Green Homes

Building for the future, today – combining the best of historical wisdom and modern technology.

Add to My MSN

4/20/2015

image1

There are so many uses for old pallets—from simple Halloween decorations to an entire potting shed, these practical, eco-friendly materials should be a staple at any homestead. And best of all, they’re free.

Pretty much anytime we need a new piece of furniture around our home or garden, I ask my husband, ‘Can we make it out of pallet?’ So, when our rickety wine rack bit the dust, we turned to the trusty pallet.

Overall, the transition from pallet to wine rack was really easy—the only real problem we faced was the quality of the wood. The pallet we had was very brittle, so it didn’t withstand much sawing or drilling. Eventually we had to substitute a few pieces of pine to ensure stability (no one wants ten wine bottles and eight wine glasses crashing to the ground), but we retained enough pallet to keep that rustic look I personally love.

image2

Here’s how we fashioned a wine rack out of a pallet:

1. First we cut away the bottom quarter of the pallet with a handsaw. This would form the basis of the wine rack.

 

2. Next we trimmed away some of the thickness of the top plank, so we would be able to see the labels on the wine bottles once they were in place.

 

3. Then we nailed two 1 in. x 1 in. pine boards to the inside of the pallet to create a base for the bottles to sit on securely.

 

4. After several failed attempts to cut notches for the wine glasses in the base of the pallet, we gave up and removed the bottom board of the pallet, replacing it with a 1 in. x 4 in. pine board. If your pallet is made of more hardy wood, you may be able to get away with keeping it.

 

5. To get the correct spaces for the wine glass portion of the wine rack, we set the wine glasses on the top of the board, marked the correct spacing and then cut notches in the wood with a jigsaw (you could also use a router for this.)

 

6. We screwed the pine board to the bottom of the pallet, placing a couple of shims above it to create enough space for the base of the glasses to slide into the notches.image3

 

7. Finally, we applied a coat of wood stain to help blend the wood tones of the new pine and old pallet. To mount it we simply put two anchors in the wall and affixed two screws in the back of the rack and hung it in our dining room. 

As you can see, this was an incredibly simple project and the end result is a nice showpiece not unlike one that people would actually pay real money for (in my opinion!).image4

image5 

One thing to bear in mind when using pallets for indoor projects, or related in anyway to food, is to make sure you give the pallet a good scrub down first. The wood can easily harbor bacteria, which you don’t want to bring into your home. For more tips on prepping pallets for various uses check out this article.

image6 

What home projects have you built out of old pallets?

Jennifer Tuohy is a DIYer in Charleston, South Carolina, who writes about her projects for The Home Depot. Jennifer's upcycled pallet-into-wine-rack shows what a few tools and a little elbow grease can produce. For a look at some of the tools Jennifer used to build her wine rack, click here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



4/15/2015

My first post here was a short description of How to Build a Low-Cost DIY Yurt. I was a bit surprised when the editor told me it had gotten 423,000 views in its first week or so, but there are a lot of reasons why people are interested in yurts. One of them was a man named Bill Coperthwaite. When Peter Forbes came out with his book about Bill, I jumped at the chance to review it, partly because it was an opportunity to express gratitude for Bill's life and work. This is adapted from a long version of the review published on the Hand Print Press website.

A Man Apart, Bill Coperthaite's Radical Experiment in Living,
by Peter Forbes & Helen Whybrow

I met Bill Coperthwaite in 2007. I had recently read his book, A Hand Made Life, and was deeply impressed by his stories and practice, and the way he was trying to live out an answer to questions that, by our denial of them, define our culture:

“Can you have ‘culture’ without violence?”

“Is beauty useful?”

“Are justice, democracy, and peace possible if most all of our technologies require violence?”

Like Gandhi, Bill figured that whatever he could make for himself meant less dependence on an imperial master, but where Gandhi lived with hundreds of others in an ashram in India, Bill lived alone on a couple of hundred acres in Northern Maine, at the end of a mile and a half footpath. For a home, he built himself a stunning, 4-tiered yurt, each layer divided from the next by a ring of clerestory windows. When he wasn't at home building and designing, he travelled the world building for others and seeking out living traditions of craft and design.

Two years after I met him, I organized a workshop where Bill led us in building a beautiful 20' diameter two-tiered yurt for one of my Oregon neighbors. He introduced us to crooked knives and welcomed me into the art of spoon-carving. When the building was done, he spent a day at our home, talking about books and poetry and helping us shuck our dry corn. The conversation continued as I drove him to a conference, and then to the airport.

