Monday, June 22, 2009

What You Should Know Before Buying Furniture: What You Choose Could Be Harmful!

With today’s misleading labels and suggestions on furniture, no wonder the general public is confused on what to believe when purchasing new. An example of this is when a company claims that a piece is made out of solid cherry wood when it’s really particleboard with a cherry wood veneer. In 2002, the Federal Trade Commission came to the conclusion that accurate labelling and claiming guides were unnecessary. With companies allowed to swindle consumers with the lack of true information on a product, consumers are left frustrated and confused on what to believe and whom to believe. With the new trend being the “Green” word, people are quickly being fooled by a label. Consumers need to be truly aware of what they are buying and bringing back to their homes or offices!

Saving the planet is no longer just a politically correct cause. Environmental awareness is an urgent necessity that consumers, communities, cities and countries must all support. The state in which the planet is left to future generations is a human responsibility, a responsibility which extends beyond clever marketing. The effects of careless waste and depleted resources should not be put on the children of tomorrow to suffer with. Environmental awareness must become a natural part of everyday living and a great place to start is with the products we purchase.

Most consumers turn to a salesperson for information. At times, however, salespeople are just as uninformed about the products they are selling and are unable to give proper information leaving consumers just as clueless. A consumer should take things into their own hands to read between the lines or research the company and the quality before purchasing. $55 billion was spent on furniture in 2005 according to the federal Consumer Expenditure Survey, which means furniture was quite a large purchase for the average U.S. consumer. It is estimated that the 2007 survey will top $80 billion. But are consumers spending their money on the right products? Is the product they buy contributing to destroying forests around the world or threatening the homes of critically endangered species? Is the product a result of the destruction of indigenous people and the denial of their human rights or perhaps involved in localised violence due to illegal logging? If consumers were fully aware of where a piece of furniture really came from would it then be a product that consumers would want and be proud of?

Where should consumers start to gather truthful information or simply just more information before buying? First, start on the internet. A huge percentage of home furnishing shops have virtual stores which can have a huge advantage when shopping for furniture. It is quicker and easier to buy online and due to regulations, online stores are required to provide accurate descriptions and dimensions meaning consumers have sufficient information to make an informed decision before purchasing an item. Consumers can easily shop around for different prices and qualities on the web from the comfort of their own home. This simplifies the process and also helps save on gas. Some companies even carry more merchandise online because this cuts back on oversized stores and storefronts. Also, online stores allow the consumer to read up on the company’s history or quality whereas some in-store salespeople have no idea. The internet also gives consumers the opportunity to find out if a company is keeping up with the green movement or if a percentage of proceeds are being donated to a green charity.

It is also important to find out if the product is made from Forest Stewardship Council woods or another regulated council that certifies improved practice of forestry which helps cut back on illegal logging. Also, check to see if the product is Formaldehyde Free. Inhalation exposure to formaldehyde can result in respiratory symptoms, as well as eye, nose, and throat irritation. Short studies have reported that there is an association with formaldehyde exposure and lung and nasopharyngeal cancer. Animal studies have also shown an increased incidence of nasal squamous cell cancer. There are no long term health risk tests out there as of yet but we are unaware of what else formaldehyde could cause, let alone what is it doing to our atmosphere. It is evident that consumers need to be aware of the materials used to make a product before it enters their home or office. Notice how new cars, new construction, and new furniture all have a distinctive odour? That odour indicates harmful contaminants are evaporating into the air which is called off-gassing. Many government workplaces are subject to stringent regulations pertaining to the emission of these volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. So why shouldn’t the general public be as well? To help protect yourselves and your loved ones, choose low-emitting furniture. Look for key terms such as formaldehyde free, water base stains or adhesives, FSC approved woods, BiOH polyol, recycled materials and also natural materials like jute, hemp and 100% cotton. The word “Green” alone should not suffice when making a purchase. Consumers deserve and need to find out the truth beforehand!

Kermit the Frog was right when he said “it isn’t easy being green”, but it only makes sense for us and our spaces to be!

Stay green and until next time,
w&c designer girl!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Slowly killing ourselves?

Do you know what chemicals your house is making you breathe in?

When you take a look inside your own home, you will have a rude awakening when you realize the health problems that you yourself have brought into the very place you are trying to keep safe. Everyday materials that we put ourselves in contact with are the very things that are making our homes dangerous! Off-gassing! If you don’t know the term yet, YOU SHOULD! The chemicals that you are breathing in while you sleep or while you cuddle your baby is something most of us don’t think about, in any means we must start!!
So what is off gassing? “The evaporation of volatile chemicals in non-metallic materials at normal atmospheric pressure”. This means the building materials within your home or office are releasing chemicals into the air through evaporation, which can continue for years after the initial install. This silent stalker is creating these chemicals which enter your lungs on a daily basis, whether you know it or not. It comes from your paints, stains, varnishes, carpet, insulation, flooring, kitchen cabinet and countertops, plywood, particleboard, and paint strippers, producing substantial off gassing in any space. “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns about the health effects of poor Indoor Air Quality from the off gassing of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).”

