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Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Image from Sparkly Like a Holiday

OK, I admit it.  I’m stealing this topic from Paul Anater, over at Kitchen and Residential Design.  But I’m not going to say the same things.

Yes, I quite agree that chalkboard paint is overdone – and way overdone in several of the images he shows.  It’s old.  It’s boring.  It’s dated.  There are clearly limits to its usefulness, safety, and definitely to its appearance.  Not only can it be toxic when it gets into your food as Paul mentions, but chalk dust can also be a major problem for people who have allergies, asthma, or chemical sensitivities, so it would not foster an accessible design for people who suffer from such afflictions.  It would also violate universal and visitability design principles, as it could create a similar hazard for other users of the space, particularly visitors whose sensitivities might be unknown.  Chalk dust doesn’t do anything for overall air quality, either, so that lowers the green design reusability quotient of the paint, never mind what the VOC content of it might be.

Now that we’ve looked at the potential health hazards, let’s focus more on the visual elements.

Looking at the images Paul posted, the ones that really offend me the most are the refrigerator fully covered in the dreadful green version of the paint, that huge, frightening expanse of black wall and door, and yes, that hideous kitchen. (more…)

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Canned Foods (Consumer Reports)

Image courtesy of Consumer Reports

Almost everyone knows by now that many of the refillable water bottles we love are lined with an epoxy-based material that contains carcinogenic chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA). Public outcry has resulted in several manufacturers now offering bottles with alternative, non-epoxy-based linings.

What is not quite so well known, however, is that the linings of most food and beverage cans are also this same type of epoxy resin that also contain BPA. This is the chemical that is responsible for the vastly longer shelf lives of canned foods in this day and age, which is why it’s become so ubiquitous.

Consumer Reports recently tested a variety of canned foods for its presence, and found that even organic foods, and those made by manufacturers who make a concerted effort to avoid the epoxy resins still have significant levels of BPA in the food samples tested. Only one manufacturer, Eden, has so far managed to find a source of cans that was even willing to address the problem and attempt to make cans without BPA.

Despite being packed in cans made by the Ball Corp. with the oleo-based material previously known as “corn enamel”, which was common in food can linings prior to the 60s, testing still found measurable levels of BPA in Eden’s foods (although vastly below those found in other brands), suggesting that there may be multiple sources of exposure to the chemical in the food chain, not just in the cans.

You can read the rest of the whole article about this, and learn about the FDA’s new assessments of what a safe level of BPA exposure may be on the Consumer Reports blog.

So should you clean out your kitchen cabinets, throw away all of your canned foods, and never buy any more? In the ideal world, perhaps yes, but we all know that we don’t live in one. BPA is one of the highest volume chemicals in the world, though, even found in dust and water samples from all over the world, so at this point, it’s completely unavoidable in the environment, and it would be a reasonable assumption that this is one of the additional sources Consumer Reports speculates about. Eliminating BPA from food can linings may help, but until that happens, you can at least dramatically decrease your exposure to it by avoiding canned food wherever possible.

So what does this have to do with interior design?

Kitchen Storage

Kristi Stratton, CountryLiving.com

Well, clearly kitchens are where food is stored and prepared, and most are now designed with as much storage space as possible for both housewares and packaged foods. You may find, however, that as you reduce your reliance on canned goods and other processed foods, that you may need different types of storage, and it may need to be configured somewhat differently. Many things can be packaged in glass or ceramic containers instead of plastic or cans, but both glass and ceramics tend to be a lot heavier and bulkier than cans and plastic containers, and of course will break if dropped, so you’ll need to pay careful attention to how your storage is laid out so that they are easily – and safely – accessible. Increased refrigeration space may be required as well, in order to accomm0date a wider range of fresh produce and other foods.

It may be that you won’t actually even need as much space, though, because the shorter shelf lives of fresh foods and those that come in jars instead of cans means you’ll probably be shopping more often, but for smaller quantities. Or perhaps you’ll start buying in bulk and doing your own canning and preserving.

Well Stocked Pantry with Preserved Foods

Library of Congress via TheSustainableKitchen.com

You’ll be chopping up more things, so ensuring adequate preparation space that suits your needs and ideally allows you to work while seated as well as standing will be useful.

You may need or want additional cooktop burners or additional and innovative cooking sources like the marvelous new steam or combination steam/convection ovens. Steaming is one of the best possible ways to prepare food, locking in both nutrients and moisture, and these ovens make it so incredibly convenient that you wouldn’t believe it.