I would have loved to spend more time with him, but opportunity and timing never coincided. Thanksgiving of 2011, he slid off an icy road, hit a tree and died at the age of 83.

Bill cultivated, largely by hand, a unity of home and life that freed him from participating in most modern consumer insanity. It's a high ideal for many of us, including Peter Forbes, whom I'd met when he came out to photograph our yurt workshop. He'd known Bill for decades, so when he and his wife Helen came out with this book, I was eager to read it.

Of the two authors, Peter in particular was influenced by his relationship with Bill. In meditating on that relationship, he and Helen focus primarily on the experience of building a yurt together on Bill's land, as part of a stewardship arrangement by which Bill was turning over his life's work to a small group of friends, and encouraging them to share his land and vision while he was still alive.

Like any life, Bill's was full of compromise -- but those weren't what he talked about. He spoke of principles, and design -- the right way of doing things. Unlike social theorists who address such challenges with words and ideas, however, Bill addressed it with his hands. How do things fit? And how do our tools, materials, and choices affect that fit?

At one point, Bill decided to make a better landing area for his canoe (his primary mode of transporting materials). This was a design challenge that most would have addressed with dynamite and a civil engineer. There would have been a high price to pay for power and engines to do the work at speed. That work would have been "someone's job," done primarily for payment, and measured in days and dollars. Instead, Bill chose a sledgehammer, and spent one if not several summers slowly chipping away at Maine's granite coastline. He said he would spend 20 minutes hammering, and 20 minutes reading a book. He measured the work in ideas and stories; things seen while resting, and a physical understanding of geology that could make a person feel like a true brother to wind, rain, and time.

Bill inspired Peter's decision to leave a successful career in land conservation, but he and his wife chose a place and path several hundred miles from Bill and his communitarian vision. It's hard to try and participate in a vision held by a reclusive, if brilliant, curmudgeon; harder without sharing in the day to day work. Lacking such daily reinforcement, how do you measure success?

A teacher is like an old tree. He stands or dies by himself. With luck, there will be seeds and sprouts that we can nurture, even transplant. Maybe we graft old wood onto a new tree, and clone some fruit. But when an old tree is gone, it's gone. The shading branches fall; the spring brings no new flowers. The gifts of a living love begin the slow process of turning to compost, while the next generation of seeds seek nourishment from what remains. The vision is that nourishment; it's survival depends on each individual's ability to see it for themselves.

Helen, who met Bill as her husband's mentor, didn't really choose her relationship -- it came as a package deal with the husband. She was admittedly cautious in her approach to a reputedly "difficult" person. Not long after they started building, however, she realized that if the yurt was to have the separate space they'd promised to their young daughter, it would be up to mom. So, with trepidation about whether he'd allow "his" design to be modified, she approached Bill. In response, he drew a picture of how he thought it could fit, and said there was probably enough lumber. Then he left her on her own. So she partnered up with a more experienced builder, and they did it. What she drew from the experience, I think, was not what Bill taught (if anything), but that he had faith in her capacity to learn.

That kind of faith is a fundamental principle by which societies live and grow; it is perhaps the sole nourishment for native human genius. It teaches us what we need to learn in order to do the work we're uniquely suited for. It's not a lesson you can learn in school, where we're divided and ranked against each other, according to false criteria that have little to do with who we are and what we want. In lieu of faith, school offers fear: "don't step out of place, or else..." Or else what? What happens if we step out of a mechanistic, industrialized society? Will we lose our humanity? Our kinship with others? No! We'll lose only mechanized social "function" -- we'll be bad consumers, we won't help "grow the economy" -- but we may gain kinship with wind, rain, and time, and a culture built by beauty instead of violence.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



4/10/2015

When a buyer purchases a home, there are many questions to be asked; financing, neighborhoods, comparably sold properties and so on. But when a buyer decides to buy a green home, it’s wise to ask a few additional questions to make sure that the transaction goes smoothly and that they know exactly what to expect from these premium homes.

larger green home for sale clip art

Does the home have a certification? More and more homes are now getting certified for their sustainability either through a local certification or a national one. These can be very valuable assets to the resale of your home as well. It is proof that your home is green certified. Ask if the home is certified and ask to see the certification to verify the accuracy of the claim.

