Greener Lives loves to share ideas about healthy and sustainable interior design, creating greener homes, discovering amazing eco-friendly products and exploring a bit of all things green.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Soda siphons and carpet to the rescue

A few days ago, I was watching one of my favorite old movies: “The Thin Man,” starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. I remembered so many great lines and funny scenes from this 1934 classic where Nick Charles, with help from his wife Nora, solves several murders. What I didn’t remember was just how much they all drank and smoked – basically incessantly. Nick gets shot, and what are his first words to Nora? “Baby, get me a drink.”

One of the bar staples in those pre-bottled water days was a soda siphon to carbonate water for all those cocktails. For years I owned a traditional soda siphon, not for cocktails, but just because seltzer is so refreshing in a hot climate. (I do live in a desert.) The thing kept breaking, and I finally stopped replacing it and just drank the occasional bottle of seltzer.

But seltzer’s made a comeback in my life since I discovered the SodaStream, a new incarnation of the soda siphon. What’s great about the SodaStream system is that I can reuse the plastic bottles that come with the system indefinitely rather than buy endless cases of seltzer in plastic bottles. I haven’t tried them, but there are bottles of flavorings for those who like their soda in green, yellow, purple (aka lime, lemon, berry) and other colors.

You’ve probably seen photos of flotillas of plastic bottles drifting on the sea and washing ashore to ruin beaches with trash and destroy marine habitats. Even though plastic bottles are recyclable, only 28% of the bottles were actually recycled in 2010, according to the EPA. (The plastic industry says that 48.5% are recycled.) Not using plastic bottles is the best answer to this environmental nightmare. Recycling used bottles is second best.

One of the largest recycler of plastic bottles is actually a carpet manufacturer. Mohawk recycles three billion plastic bottles into carpet every year. That's a big number. Just imagine millions of 20-ounce plastic soda bottles stacked end to end until the height is approximately the height of 6,926 Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other. Actually that vision seems even more mind boggling than three billion bottles.

Other carpet manufacturers, including Shaw Floors and Interface, recycle plastic bottles for their carpet. All three companies also reclaim and recycle used carpet to create new carpet. Talk about a great green carpet loop.

So if you’re a seltzer fan, go the classic route and use the new incarnation of the soda siphon. Personally, I like hard flooring with decorative, loose rugs, but if you like the cushy feel of carpet under your feet, buy recycled carpeting. Of course, be sure to recycle your plastic bottles. They may end up under someone’s feet as carpet or above them as sneaker tops, but that’s another story.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Countertops tell stories

Once upon a time, there were only four types of countertops, or so it seemed. Granite, laminate and solid surfaces (aka Corian and friends), plus marble for bathroom vanities, were the popular choices. But no more. We are living in the most exciting time ever for countertop options. Yes, I really do get excited about countertops - sustainble countertops, in particular.

Now it seems that almost anything - wine bottles, paper, post-consumer toilets, metal shavings and more - can be recycled into countertops. Some of my favorite countertops are made by Vetrazzo out of recycled glass. Vetrazzo wasn't the first manufacturer of recycled glass countertops, and they're not the only one now.

Part of the fun with Vetrazzo is that every countertop comes with a story - as Vetrazzo promises. This brilliant, cobalt blue countertop is made of Skyy vodka bottles. If wine or beer are more in your line, Vetrazzo uses their bottles to produce countertops in lovely greens and browns.

Of course, Vetrazzo countertops are not just about liquor bottles. They are made of glass drawn from many sources, including soda bottles, olive oil containers, pickle jars, lemonade bottles, water bottles, stemware, window glass and even stained glass from lamps.

Vetrazzo's look is based on traditional terrazzo, a mosaic flooring invented by Venetian construction workers who used marble chips from high-end jobs to create inexpensive flooring for their own patios. The workers typically set the chips in clay and sealed the surface with goat milk, which gave the terrazzo flooring the wet look of marble. Later terrazzo production dropped the goat milk and polished the mosaic to mimic that high sheen.

Vetrazzo's contemporary version is a combination of recycled glass (85% of the content) and a binder made of cement, additives, pigments and other recycled materials. The end result of installing Vetrazzo is a striking countertop that can be the centerpiece of a room's design or a beautiful addition to an existing room palette.

More about those other beautiful, recycled glass countertops later....

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Greener Home

What makes a house green? Does it just save energy? Those are the first two questions people usually ask when they hear that I do green interior design.
Green homes do save energy, but that’s only the beginning. Green homes do a lot of things:
  • Save energy in large and small ways
  • Conserve water indoors and out
  • Promote good indoor air quality
  • Use resources efficiently
  • Help preserve the natural environment
  • Contribute to local communities
  • Help people live healthy lives.
I know that’s a long list, but creating a green home is a process. You can take it bit by bit. There is no perfect green home, only greener homes. Caulking windows, buying an Energy Star appliance or remodeling a bathroom – they’re all great ways to green your home.

Happily, we are past the days of granola design when being green meant being boring. Hurray! (That’s the interior designer in me cheering.) Green homes can and should be beautiful and stylish, comfortable and functional.

Wood flooring made from wine barrels, countertops made with recycled Skyy vodka bottles (talk about an amazing blue), rugs made from nettles – these are only a few of the beautiful and bizarre green home products available today.

In this blog, I’ll be writing about amazing green products and about ways to green your home. Do come back – it will be fun and informative. Did I mention the countertops made from retired U.S. currency? Yes, you can prep dinner on countertops made of real, shredded greenbacks.