5 Tips to Make Your Home Safe, Green & Healthy from Zem Joaquin

by , 04/27/15

5 Tips to Green Your Home With Zem Joaquin, green home, green design, eco design, ecofabulous, eco-fabulous, sustainable design, green design, green interior design, green interiors

Tip 2 – Improve your indoor air quality for better health and well-being

Since we rarely have to remind ourselves to take a breath (although most of us could benefit from a deep inhale and exhale from time to time) it’s easy to overlook the importance of air quality. And that is unfortunate, because indoor air quality has a huge impact on our health and well-being. Just think about how much time each of us spends indoors every day (for most of us we’re talking around 18-20 hours per day). I learned this the hard way when my children started developing asthma. As I began to search for causes and tried to eliminate various toxins in the house, I learned about numerous culprits of indoor air polluters. The more I learned, the less I trusted traditional household products. This is why Tip #2 addresses steps you can take to make your air as fresh and clean as possible, and eliminate some of the common causes of indoor air pollution. Get ready, as there is a lot of information here!

First always say no to VOCs in your paint. VOC stands for ‘volatile organic compound’ and includes a whole host of nasty chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene and acetone that off-gas particles into the air which irritate the skin and mucus membranes and cause many short- and long-term adverse health effects. Traditional paint is full of VOCs – that is the typical ‘new paint smell’. Happily, excellent quality, no-VOC paint is readily available these days in most big box hardware stores like Ace and Home Depot. My personal favorite brands are Mythic and Yolo Colorhouse. I also really like Benjamin Moore’s Natura, and you can find it almost everywhere!

Think carefully about MDF, and look for non-toxic varieties, toxic MDF, no-VOC MDF, nontoxic MDF, low VOC MDF, greenguard certified, Medium Density FibreboardThink carefully about laminated wood, as it is usually dressing up MDF…

Another sneaky hidden culprit of indoor air pollution is MDF, a basic staple of most cabinetry and furniture. MDF, which stands for ‘Medium-Density Fiberboard’ is ground up wood pulp bound together with adhesives. Most inexpensive and mass-produced furniture, cabinets and wood floors are made from composite board these days, but typical MDF uses urea formaldehyde in the resin, and formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen that off-gases vapors into the air and has been associated with nasal cancer and leukemia.

When shopping for furniture and cabinetry, make sure that any and all MDF that you see is ‘non-toxic MDF’ which is made with formaldehyde-free resin. Additionally, look for products from companies that use non-toxic finishes (such as varnishes, paints and lacquers). Mainstream brands like IKEA and West Elm are great options for inexpensive low VOC furniture, but if you want something special that’s going to last many years take a look at some of the beautiful styles offered by Q Collection and Ironies.

5 Tips to Green Your Home With Zem Joaquin, green home, green design, eco design, ecofabulous, eco-fabulous, sustainable design, green design, green interior design, green interiors

The greenest piece of furniture is one that already exists.

I’m a huge advocate of vintage furniture. Not only is it more eco-friendly to reuse an existing product rather than get a new product, but most vintage furniture uses solid wood and is much better quality and craftsmanship than mass-produced furniture that is churned out of factories today. I love to browse antique fairs like the Alameda flea market, and shop on Ebay for vintage diamonds in the rough that I can refurbish myself and turn into treasures.

An Ecofabulous DIY Furniture Makeover from ecofabulous on Vimeo.

Don’t forget the small things that can make a big difference! Simple things like removing your shoes in the house and making the most of cross-ventilation can have a huge impact. It’s also important to use only gentle, eco-friendly cleaning supplies. My favorite brand is Method – especially Method’s Wood for Good floor cleaner.

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  1. Jessie Garcia-Pacheco December 27, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Love the telephone bench – super cute look. Gonna go check out eBay for a treasure of my own :)

  2. Ving July 13, 2011 at 4:57 am

    Many many quality piotns there.

  3. jazz568 June 26, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Great tips for a safe home. Wonder LED lights should be considered especially for children’s rooms. CFL is really dangerous if it’s broken inside a home. EPA’s clean-up procedure guide is really scary.

  4. bronwen June 14, 2011 at 3:58 am

    i would like to know about the window dressing (1st pic). what material did you use? and is that a print on there?