Is your real estate agent or the listing agent qualified and knowledgeable about green homes? Do they have a green credential?  Green homes have significant attributes and without qualified professionals, you may not be getting all or the proper information about the home. Check to see if your buyer agent or the listing agent has experience and even better a green credential to back up their knowledge of green homes. There are 3 leading credentials that real estate agents can earn: National Association of Realtor’s Green Designation, EcoBroker Designation, and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Associate or the advanced version LEED AP.

ecobroker logo 

 nar

 leed green assoc

Does the appraiser have an understanding of green homes? An appraiser who is not up-to-date on green homes may undervalue the home and cause significant problems for the transaction, including a loan denial. Green homes often sell for a premium price due to their advance building techniques and cost saving features. An appraiser who is not familiar with these features or building techniques may price the home similar to other traditionally built homes, which can put a wrench in a buyer obtaining the financing for the home at the contract price. Make sure your agent and lender both understand that the appraiser should have experience with green homes before they proceed.

How old are the systems or eco-features in the home? Believe it or not, some “eco” products, high efficiency systems, or building techniques that were considered very efficient or high tech ten, fifteen or twenty years ago could be less efficient than “normal” products or required local building codes of today. Many companies have increased the efficiency of their products so much so that a home built many years ago with “green features” could be similarly efficient to a newly built home to today’s codes and newer systems and appliances. For example toilets have become so water efficient at 1.28 gpf that a water saving “eco” toilet from a few years back may have the same water efficiency as most “regular” toilets sold today. Of course there are always the exceptions with some products that are more efficient still. Composting toilets, for example, are by far more water saving than anything else out there. Make sure that your soon-to-be eco-home’s products and systems are in fact actually still as “eco” as they once were considered.

Are there any tax incentives? This will apply mainly to newly built homes where the tax credit is applied upon installation of certain energy efficient or alternative energy products. Energy.gov currently has a Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit that is accessible to current homeowners or buyers of new homes, where one of the energy efficient products or systems have been installed. The good news, however, is that even if you don’t apply for a tax credit right away, if you install “eco” products and systems once you own the property, there are many options out there for tax credits and rebates. Here are some examples of potential tax incentives and rebates.

Do any of the eco-features need special care or maintenance? Eco homes may have features and systems you are not familiar with that often require different care than regular systems. For example, if there is a rain water collection system you may want to ask, “How do you maintain it and how often should it be cleaned?” With solar panels, knowing the dos and don’ts of cleaning them and whether inspections or other maintenance is required to help uphold their efficiency. Your agent or home inspector can help answer these questions for you or direct you to professionals who can.

Asking these 6 questions will help any buyer of a green home become an informed and more confident one. Happy house-hunting!

Kari Klaus CEO and Founder of Viva Green Homes April 2015 


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 



4/3/2015

green construction

According to the United States EPA Clear Air Act Advisory Committee, construction equipment is one of the leading causes and contributing factors to dangerous pollution. More specifically, this equipment ejects dangerous diesel pollution into the surrounding environment during use.

A single bulldozer engine can emit as much particulate matter as more than 500 cars. This is because diesel exhaust can carry large amounts of carcinogens, ozone smog-forming compounds and soot. The resulting pollutants are responsible for a long list of health problems like asthma, strokes, lung cancer, heart failure and even premature death.

As such, the EPA created the Clean Construction USA initiative to promote greener construction, which calls for using cleaner forms of diesel and fuel along with tighter pollution controls. It aims to provide construction equipment owners with the means to improve equipment handling, at least when it comes to the environment. This is accomplished through the use of cleaner fuels like low-sulfur diesel, implementing greener technologies, and modifying old parts and equipment with updated tech.

Even after all these changes, both the environment and our health are still at risk. More dangerous emissions and pollutants continue to be pumped into the atmosphere on a daily basis. It begs the question, what can we do to help, aside from some of the more obvious changes, such as those listed above?

Reduce Equipment Usage Times

While on the job, you may need to get everything done in a timely manner, but there are certain things you can do to cut down on equipment usage. Think of it like this: To conserve water at home, you make sure to turn off the faucet when you're brushing your teeth or while washing dishes. You don't leave the water running consistently during that time – at least we hope not – because it's wasteful.

The same can be said of construction equipment. If your task doesn't actually call for the equipment to be powered on, then shut it down. You don't need to leave it running at all times.

Retrofit and Maintain Equipment

If a piece of equipment is not working properly or is inefficient, then it's time to start repairs. Green operation can be achieved by equipment owners following proper maintenance protocols and by retrofitting machinery with new parts. There are a lot of parts in modern construction equipment that can be replaced or upgraded altogether.