Miele Steam Oven

Miele Steam Oven

And because it’s healthier for both you and the environment, avoiding canned foods and learning to make your own fresh, more healthful meals from scratch, you’ll also be being much more green. True sustainable design doesn’t end with the cabinets and other finishes used; it translates through to how the space is used, how waste is removed, and much, much more.

So, if you’re designing a new kitchen, you’ll need to take these changing food preparation habits into account, and communicate your desires to your designer, so that the space can be optimized for food preparation patterns that are less common today than they used to be, and with which you yourself may not yet be as familiar with the requirements of and ways to optimize.

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Furniture tipping over can create a significant hazard in the home, particularly to young children, although the frail elderly and the disabled may also be disproportionately negatively impacted as well. Top quality furniture has always resisted tipping over as a result of use far more effectively than cheaper goods, because best manufacturing practices and materials create structure that builds this in to a large extent.

However, particularly since most people purchase mass market goods, much of which does not come anywhere near meeting these kinds of inherent quality standards, it’s important to read the press release below, and to be alert to the hazard, as well as to ways you can mitigate it.

In earthquake-prone areas such as California, it is particularly important to bolt taller pieces of furniture to the wall in order to prevent tip-over in an earthquake (although that still won’t help with the problem of poorly constructed drawers falling out). In an earthquake, all bets are off as to what will or will not tip over due to construction quality, and you’ve got to assume that everything will fall over. Securing tall pieces to the wall is just plain a good idea everywhere else, too, for the reasons outlined below, just on general principles, and is the reason this new voluntary standard has been developed.

In future posts, I’ll address the question of what to look for in furniture construction of various types of furniture in order to ensure you get the best possible quality, which contributes to safety, comfort, usability, durability, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness, as well as pure pleasure and enjoyment.

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(05/18/2009) AHFA Will Use Consumer Website to Help Educate Parents About Furniture Tip-Over Hazards
By: Jackie Hirschhaut, 336/881-1016

HIGH POINT, N.C. – ASTM International has released a revised furniture tip-over standard requiring manufacturers to include a “tip restraint” with each chest, door chest and dresser taller than 30 inches.

“Tip restraints attach the piece of furniture to an interior wall, framing or other support to help prevent the piece from tipping over,” explains American Home Furnishings Alliance Vice President Bill Perdue, who served as co-chair of the furniture safety subcommittee that worked on the revised standard. “Furnishings that comply with the new standard also will carry a new warning label that cautions parents not to open more than one drawer at a time, not to place televisions or other heavy objects on the top of the product, and not to allow children to climb on drawers.” (more…)

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Cricket looking more disgruntled than she really was at the time

Cricket looking more disgruntled than she really was at the time

I’m sitting here with Cricket on my lap, my boyfriend’s cat who’s “on loan” for a few days, since I volunteered to cat sit while he’s out of town. It’s been a few years since I had a kitty of my own in the house, my beloved old Standard Poodle Fennel

Fennel

Fennel (RB) at "summer camp" - where I used to board him when I traveled.

died last fall, and I’m still hunting for my next puppy, so I’ve been completely petless for a little while now – for the first time in 18 years. It’s really weird. Although I live about half time with Cricket and her daddy, it’s really not the same as having one of my own, in my own home all the time. So, while I really miss my guy, I’m really enjoying having Cricket here, and as I deal with the fur and litter box, I’m reminded of all of the fun – and the hassles – of pet ownership – including the implications for interior design.

Anyone who has ever had a pet knows that they pose a challenge to having and maintaining a beautiful home, even when they’re very well trained. Accidents and messes are just a part of life with an animal in the house, which includes vomiting, tracking dirt in, and anything from occasional incontinence to outright bad behavior making them soil anywhere they want, as well as other issues such as cats scratching the furniture, climbing the drapes, etc. The soiling issues also get worse as the pet ages, or if it develops health problems.

People often ask me how they can still have a nice home when they share it with pets, so here are some thoughts.

PREVENTION FIRST

No matter what materials you choose for your home, your first line of defense is obviously to make sure that Fido or Garfield are well-trained so that they do their business where they are supposed to, and use scratching posts, climbing towers designed for the purpose, and their own chewtoys instead of the furniture and drapes to exercise their natural instincts to chew, climb, and scratch. Keeping the critters off of the furniture altogether will help preserve it, but for most people these days, that’s not an option, and you still have to deal with the floors anyways.

Regular bathing and grooming of your pet will also keep it clean and prevent shedding, which will help immensely with maintaining the cleanliness of your home.

WHAT’S UNDERFOOT?

(more…)

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