Indoor air pollutants such as off gassing is the leading cause for people who suffer with Allergies, Chronic sinusitis, Asthma or respiratory problems in general. Off gassing can cause symptoms ranging from puffy, red and watery eyes to a runny nose, congestion, coughing, and asthma-like symptoms. Off gassing can also be the cause for skin irritations such as rashes, itchiness and hives. The two most identified type of off gassing that you can smell is a “new car” or “new carpet”. Now these smells are obvious but there are numerous products/materials which the off gassing is odourless.

Stockholm University in Sweden conducted a study where they found that certain computer monitors emit a chemical “triphenyl phosphate” which can be the leading cause of allergic reactions. Triphenyl phosphate is a flame retardant that is used in many plastics. When turned on, the monitors' heat causes the compound, which is not bonded to the plastic, to start evaporating. So the question here must be asked, when exposed to such a compound that is typically found in new materials/products can it pose a potential long-term health risk? Apparently they don’t know yet!

Low levels of formaldehyde, a colorless and sharp-smelling gas, can also accumulate indoors from construction materials and household products such as: new furniture, cabinetry, and floor coverings. This is very common. Studies even show that people who are exposed to formaldehyde for a long period of time are more acceptable to experiencing asthma-related respiratory symptoms, coughing and wheezing. Formaldehyde can be found in your paints, varnishes, and floor finishes. You will also find this chemical coming from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, which commonly cause people to have burning and watering eyes, skin irritation, and even a rash. Other common household items that create off gassing with little to no odour include your bedding, furniture, and cabinetry. We need to be aware of these products and make sure that we are purchasing products that are not harming ourselves or our loved one.
With today’s green movement there are more products out there then ever and is in continual growth, of products/materials that have a low VOC (volitile organic compound) or an off gassing chemical to them. Carpet companies have changed their way of doing things to make sure that they can produce low-emission carpeting and adhesives; such as including natural fibers and latex adhesive to bind the fibers to the back. In the past, the latex binding contained a by-product called 4-phenylcyclohexane (4-PC) that gave carpeting a distinctive rubbery odour. 4-PC was allegedly a cause of adverse health effects. To my knowledge carpeting materials no longer emit 4-PC. You will also be able to find products which are formaldehyde free. As well as products that offer water base stain, furniture that uses all natural substances within them or have less chemical use on their materials which lowers the off gassing emission. For those pieces that you cannot replace there are ways to help protect yourself from the immense off gassing that products can release. Make sure you have regular air movement throughout. For the many offending chemicals, such as formaldehyde, off gassing is at a higher rate when humidity and temperatures are high. Make sure your humidity is below 45 percent to decrease the amount of formaldehyde and other chemicals that will off-gas. Keep your computers in well-ventilated areas and take hourly breaks from the computer to cut down on your exposure.

We must protect ourselves and our loved ones, the way we are all going to achieve this is through education, being aware of what our products are made of before bringing them into our homes/offices. All consumers should have the right to ask what materials have been used to create the product and every company should be able to answer them. You pay for what you get and for the last decade the movement was we want it NOW, which meant materials that were used, were cheap and chemically processed to be able to create a product quick and dirty. Well, there is a new movement and it is quality, and when it comes to quality you pay for it and in some cases you wait for it. Make sure you are a smart consumer when it comes to protecting your air space within your homes or office.

Only Kermit the frog can use the excuse “it isn’t being green” to everyone else it only make sense to be.

Stay green and until next time,
w&c designer girl!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tie-Dye is back???

Apparently Tie-Dye is making a come back and I have to admit I am kinda excited for it! Just don't think your old t-shirts are trendy again you are going to find this fashionable pattern in home decor. One the home front, you'll notice shibori-style tie-dye patterns and hues on well-chosen pieces like hand-knotted silk and wool rug in the deepest blues. Tie-dye patterned, bedding, placemats, bowls, lamp shades, art work and more. House & Home refers to this pattern as "Shibori-style - Japanese shibori, centuries-old techniques for resist-dyeing cloth by folding, binding, pleating, or stitching. " Shibori is a more controlled pattern with a sophisticated palette of moody tones. So don't start wearing those multi coloured T's this trend only calls for colours of the same tone, but do they look good!

So get your dye and bowls out because this trend is back and with a twist. Kids all over are probably inching to make tie-dye shirts and I am guessing so are a few of us!

Until next time,

w&c designer girl!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Inspiration for your Outdoor Living Space this Summer!

Inspiring you to create a beautiful outdoor living space this summer. A little imagination or a great Designer and you too can have a great entertaining place that draws your guests to your outdoor space. Don't forget there are green outdoor furniture and accessories to stay true to your movement of saving our health and environment. Remember you pay for what you get and quality and green furniture is sometimes an investment but an investment with a great return. Happy Summer Entertaining Everyone!

Picture courteous of House & Home

Until next time,
w&c designer girl!


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