Sunday, June 17, 2007

Spreading the Green Word

I've been bogged down with moving back into the house. I also took a week off to help my mother in South Carolina get her house updated and sorted out. I want to report on a couple of events that lead me to believe that green is no longer just for the initiated.

I had a new piece of furniture delivered to the house in Sonoma and it just so happens that the day it happened on the day that the painters were finishing up and we had a house full of workers who were putting finishing touches everywhere. I was caught off guard when one of the delivery men pointed out that he normally can smell the effects of new construction when he walks in the door. He said that it normally caused him to wheeze a bit. But this house was different, he pointed out. It is always nice to get unsolicited confirmation that your work is recognized.

Then there's the South. I grew up in the South, so I lovingly embrace its traditions. But often times, it means that there is healthy skepticism for anything new. And I feared that this was the case. Of course, my elderly mother seems game for being part of any new movement that makes her life easier and more productive. She still teaches university and is a whiz on the web, which she uses for her literary research. I've been very heartened by her interest in all things environmental and green. She regularly sends me articles that she's clipped on alternative fuel cars (she's subscribes to Car and Driver magazine) and features from the Wall Street Journal.

She enlisted the aid of Roy Grubbs for his painting services and insisted that he use the low-VOC paint from Sherwin Williams (Duration). She rescues greyhounds so she needs a durable and washable paint. So far, the results live up to expectation. It was fairly odor-free. It went on well, according to Roy. And the gentle test scrubbing that I did before I left seem to hold up.

I spent the week adding the "expert" commentary on green design to anyone that my mother would engage in conversation on the topic. While I understand the look of polite tolerance that one often encounters in the South, I do think that we "converted" several skeptics in our travels around the Charleston area.

It's all about spreading the word and living by example. Isn't everything?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

When Green Becomes Beige

Sometimes I think that too much is being made out of “green” as a lifestyle choice. Of course, I think we all need to take stock of what we do and how it affects longtime viability of the environment. But a part of me longs for the day when green practices will be so ubiquitous as to make calling it out as separately will be unnecessary. However, we are in a period of building awareness and as such, one has to be diligent in thinking about your activities in terms of whether they are good for the environment or not. That's new for most people.

I recently watched an interesting program on the Sundance Channel ( in the series “Big Ideas for a Small Planet.” This particular segment focused on sustainable design practices. The program featured the activities at various furnishing companies and how they are producing products in a more sustainable way.

What came through in the discussion from the DFE team (design for the environment team) at Hermann Miller in Holland, MI. Their goal is to be a zero landfill company that creates zero hazardous waste and generate zero emissions by the year 2020. The company which gave us the Eames and Aeron chairs now has launched the Mirra chair that is made of 42% recycled products and is 95% recyclable at the end of the chair’s life.

While the goals of the company are impressive, I was really intrigued by the discussion that the resident designers had on just what it means to create “sustainable” furniture. They seemed dedicated to a philosophy that manufacturing quality products that are ecologically sustainable should be standard operating procedure and the fact that the products are green should be transparent to the customer. I agree and applaud that attitude. As example, take a look at the Mirra chair as it doesn’t look “green” to me! It just looks like a fabulous product.

PS: I also really like what the Salm brothers are creating at Especially this creative wall covering, made from 100% post and pre-consumer waste paper.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Child's Play

I have a very creative friend in Southern California. When she told me about what she was doing to create an additional play area for her two children, I asked her to send photos.

Being "green" is all about using the space you already have, more efficiently. My friend certainly did that with an "extra" balcony in her home. As you can tell from this photo, she created a "baby" house out of a little-used balcony off her bedroom. It's every child's dream play house and takes the concept of a tree house to new levels.

I applaud my friend's ingenuity. Oh, and her husband did an amazing carpentry job, for an amateur!