On my return from Europe this Spring I was excited about the extensive recycling programs in place, and the breadth of education and marketing readily available on the concept of green living. Serendipitously this month I began working with Long Island–based environmental expert Beth Viteni (www.greeninsideandout.com), who hired me to help reorganize and decorate her home office and living space.
Under Beth’s guidance I am now devouring back copies of Natural Home magazine and preparing myself for the advancing green revolution in home decorating. From floorings to counter tops, wallpapers to paint, lighting to the all-important trash bag.
Every good decorating project requires a thorough clean-up. BioBag tall kitchen bags are certified compostable and made from GMO free crops. Buy them online at www.biobagusa.com and help reduce the polyethylene-based plastic ones that take 100 years to degrade. Hamptons dwellers cherish their waterways, countryside and wildlife. Now we can help protect the thousands of marine animals and birds that die each year due to plastic waste.
Much of my work incorporates the mood-enhancing elegance of wallpaper treatments, as generations of my family have been papering since the early 1900s. The speed and ease with which a living area can be uplifted or redefined with a well-placed wide stripe, a toile or a funky young design is so rewarding. Conscious of the growing movement against toxins and chemicals in our home-living environments, several wallpaper manufacturers now offer environmentally friendly papers that avoid things like chlorine or PVC coatings, which can ‘off-gas’ VOC’s or volatile organic compounds. PVC also contains hormone disruptors and its manufacture creates carcinogens. Yum!
For a healthier New York State of mind, remove your old paper with 1/3 cup of vinegar to a quart of warm water mixture. Apply with a sponge and scrape off when paper has soaked through for about ten minutes. Then consider your greener options from Madison and Grow, botanically inspired graphics hand- silk-screened using water-based ink and clay-coated for extra durability and wipe-ability. No VOC’s from this manufacturing plant. Or Angela Adams papers, known for their timeless simplicity and balance reflecting Maine’s natural beauty. Low VOC, 100% post-consumer paper with water-based inks and no heavy metals or PVCs. Or maybe Mod Green Pod, where non-toxic inks grace this collection of bold, fanciful hand-printed papers. All vinyl-free, obtained from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified sources and glazed with a water-based finish for spot cleaning.
And so to paints…that fresh paint smell? The odor is actually VOC’s off gassing into the air we breathe. The list of potential harmful effects is not pleasant, so I’ll skip them and you can look them up! But note that even the low VOC products now available may still contain toxins like formaldehyde and acetone. Yum, yum.
So, who are our saviors?
The sample of paints listed here perform like premium conventional ones (good coverage, vibrant colors, durability, longevity) but without the harmful odors, chemicals and additives. Make sure when choosing though that the paint and the color added are both low or no VOC.
Benjamin Moore’s most environmentally sensitive offering is Natura. Zero VOC, nontoxic, water-based paint available in all their colors.
Farrow and Ball is more expensive but has now moved all its paints to a water-based formula, significantly reducing its solvents to low or zero VOCs. The colors are derived from natural pigments as well as other natural ingredients like china clay, lime putty and linseed oil. No ammonia or formaldehyde used.
Green Planet Paint offers zero VOC paints, which have moved away from petroleum to be a truly sustainable product made from plant resins and mineral pigments—120 mineral and clay based colors available.
Helen Lind is an interior decorator, organizer and home stager working in Long Island and Manhattan. You can contact her at (516) 922-3518 for a proposal or consultation, or visit her www.englishivyinteriors.com.