While this might seem costly, neglecting to maintain equipment can be more expensive in ways that you might not immediately see. Equipment breaking down and more severe problems can result in higher maintenance and repair fees. It can also result in equipment malfunctioning for longer periods of time, thus emitting more dangerous pollutants into the air. The latter issue is a problem for everyone, and you'll realize that eventually when your health is failing. Better to take preventative measures and keep your equipment efficient and optimal.

Recycle and Dispose of Waste Properly

Another contributing factor of pollution relates to how we dispose of our waste. For instance, just recycling glass helps reduce air pollution by 20 percent and water pollution by 50 percent. That's not even factoring in harmful waste like certain plastics, metals and alloys, and various chemicals.

While on the job, you'll be dealing with a lot of waste from equipment, from the actual work and from your own habits – like lunch. Learn to recycle and dispose of this waste properly.

Together, we can improve air and environment quality by ensuring we live to greener standards even in places where you wouldn't think it possible, like a construction site.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 



4/3/2015

trees down 

“Get yourself ready for this”, my dad, a.k.a Uncle Rog said, “you are not going to believe it”. My dad was five minutes ahead of me on the way to our project that morning. I had passed fallen limbs in the road and an uprooted tree as I made my way to our project site; it was obvious that a storm had hit the area overnight. I was thinking that there must be a tree across the driveway or something had happened to the house that we had built and just began to install cement board siding on.

The drive into the project site is through a secluded development that has several curves and hills. I remember that there was a tree down here and there, but nothing that I would “need to get ready for’. “What was he talking about” I thought as I drove up the final hill towards our project and it was then that my jaw dropped to the ground in awe.

My first thought was that a tornado had touched down because there were hundreds of trees uprooted and blown down. My second thought was, “oh, no, there are people in those houses back there in all the trees.” The area was completely devastated and no one knew it had happened.

We had to crawl up and over hundreds of downed trees to get to the houses that were in ‘ground zero’ to make sure that everyone was still alive. Thankfully they were but their houses were badly damaged. The wind/tornado started at the house we were building and blew almost every tree down for just short of a half  mile in length. The house has an ICF basement with SIP panels walls and was the only house in that area of the development that didn’t have a tree through its roof. There were five trees on the house that we had to cut off and other than all of the dirt and leaves that were driven into the fresh caulk on the siding, the house stood strong and escaped without any major damage.

Our company has made a name for itself building above and below ground homes that are meant to stand strong in hurricanes and tornados and just about anything else that might concern our homeowners. We always hope and pray that the houses never see a bad storm even though they are built to withstand them. Never did I think that we would have one of our projects take a direct hit by a massive storm during construction.

We had a video camera running that day and the following video shows you exactly what we had to deal with. Although we rose to the occasion and started cutting the trees immediately to get emergency vehicles back into the development and so we could get to our project house, we should have called 911 and left the site once we knew our stuff was ok. It was far too dangerous and time consuming to clean that mess up. Check out the this video, but only if you are ready..


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



4/1/2015

This quarter acre suburban property has been under transformation for fifteen years. The site is flat, good soil, great solar access, Northwest Mediterranean Climate. The house is mid '50's. A suburban neighborhood. The intention from the start has been a permaculture make over of house and landscape – home economics - to take care of more needs closer to home.

For this blog, I would like to describe a very productive collaboration with my neighbor who shares the west fence line. This neighborly cooperation story is a segue to a broader look at neighbors working together.

Eight large old growth laurel shrubs bisected 40 feet of property line on the west side of my property.

hedge 

The laurel hedge before removal. 2010

One day about five years ago, I was walking to the back yard between the hedge and west side of my house and my neighbor called out. He was only ten feet away, but the hedge was so thick, he was unseen. Bill called out, “Jan, what do you think of this hedge. Do you think it should go? ” I said it gets bigger every year, even after pruning it and I have had those kinds of thoughts but didn't know where to begin.

Bill suggested we take it out.

Within 15 minutes we had his old Chevy suburban with chain from the trailer hitch and wrapped around the first shrub, ready to take it out, a bit like a tooth on a string to a door knob.

yard
The laurel hedge is gone. You can see my next door neighbor's house. 2011

We broke a couple chains and were continually amazed at how those shrubs were determined to stay where they were. Nonetheless, out they came over a period of a couple days. Another neighbor with a Bobcat dug out what was left. Bill and I had some manufactured compost brought in and the site looked a lot different.

