Green Interiors

What is a Green Home?
by Pamela Portwood

When many people think about green homes, the things they often envision are solar power, Energy Star appliances and low-flow toilets. The reason is that these features have received publicity and tax credit incentives. Also, making these changes to a home or buying a new home with these features is a terrific way to help the environment by saving energy and water.

In terms of saving energy, although Tucson Electric Power no longer offers in-home, energy inspections, it does have a useful "Energy Advisor" on its website (www.tep.com). Anyone can enter data about his or her home, and this on-line resource provides ways to save energy as well as detailed information about energy use and cost. TEP customers also can have their recent bills downloaded and compare their energy use to other hom Yet when it comes to a green home, I think that saving energy is only one part of the equation. As soon as you step through your front door almost everything that you see impacts the environment and your health.

Look around your living room. The paint, carpet and furniture may be damaging the environment and your health because they are off-gassing volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are carbon-based chemicals that evaporate easily to create ozone, the major component of smog. Some VOCs can cause cancer and other serious health problems.

In your bedroom, everything from the mattress to the floor covering can affect your breathing and so the quality of your sleep and, ultimately, your quality of life. In your kitchen, making alternative selections - recycled glass tiles for the counter back splashes, paper countertops and Marmoleum flooring - can create an eco-friendly space.

For me, green interior design is an all-embracing process that encompasses the entire living space. The process includes everything from designing efficient floor plans to selecting green windows and sheets.

Green design works hand in hand with "sustainable design." Sometimes called "cradle-to-cradle" design, sustainability is based on the idea that by reusing the same materials and energy repeatedly we can meet the needs of people today while preserving the environment for generations to come.

Ideally, a green home will be energy efficient, conserve water, promote the health of its residents, use the environment's resources efficiently and contribute to the environment's health. That's a quick summary, but it's a tall order. I think that one of the hardest tasks in greening a home is translating those ideals into concrete chang As a homeowner or a renter, you may want to implement green design strategies bit by bit. Yet identifying your priorities and having the big picture in mind from the beginning will make the process easier. It will help unify your home in terms of style and color, too.

While a green home contributes to the health of the planet and of people, your home is also a place for people to live. So, it needs to be a wonderful, comfortable space that meets your and your family's functional needs.

This green interior design column is the first in a series for Tucson Green Times and each month will address the spectrum of green issues and options to help you green your home. Typically, the articles will be thematic: What makes furniture green? How can you create a green bedroom? What options are available in green flooring today? I'll be providing resources so that you can follow up on the column's topics, too. So check in next month for a more in-depth look at how to create a healthier, greener home.

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Article is reprinted courtesy of The New Southwest (formerly Tucson Green Times).


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