waste, but a standard single-flush toilet will use approximately 13 litres of water per flush.  More modern toilets, which have a dual-flushing system, will use between 4 and 6 litres.  You can save another one litre per flush by inserting a displacement device, which is essentially a object which, when inserted into the cistern, displaces its own weight.  It might not seem like a lot, but over a year, the average household will flush approximately five thousand times.  That’s a saving of five thousand litres per annum!  And while we don’t have to pay water rates in Ireland at present, it’s highly likely that given the number of budgets being thrown at us recently, it’s only a matter of time.  So why not get into the swing of cutting back now.  Call it early preparation.

Cost factor
Last but not least, it’s vital to remember that while you may end up spending a little bit more money at the outset in order to install the correct systems and use eco-friendly materials, you will undoubtedly claw back this expense over the years and ultimately what you create and build now, if done right, will be a legacy for your children.