Turn over a new leaf

eco-friendly living

Turn over a new leaf

The rapidly degrading environment is a cause of concern. And you can do your part to improve the situation by starting with your home, writes Bindu Gopal Rao

To make home interiors eco-friendly, you need to use materials which come with an eco-friendly label. “For example, while choosing the right flooring, ensure it comes from controlled forestry and carries a PEFC/FSC certification. This is the best way to ensure that you are using eco-friendly products. Take that small step and buy green floorings with certifications; it’s the smallest step towards giving back to the planet,” advices flooring specialist Gaurav Saraf. An important part of home décor is paints and ordinary ones contain high concentrations of lead and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that add to air pollution significantly.

“Technology in this segment has enabled more and more movement to safer water- based products from solvent-based products without compromising on performance. Even within water-based products, the presence of lead, VOCs and other toxic polluting constituents in paints and paint products precipitate an urgent need to re-look at the formulations and associated production processes,” says Sukhpreet Singh, a paints expert.

There are many benefits of using these eco-friendly paints and stains such as coating flexibility, better gloss retention, better face resistance and reduced health risks. Walls are usually the largest surface area inside a home and are most exposed to heat, dust, and other external elements. “This not only results in deterioration of the surface but also exposes the wall to numerous bacteria most commonly found in homes. Hence, eco-friendly paints have become a safer alternative over traditional paints and cause lesser damage. They not only fulfill the aesthetic value of adding colour to walls but also help keep the environment safe,” says Kavitha Sriram, another paint expert.

Recycle, revamp, restore

Design store owner Monica Khanna offers several ways in which you can adopt a green thumb. “Use recycled wood for doors and windows, revamp old furniture or buy restored furniture, use energy saving light fixtures, keeps plants in the house to reduce toxins, use water conserving closets in the bathrooms, switch to reusable cloth napkins and cut down on paper napkins and use non-toxin candles.” If you are building your home from scratch, then there is a lot you can do. You can plan the orientation of your home and your doors and windows to conserve energy. Says Dimple Kohli, interior designer, “As far as furniture is concerned, instead of wooden panels, it is better to use recycled glass panels. People are now aware that by using wooden furniture they are destroying the environment.Thus, we should use our old furniture in a very creative manner instead of buying new ones.

We can also use eco-friendly wallpaper.” To which Ashish Dhingra, interiors expert, adds, “Termite-free bamboo furniture is not only a great way to create an environment-friendly home, but also gives an oriental look that goes well with all colour palates. Lining your open spaces and parapets with plants and flowers is another way to accessorise your home and add a breath of fresh air.  Also, apply colour block techniques like light pink flowers placed against dark pink or mauve background to bring in the fashion quotient.”

Window placement encourages good ventilation which lessens dependency on air conditioning in summers. It can also minimise heating costs in winters by providing adequate solar heat. “Unplasticised Poly Vinyl Chloride (also known as green material) windows are now being replaced by traditional windows. They make the home better ventilated by providing larger sash sizes as compared to traditional windows that result in improved air circulation inside the house. These windows can stretch from the floor to ceiling and span entire balconies without compromising on the strength,” explains Alex Murphy, window expert. Going green with kitchen cabinets and counters can be easily implemented. Just like floors, the cabinets can be made from reclaimed wood or from bamboo.

“If the present cabinets in a kitchen are in good shape, consider sanding and painting them for a completely new look. Not only is it being environmentally frugal, but it is much less expensive than new cabinets. If the doors make the cabinets look outdated, just replace the doors. Consider taking out the centre panel of the old doors and replacing them with recycled glass for an upscale look. Even pieces of furniture can be repurposed into kitchen islands or peninsulas,” advises Meeta Gutgutia, a design school director.

Product offerings are getting more superior, sophisticated and consumer centric.
“Today, geysers are trendy to look at and connote luxury with innovation and latest features like digital timer, remote control, electronic temperature settings etc. While being high on technology, we offer products that are five-star rated,” says Prashant Dhar, product expert.

There are a lot of small things which can be done, but, currently, ready-to-use products are available in different categories that make tasks simple. “Polish your table tops and other wood pieces with specific oils. This reduces toxins. Switch to energy saving bulbs.

Empty containers, beer bottles, old newspaper and leftover candle wax can be put to good use in the house and garden. If you sit down with your children to work with such mediums, they learn to be creative and also understand the importance of recycling for conserving the environment,” says Khanna. Planters, natural plants or artificial plants can also be used to give a green look and feel to the interiors. “Make use of natural light and cross ventilation to avoid high energy consumption. Wherever possible reinstate or restore the original and try to source and engage local materials and services,” says Megan Hounslow, from a Victorian interior designing company.

Aesthetics and the environment

A right balance between aesthetics and green interiors can be created only with a clear understanding of the importance for sustainable design combined with an understanding of aesthetics in design. There is a common misconception that using green products means using products which have an inferior design. “In flooring, most normal flooring ranges come with a green tag. They are approximately 10 per cent more expensive as this comes certified and from controlled forests,” says Saraf. The best part of having an eco-friendly interior is that one does not have to compromise on aesthetics as a green interior exudes warmth and in fact is the need of the hour. “Decorating interiors with planters, sculptures, urlis in terracotta adds earthen and warm vibes to the interiors and dramatically enhances the configuration of the living space. This balances things well and helps bring the outdoors inside,” says artist Anju Kumar. The green element has to be placed in such a manner that it should not obstruct sunlight or the passage area.

Container gardens are perfect for beginning gardeners and for small spaces. You can grow a mix of flowers and foliage in containers. Likewise, it is easy to grow a herb garden that can supply ingredients to your kitchen.

Natural material is a huge trend this season. “Natural materials like cotton, wood, silks, cane, bamboo and, moving ahead, even lesser known natural fibres like river grass, banana bark are being used to develop simple furniture, home decor products and so on,” opines Monita Kumari, home interiors expert. Today, people are opting for green technology and want a green environment for themselves.”

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