We didn't leave it that way. I took out another 25 feet of ornamental hedge on my side of the property line. With a couple work parties, my side was clear of cut down shrugs. Bill offered to buy the wood if I built the new fence and replaced the old. The collaboration was a good one.

clean up
A work party removes the cut up hedge.

Removing the hedge was a big project. The trunks were eight inches in diameter. Bill even cut up the larger pieces for firewood. Between us, we had the tools to take out the laurel for a great collaboration. We both benefited. It would not have happened without cooperation.

Over the past five years, my side has become a food tunnel. Two by sixes, about eight feet off the ground run from the fence posts, every eight feet to the fascia of the house. I then ran wire through the 2 by 6s, lengthwise. The 2 by 6s and wire became supports and guidance for shaping the shrubs and trees planted along my side of the property line. I now have a food tunnel. Even the mulberry is woven into a flat canopy, fixing last year's new branches to the wires.

berries
Food tunnel. It's really nice!  2014

I don't want tall plants along the fence line so the wires and 2 by 6s provide the form to train the – grapes, black berries and mulberry tree. It looks great, its all edible and shades the sunny west side of my house from the west sun. Bill's newly available space was narrower than mine. He planted several plum trees and has shaped those to be two dimensional along his side of the fence.

Neighbors working together can open up a great deal of new turf on the suburban frontier. People have different skills, different tools, different capacities that can compliment what others have to offer so everyone benefits.

My neighbor to the east and I shared the expense of taking out several un wanted small trees and shrubs along our property line. He also rebuilt the fence along the east side, we shared the cost of materials.

There are several other neighborly collaborations nearby. One permaculture property attracted a like minded second family to buy the property next door. Their shared fence is down and there is a lot of interaction between families. A third like minded friend bought a property along the second's fence line. That shared fence is down. The third property owner uses part of the second's for a small plant nursery.

picnic
A block away. Neighbors team up to host out of town visitors for a site tour and dinner. The visitors had never seen this kind of suburbia before. They were attending the Neighborhoods USA Conference hosted by Eugene. May, 2014

Another friend of the first property bought an acre lot several years ago, 3 blocks down the street. This purchase was a planned collaboration from the beginning. The one acre was badly neglected. Blackberries occupied most of the back half acre back yard.

By this time, we had developed a neighborhood mutual assistance network of people interested in permaculture so we had cohesion for work parties. It took several years, but the black berries have been removed and are now replaced by a beautiful garden that sees a lot of collaborative attention.

That underused, under appreciated half acre back yard has become a favorite place for neighborhood events like potlucks and workshops. Several structures have been built on the property and there is a start of an eco village.

garden
A few blocks away. Eco Bike tour visits where the blackberry tangle has been replaced by beautiful garden and new structures. 2014

Its great to transform a single property. There are more assets to work with with than most people realize, until they take a closer look.

But its even better when neighbors begin to make common cause. Life becomes much more interesting when new opportunities present themselves for even more creativity, community building and taking care of more needs closer to home. There is a whole new realm beyond do it yourself. Do it with friends and neighbors.

Future blogs will go deeper into the realm of community building and touch on topics such as block planning, allies and assets, civic culture, front yard gardens and place making, green culture and economics.

If you have a good story about transforming your property and neighborhood, please tell me about it. Maybe we can use it in a blog.

You can see more photos of the laurel hedge project, scenes from the neighborhood and many other related photo galleries on my website, Suburban Permaculture.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



3/30/2015

carpet 

I became obsessed with eco-friendly floor coverings when planning the nursery for my first child. The idea of putting anything in the room that might "off-gas" (release) chemicals or in any way impair the development of my soon-to-be bundle of joy was terrifying to me. (If you've been a new parent you'll understand the somewhat irrational terror I'm describing).

However, it turns out my fear wasn't so irrational. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, air pollution indoors can be worse than outdoors, even in the largest and most industrialized cities. Poor indoor air quality has been linked to respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer, and those who are indoors for long periods of time are at higher risk. A baby's immune, hormonal and nervous systems are still developing, meaning environmental pollutants affect them more than they do adults. Consider that babies spend 16 to 18 hours a day in the nursery, and the importance of optimizing the air quality in your home becomes clear.

