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Healthy, Eco-Smart Design Tips from Trudy Dujardin

How to achieve stylish comfort that is healthy and sustainable

From Interior Designer Trudy Dujardin
  • Start in the Bedroom

    During sleep, your body works to remove any toxins you were exposed to during the day, and to restore energy and health for both body and mind. More than any other room in the house, your bedroom should be a pristine environment.

    • Choose no-VOC paints for walls and wood trim. Paints can emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds) over a long period of time, so just airing out the room may not be sufficient.
    • Choose hardwood, tile, or stone floors. Finish them with a water-based sealant, and cover them with organic wool or cotton area rugs that can be easily cleaned.
    • Select 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 like chromium, copper and zinc. You can request “no fire-retardant chemicals” be used on your mattress. This request requires a prescription from a doctor.
    • Choose eco-friendly wood furniture that is FSC-certified, a designation from the Forest Stewardship Council ensuring that the wood was grown and harvested in a way that protects forests for the long term.
  • Invest in a Good Air Filtration System

    The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America rates indoor air quality as one of the top five environmental health risks. So I recommend doing more than just opening the windows from time to time. Clear the air by adding a room air-purifier, or go one step further and install a central filtration system. Today’s models can remove particulates that can’t be seen by the naked eye, such as dust, pet dander, molds, spores, pollen, and chemical gases such as sulfuric acid, ammonia, and formaldehyde.

  • Antiques are the Ultimate in “Green”

    There is an added beauty to the natural grace of aged furniture. These pieces are the ultimate in “green.”

    • Antique wooden furniture was created from old-growth forests long ago. No new resources are used in its construction, making its restoration and re-use a loving part of caring for the earth.
    • Off-gassing is the process of releasing the vapors that are the residue of many fine finishes. Antiques were crafted with fewer toxic products, and any off-gassing has long been complete.
    • Manufacturing plants, even the very greenest, distribute impurities into our air, waste systems, and water. New furniture requires the production of finishes, dyes, and sealants; they arrive in retail stores via large fossil-fuel burning vehicles. Carefully chosen antiques save wear and tear on the planet.
    • Even in a contemporary home, the gentle lines of antique furniture can add eye-catching details. Rather than being mass-produced, an antique you bring into your home was likely created in a small workshop by a craftsman who made good use of few resources—thus making your home truly unique.
  • Consider Organic Fabrics for Upholstery and Window Treatments

    When you curl up on your sofa with a good book, chances are you didn’t intend to invite a long list of toxic chemicals to join you. But you may be sitting down with substances such as formaldehyde, polyurethane, brominated flame retardants (PBDE’s), and dioxin. All of these toxins infiltrate your home through “off-gassing,” the release of chemicals into the air through evaporation.

    Fortunately, today we have the option of choosing soy-based cushions versus foam ones, recycled filling for pillows, and organic upholstery fabric. Some of these organic materials are among the world’s most luxurious, including organic cotton, hemp, linen, and wool. For our best health, textiles should be colored with low-impact dyes without formaldehyde.

    The good news is with a little research and guidance, your home can be healthier than ever before, and as exquisitely decorated as you dreamed it would be.

  • Cultivate a Healthy Landscape.

    Healthy soil promotes healthy plants. Good soil is “alive,” teeming with bacteria and organic content that naturally resists pests and disease. Boost your soil’s health by spreading organic compost or alfa meal.

    • Corn gluten is increasingly used as a high-nitrogen, organic fertilizer. Organic fertilizers feed your lawn slowly. Quick release chemical fertilizers, on the other hand, encourage rapid growth that weakens the grass.
    • Tolerate a few weeds. You can dig them out by hand if they bother you, or you can adopt the philosophy of “live and let live.” A few weeds in the garden can also provide a home for beneficial insects, which keep the overall landscape in good health.
    • De-thatch and aerate your soil by raking and aerating compacted lawns. By removing plugs of soil, the air, water, and nutrients can reach the roots of your grass. When your lawn is healthy, birds and worms will continue to aerate it for you!
    • For the first and last mowing of the season, mow down to 2 inches high, which prevents fungus growth. For the rest of the year, keep your grass 3 inches high to shade out weeds and foster deep roots. Short grass promotes weeds, shallow roots and thatch.
  • Believe in the Power of One

    I believe in the “power of one,” the power each of us has to make an impact, create change, and help heal the earth. Creating a “green” house respects the health and well-being of everyone involved in its creation, and everyone who calls it home. And that’s the very best place to start.