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.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Coconut fiber mattresses vs. Tempur-Pedic mattresses

I love finding products that are made of unexpected recycled and up-cycled products. The idea of up-cycling the fibers from coconut shells into mattresses sounds bizarre, but the technique actually has been around for a long time.

Back in the mid-18th century, mattresses were stuffed with natural products, including coconut fibers (known as coir), horsehair, cotton and wool.

 These great photos are from a 1940s USDA circular promoting home production of cotton mattresses.

Coconut fiber (coir) mattresses fell out of fashion after latex mattresses were introduced in the 1920s and then innerspring mattresses were introduced in the 1930s. Fibrelux introduced a mattress made from rubberized coir in 1992, the same year that Tempur-Pedic revolutionized the mattress industry with its memory foam mattresses. If there ever was a coir vs. memory foam battle, Tempur-Pedic definitely won.

NASA invented memory foam in the 1970s, and now you'll find Tempur-Pedic's mattresses and its many generic memory-foam clones in every mattress store in America. The big problem with all memory foam mattresses is that they're petroleum-based products, so they off gas toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for a very, very long time. If you sleep on a memory-foam mattress, you're spending eight hours a day (more or less) inhaling chemicals that can cause everything from respiratory problems to cancer.
On mattresses like today's Tempur-Pedic's TEMPUR-Ergo Grand, you can control four massage programs remotely from your mobile phone or tablet although I'm not sure why you would want to control your bed remotely.
Don't you need to be in bed to enjoy the massage? 

Coir mattresses aren't available in every or even many mattress stores today, but they are back. Palmpring is one company that manufacturers mattresses made of alternating layers of latex and coir topped with a cotton and wool cover.

Palmpring's Colva mattress is made of alternating layers of coir and latex.

Natural latex mattresses feel similar to memory foam mattresses, but latex is a healthy alternative to foam because it's naturally hypoallergenic, dust-mite resistant and does not off gas VOCs. According to Palmpring, coir is a shock-absorbing alternative to metal springs. Coir also resists dust mites, a common allergy source, and prevents the growth of mold and bacteria.

I have a 3"x 3"x 6" sample of Palmpring's mattress that stacks two inches of latex on four inches of coir. It looks rather like a really thick coir door mat topped with latex. I just wish that I could lie on a coir and latex mattress to see how a mattress made from products of the mid-18th and early-20th centuries compares to the mattresses that are popular in the 21st century.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sneak preview of a home remodel

I spent much of last year remodeling a small (800 square foot) bungalow and a separate studio apartment. I'd like to share photos of the home's new dining room and kitchen/utility room.

The biggest challenge with the dining room is that it's tiny, and it's a pass through from the living room to the kitchen. So half the room has to be dedicated to traffic flow. The solution to the problem: a custom triangular dining table and benches. Using a glass tabletop helps give the room a sense of open space. The silver finish of the metal base coordinates with the stainless steel appliances in the adjacent kitchen.

A triangular table was custom built for a tiny dining area

Here's a "before" photo, so you can see where we started with the kitchen. As you can see, there was an old O'keefe and Merritt stove that was too big for the room, and the kitchen and utility rooms were separate spaces.

The view of the kitchen (below) is taken from the dining room. Originally, there was a wall with a archway between the dining room and kitchen. There also was a wall with a doorway between the kitchen and the utility room. We took out half of the wall and the doorway between the kitchen and utility rooms to create a galley for full-size kitchen appliances and a stacking washer/dryer.

In the photo foreground, you can see that we took out the top half of the wall on the leftside and the doorway. We also cut back the wall on the right side, so that the dining area and the kitchen would feel larger and more open while the two rooms also would feel like discreet spaces.

Separate kitchen and utility rooms were combined into a single space.
Part of the fun of doing this design (along with knocking out walls) was being able to create a sustainable home.

Here are the green features found throughout the home:

Energy Efficiency

Energy Star-certified kitchen and laundry appliances
Double-cell cellular shades
Compact florescent lighting

Water Efficiency

Dual-flush toilet
Kitchen and bathroom fixtures certified by Water Sense for low water use

Indoor Air Quality
Paint with no toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Quartz kitchen and bathroom counter tops and shower walls certified by Greenguard for low toxic emissions
Latex queen mattress with no toxic fire retardants

Recycled Content
Bathroom and kitchen floor tiles include 49% recycled ceramic content 

I'd love to be able  to include this many green features in every home that I design!