  5. Andreadistmtl May 16, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks for the tips! very simple, accessible and thorough

  6. karenwil April 14, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Thank you GREENGUARDEnvironmentalInstitute for reminding us that ‘no VOC’ or ‘low VOC’ are also low-emitting” Thanks for the tips on paint.
    Green washing is an increasing issue. There are some advise on Green and how to become LEED certified interior.

  7. GREENGUARDEnvironmental... April 14, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Great article! It’s so important for people to remember that what’s “green” isn’t always what’s healthy!

    One thing that’s REALLY important (since you mentioned VOCs in paints): not all paints labeled “no VOC” or “low VOC” are also low-emitting. The difference is VOC content vs. VOC emissions. Paint manufacturers can claim “no VOC” or “low VOC” as long as their paints don’t react with sunlight to product ground-level ozone (an OUTDOOR, not indoor, environmental issue), so they may not have been assessed for their impact on human health in indoor spaces.

    That’s why it’s so important to look for a third-party certified paint–one that has been scientifically and independently evaluated for use indoors.

    The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute is a third-party organization that certifies products (including paints, yes) to ensure that they’re low-emitting, healthier options for indoor use. There’s a bunch of information about VOCs, how products off-gas chemicals into the indoor air, and simple steps you can take to improve your indoor air quality at http://www.greenguard.org. We encourage you to check it out!

  8. taraprieto April 13, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Great ideas…I wish more people knew how easy it is to implement some of these ideas.

  9. karenwil March 22, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Responding to Knortho’s comment about common sense and green rally. In the IDEAL situation we would always have local renewable materials used for all projects and one day we likely will have too once the resources for depleted.

  10. knortho@yahoo.com March 18, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Isn’t green rally about common sense? And would it not be better to have a local company tht rebuilds old windows or builds them locally support your blog instead of Marvin?

  11. herman miller santa rosa March 15, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Smart, healthy and stylish green living can be created in so many ways.
    Trope group have sensible options for helping create workplace business solutions.

    Sofia you can researcher on the web who is local vendor in your area that sells cork flooring.

  12. sofia i March 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Love the article!! I live in Mexico and ecofriendly products are really hard to find. Do you know where I could find cork flooring in Mexico?


  13. icare_dou March 12, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Indoor air quality is always worse than outdoor air quality. Consequently, the best first step to improving the indoor air quality is simply opening the window.

    There have been significant advances in the past several years, so consumers can now actually test and measure the many pollutants in their own home’s indoor air at affordable prices. For example the Sierra Club used passive formaldehyde badges to discover the FEMA trailers. These are extremely easy to use and at $39 affordable for most. Considering California Air Resource Board found that 98% of the homes they tested exceeded the maximum formaldehyde concentration, the question is how bad is your home’s air. These are available on the Internet with one site being ACSbadges.com/formaldehyde.shtml

  14. Zem Joaquin March 10, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Yuka, clothing is absolutely the same story. There are many brands of gear that are well intentioned but uninformed. Organic linen and cotton can be great but when you mix them with polyester (recycled or virgin), you make the entire product unusable in the future – meaning they will end up in a grave (AKA; landfill). Natural fibers can go back to the biological system (soil) if not combined and many synthetic or man-made fibers can be reinvented by recycling them if they are not mixed with natural fibers.

  15. Diane Pham March 10, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    gorgeous and green house! wonderful tips! can’t wait to try out the window treatments!

  16. Jessica Dailey March 10, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    I’ve been on the hunt for new window treatments, and now I know exactly what to look for… Thanks, Zem!

  17. Kestrel Jenkins March 10, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    I would love to live in Zem’s living room. Gorgeous.

  18. Yuka Yoneda March 10, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Hey Zem, does what you wrote about monstrous blends go for clothing too?

  19. Jill Fehrenbacher March 10, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Great tips Zem – I absolutely love the foot pedals idea and am going to try it in my own house as soon as I can!

    Love your use of cork flooring too – fabulous!

  20. Rebecca Paul March 10, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    I love this article. These tips are really accessible and easy to understand.

  21. Jasmin Malik Chua March 10, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Love your kids’ rooms, Zem! What style!

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