What Does "Green" Mean? Five tips to selecting sustainable finishes

Almost everyone is familiar with the term ‘green design’. That’s a good thing. Consumers are more aware than ever of our impact on the environment and are striving to be more responsible in our use of natural resources. So, how do we achieve that in our spaces? Green spaces should be environmentally responsible, economically profitable, and healthy places to work and live.  Here are some tips on how you can achieve this in your space.

Green Tip One: Use zero or low-VOC paint

Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOC’s, are emitted as gases from certain types of paint and coatings.  They are odorous and potentially harmful to the comfort and wellbeing of occupants.  Many doctors even recommend that pregnant women limit exposure to these fumes.  There are now many quality, low-VOC paint products on the market that are much safer to use and easier on our environment.

 
photo credit: Sherwin Williams

photo credit: Sherwin Williams

 

Green Tip Two:  Select woods that are FSC certified

The Forest Stewardship Council sets standards for responsible forest management.  These standards protect our forests and prevent deforestation.  Products from furniture, to flooring to paper can be certified.  FSC certification ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.  The next time you purchase wood products, check for the FSC logo and help protect our forests for future generations.

 
photo credit: Forest Stewardship Council

photo credit: Forest Stewardship Council

 

Green Tip Three: Use rapidly renewable resources

Rapidly renewable resources are natural materials that are harvested within a 10-year cycle.  For example, cork is the outer bark of a cork oak tree.  The cork is separated from the tree, but the tree is not cut down.  Subsequent extractions can occur only 7-9 years later.  Cork is used as floor tile, wall tile and insulation.  Other types of rapidly renewable resources include bamboo flooring, wool carpet, and fabrics made from cotton, silk, wool and linen.

 
photo credit: The Habitus Collection

photo credit: The Habitus Collection

 

Green Tip Four:  Reuse or Reclaim

Reuse building materials and products in order to reduce demand for new materials and reduce waste.  For example, use the siding from an old house or barn, that might otherwise be thrown away, as the material for a fireplace surround or even flooring.  Use beams from an older, unused space as posts or beams for a new space.  Paint cabinets instead of purchasing new cabinets.  There are vendors and salvage companies that specialize in collecting these materials.  This will help reduce the number of items going to the landfill, and will reduce the need for new, virgin materials.

 
photo credit: Atchison Heller/Burton Made

photo credit: Atchison Heller/Burton Made

 

Green Tip Five:  Hire a LEED Accredited Professional

If you are working with a professional, look for an architect, designer or engineer that has LEED-AP credentials.  LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world; devised by the USGBC (United States Green Building Council) to evaluate the environmental performance of a building.  LEED Accredited Professionals have the expertise required to design a building to these standards.  With LEED-AP professionals on staff, Dovetail can help you create your next green space.

 

The built environment has a profound impact on our natural environment, health and productivity.  Any small step that we each take is a step in the right direction.  For more information on the FSC, visit fsc.org and for more information about LEED or USGBC, visit usgbc.org