Take Care of Your Health and Our Environment
Many of us have gotten the memo that we must take better care of ourselves and our planet. For our physical health, say, we exercise and eat healthfully. For our emotional health, meditate and keep a journal. For our planet’s health, conserve water, reduce energy usage and recycle. And that’s all good. What if I told you that we can improve our health and protect our planet by using natural materials to decorate the interiors of our homes.
Firstly, even though cotton is a natural fiber that comes from the seedpod of the cotton plant, not all cotton is organic. In fact, non-organic cotton is one of the most chemically treated materials in use today. Cotton that is 100% organic will have a label with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) symbol, the Soil Association symbol or the Organic Exchange symbol to assure you that it is grown without the use of GMOs and pesticides and that you will not be bringing harmful chemicals into your home with the new sofa upholstery, draperies, throw blankets, pillows—any of the cotton products that we use to beautify our homes. If you or a family member is especially sensitive to chemicals, organic cotton is hypoallergenic and an organic mattress is a great option.
In addition, you can have a beautiful, colorful home. Organic cotton is colored using low-impact dyes rather than the unsustainable, petroleum-based dyes which are still used on other materials. You can find 100% organic cotton in every color and design, such as lovely paisleys, vivid florals and hip geometric patterns.
Bamboo has long been a favorite among environmentalists. It grows quickly (up to three feet a day) without fertilizers or pesticides, enriches the soil and never needs replanting. The news is its growing popularity in interior decorating, including as an alternative to hardwoods and synthetic materials. It is chemical-free, hypoallergenic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, biodegradable and sustainable. On the more aesthetic side, bamboo adds texture to your décor as well as warmth and elegance and contributes to your home being a stress-free zone with its serene Zen-like aura.
There are a wealth of ways that bamboo can be used in the home, such as wall coverings, ceiling materials, furniture, cabinetry and any type of decorative objects.
Bamboo flooring, for example, does not emit harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that are found in other types of flooring. Bamboo mattresses can improve the sleep time of anyone with allergies or sensitive skin, and it’s all-around more healthy because there are no harmful chemicals and no disease-bearing bacteria. Sheets made from bamboo stay fresh longer and look like silk. The bamboo fibers add a beautiful sheen to textiles.
The humble cork has come a long way from being popped out of a bottle of wine or having pins pushed into it. It is not only among the greenest of materials, it is waterproof, buoyant, elastic, fire resistant, recyclable, biodegradable and hypoallergenic with anti-bacterial and anti-mold properties. It is also highly resistant to scratches and needs minimal maintenance. Since cork is sourced from the bark of the cork oak tree, no tree sacrifices its life to provide us with the raw material.
Cork tiles are warm, quiet and comfortable and provide thermal and sound insulation. Indeed, NASA uses cork for insulation in space shuttles. Cork is actually used to make a startling number of products for the home: flooring, walls, chairs, tables, lamps—nearly anything that you can imagine. It’s becoming tres chic to have a cork sink in the bathroom and as a bath mat.
High-end fashion designers have already enlisted cork to make vegan shoes and handbags.
Copper may not immediately pop into mind when we discuss eco friendly materials, but it surely is. It is 100% recyclable, indestructible, corrosion-resistant and antimicrobial. And right now, the height of luxurious bathing is in a copper tub—as it was among 18th century royalty. Not only will it be the “show stopper” of your home, it will get even more beautiful as it ages due to its “living finish,” a patina that develops over time. So beautiful that copper bathtubs were memorialized in Impressionist paintings done by master artists.
For our modern-day needs, the tub saves energy and water. Copper heats up quickly and retains the heat much longer than other tub materials. There is no need to keep adding warm water.
It also provides an amazingly healthy bath experience. Copper has curative properties that alleviate conditions associated with inflammation, including arthritis, rheumatism and osteoporosis. Your body absorbs minuscule quantities of copper whenever you make contact with the surface of the tub, thus replenishing your body with this essential mineral.
Granted, sunlight is not a material, but it fits with our purposes here. The sunlight streaming through our windows boosts our immune systems, improves circulation, increases levels of endorphins and serotonin and curbs the production of harmful bacteria and organisms that grow in any house. In other words, sunlight is a natural disinfectant. The natural lighting that the sun provides benefits the environment by reducing the amount of energy used and the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity.
We can maximize the sunlight to have a healthier, more comfortable and more sustainable home. Place a mirror on a wall adjacent to a window, and it will look like there are many windows.
Or hang a mirror directly opposite a window, and it will reflect the sunlight coming in through the window. Wherever you can have glass throughout a room (e.g., glass-top tables) or shiny metal accessories, the sunlight will create quite the display as it bounces around the room in the reflections.
Interior decorating is no longer only a matter of aesthetics. How we “dress up” our homes affects our physical and emotional health, the quality of the air we breathe, the conservation of energy and our efforts to leave this planet better than we found it.