Many factors contribute to temporary indoor air pollution, from burning a gas stove to smoking tobacco. But what you might not realize is that your furniture and furnishings also contribute to indoor air quality. These items can off-gas, and some do so continuously. Selecting floor-coverings such as rugs and carpets that are not treated with chemicals or made from materials that will off-gas is the best way to mitigate this. Generally, area rugs and carpet tiles are preferable to wall-to-wall carpet.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when shopping for rugs that will help you achieve clean air inside your home:

1. Steer Clear of Synthetic
Traditionally, carpets and rugs have been made from petroleum-based synthetic fibers that off-gas volatile organic compounds. VOCs include a variety of chemicals known to be responsible for the short- and long-term adverse health effects associated with poor indoor air quality.

2. Choose Natural Materials
Instead of synthetic, opt for carpets and rugs made entirely from natural materials that won't off-gas. Most natural materials are biodegradable and recyclable, meaning they won't end up in the landfill. Wool and organic cotton (non-organic cotton is treated with pesticides, and these chemicals could still linger on the materials in your home) are obvious choices, but don't discount plant-based natural fibers such jute, sisal, bamboo and sea grass. Here's a list of the most common natural materials rugs are made from:

Wool 
Made from the fleece of sheep and other animals, wool is the ultimate sustainable fiber, as it is renewable and abundant. 
Pros: Strong; can be dyed any color; naturally stain-resistant; flame-retardant 
Cons: Expensive; difficult to clean

Jute (burlap) 
Made from the stalk of jute, a rain-fed plant found in India and Bangladesh, it is fast growing, renewable and requires minimal fertilizer and pesticides. 
Pros: Unlike most plant-based fibers, jute is very soft; it is also very durable 
Cons: Can only be spot cleaned; may 'shed' slightly; easily damaged by sunlight and liquid

jute 
A jute rug

Sisal 
Made from the Agave Sisalana plant, native to Mexico, Sisal is hardy, fast growing, long living and renewable. 
Pros: Flame-retardant; durable; very strong and absorbent 
Cons: Scratchy and coarse; water can stain it; spot clean only; prone to fading in direct sunlight; one of the most expensive natural fibers

 sisal
A sisal rug

Sea Grass 
Made from a flowering plant grown in saltwater marshes. 
Pros: Water-resistant; durable; easy to clean; smooth finish; easily renewable resource; less-expensive than Sisal and Jute 
Cons: Can't easily be dyed, so limited color choices; may start to fray and shed; quite hard (more floor-like than rug-like); not very absorbent

 sea grass
A Sea Grass Rug

Coir 
Made from the outer husks of coconuts. 
Pros: Very durable; wiry and mildew-resistant; easily renewable resource 
Cons: Very coarse; really only suitable for a doormat/entryway rug

3. Look for hidden VOC's
Once you've chosen your natural rug, check whether the material has been treated with chemicals or pesticides during its lifespan, and if it uses glue, check if it's chemical free.

4. Be Wise about Backing
While the rug may be natural, the backing or rug mat isn't always. Natural latex is preferable to foam rubber, synthetic latex or plastic, all of which can off-gas chemicals.

For help with all of these decisions, look for the Carpet and Rug Institute's Green Label Plus certification and check their website for further information.

Other Green Factors 
Consider source, energy and lifespan when shopping for an eco-friendly rug.

Clearly, natural products have both health and environmental benefits, but being "green" isn't just about choosing the product with the highest "green" score. More and more it is about sustainability. It is important to weigh all the factors to make the best choice for the environment. For example, when you factor in energy use in the production and shipping of a product, buying a secondhand synthetic rug from a thrift store in your neighborhood is actually more eco-friendly than shipping a 100 percent jute rug from Africa. With any purchase, consider carefully the source, energy use and lifespan, and you will be helping the planet in your own small way:

Source: Does the material come from a sustainable, renewable source? Or is it made from a rapidly diminishing natural resource like oil?

Energy: Consider the energy used to produce and deliver a product. The less energy, the less strain on the planet's resources. Production of nylon carpet requires a huge expenditure of energy, largely because nylon is manufactured with petroleum-based products.

Life Span: Consider how long a product will last you. If you are looking for an entryway rug where there will be heavy traffic, it may be better, environmentally speaking, to buy one synthetic rug that will last 20 years, as opposed to buying ten organic cotton rugs over the same time period.

As with many things in life, being green is all about balance—finding what works best for you and your family, and determining what will have the smallest impact on the planet and the best impact on your family's health. Hopefully these tips will help inform your area rug purchasing decisions.

Jennifer Tuohy writes about green homes and interior décor for Home Depot. Jennifer provides eco-friendly advice and tips on appliances, energy usage and interior home products, including carpeting and rugs. A collection of Home Decorators indoor rugs from Home Depot are available online.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.









Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.