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Posts Tagged ‘sustainable design’

HIGH POINT — The American Home Furnishings Alliance is launching a program called Eco3Home that will allow consumers to research information on AHFA members and their products regarding safety, health and environmental stewardship.

It will be anchored by a consumer website, www.eco3home.com, where shoppers will be able to find out about AHFA manufacturer or importer members participating in the program, and also can research a particular piece of furniture in detail.

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So far, very few manufacturers have signed on to this program, but perhaps more will with time, as it becomes known.  The idea is certainly an excellent one, and I hope this program really takes off.

I sure hope that the high end companies like Dessin Fournir, Holly Hunt, and others that I am accustomed to using most frequently will get onto this sort of bandwagon.  There is progress happening in the industry, with more and more attractive furniture being made in green ways, so that environmental responsibility need not mean sacrificing style, but it still hasn’t hit the really top quality goods.

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Photo source: South Okanagan Modular Homes

For those of you who may live in modular or manufactured (mobile) homes, or are in the market for one, you can now get them all with universal/visitable design features such as level entries, wider hallways, lever handles, larger doorways, varying height kitchen counters, curbless showers, knee spaces at vanities, anti-scald controls, handheld showers, grab bars and blocking for them,  extra space to maneuver in kitchens and baths, task lighting for various task including cooking, and easy to reach thermostats.

Who knew?

South Okangan Modular Homes

It doesn’t look as if they offer knee space for  a wheelchair in the kitchen, 48″ electric outlets and light switches, adjustable height cooktops and sinks, pull-down upper shelves, etc., all of which are important for accessible design for someone in a wheelchair, or particularly short, but perhaps they can be added, or are on the drawing board for the future.  This is certainly an excellent start, though, and some of these elements could probably be retrofitted after purchase, if need be.

And yes, the cute little cottage above is actually a mobile home, believe it or not – a double-wide.  The kitchen below is also in one, although it clearly doesn’t show all of the universal design features.  Click on the images to go to their photo gallery if you want to see more examples, or images of their modular homes.

Some  manufacturers also offer high end finishes such as granite and marble, so you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice luxury just because you buy a home at this price point.  I was  in some mobile homes in my paramedic days that were nicer than many regular homes I’ve seen.  Some also offer triple-wide homes, although I have no idea what universal design elements might be available.

Photo source: South Okanagan Modular Homes

Note:  This is not an endorsement for this manufacturer, as I know nothing else about them.  I’m just very interested that universal design features are now available for this kind of housing, and it’s likely that other manufacturers will follow suit, if they haven’t already.

I also don’t know if they offer formaldehyde-free homes, or if any manufacturer does.  Formaldehyde at least used to be a major component in manufactured homes, so this very ungreen element could be an issue for a lot of people, both for those who are chemically sensitive, as well as those for whom green construction is a priority.  Whether or not it would offset the advantages of the more universal design, if this chemical is still prevalent, would have to be an individual decision, although I certainly hope that these manufacturers are moving in this direction, as it’s the environmentally responsible thing to do.

Photo source: South Okanagan Modular Homes

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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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