Check out this room by room guide to choices you can make in your home starting today. The end result? A healthier home and more eco-friendly life!
We love the guide both because of all the fabulous tips and clear advice, but also because it features WWYW founder Jillian Pritchard Cooke.
Through our Ambassador Program, Wellness Within Your Walls joins forces with like-minded representatives of the retail, design, and building communities with the goal of spreading the WWYW mission further and faster. We’re thrilled to to introduce you to someone very special to us, one of our first ambassadors, Virginia Beach-based interior designer Kathy Browning.
Kathy joined forces with Wellness Within Your Walls in 2015, but she’s been a long-time advocate for sustainability and eco-friendly design, both in her over-35-year design business, Design Consultants, and in her involvement with her local Home Builders Association and the National Association of Home Builders. “I’ve always tried to spread awareness of the importance of products and services and methods as they’ve become available. And why not use something that’s available?”
Kathy appreciates that earning the WWYW designation gave her the science and the research behind her beliefs. “I welcomed the opportunity to learn more to help me deliver the message. It’s also a benefit to know what’s available, and for us as specifiers to go there first. I consider it my responsibility to look for products that fit within the Natural, Responsible and Sustainable category of WWYW, and offer them as options within the specs and requirements of a project.”
Of the increased demand for healthier home furnishings products that she’s witnessed over the years, Kathy says, “I’m finding that while the baby boomers increasingly understand the value of being health conscious, the younger generation is really taking hold of it and saying, ‘This is what we should be doing.’ Every year we’ve seen a little bit more discussion and understanding.” And she sees that younger generation as key to the pivotal next stage in the process. “They don’t seem to compare the price difference—when there is a price difference— as much as the baby boomers do. They say, ‘Ok, this is what it’s going to cost to get what I want.’ ”
In her role as one of our WWYW Wellness Spotters at last April’s High Point Market, Kathy engaged in a dialogue with many manufacturers and enjoyed discovering those that embraced the WWYW concept and were producing less toxic home products. “I loved when they’d say, ‘This is great! What else can I tell you about my product?’ ” Kathy then takes what she has discovered to her clients. “Every time I meet with anyone, whether it’s an architect, a builder client, or a home buyer, I can share that these products and services and methods and information exist.”
With her commitment to educating herself, discovering products, and then spreading her discoveries with her clients, Kathy is a powerful ambassador for WWYW and a major force for change.
You can learn more about Kathy here.
We get lots of questions on the choices we can make as individuals to lower the toxins in our own home. One big choice, previously not even an option, is now possible—buying upholstered furniture that is free of toxic flame retardants.
Until recently flame retardants were routinely added to upholstered furniture like sofas and upholstered chairs in order to help them meet tough anti-flammability standards, despite the fact that there actually wasn’t clear proof that the chemicals worked and even though they are linked to cancer, learning problems, lowered IQ, and physical and mental developmental problems,.
But now, thanks to California and its role leading the nation in tackling environmental issues, we have choices. First, California updated its previously nonsensical (addressing open flame rather than the more common smoldering ignition) flammability law in 2014, which effectively meant that manufacturers could meet the requirements without using flame retardants. A short time later the state also changed the labeling law. As of January, 1, 2015, all upholstered furniture is labeled whether it contains fire retardants.
The new laws don’t ban flame retardants, but many manufacturers have stated the goal of either completely or partially eliminating them. WWYW is thrilled with how many companies have worked quickly and decisively over the last year and a half to bring healthier products to the market. Other furniture makers have been less clear, and furniture that does contain the toxic chemicals is definitely still on the market.
Remember to ask questions, and if you’re looking at the furniture piece in person,
flip over the cushion or look on the bottom of the frame for the label. Furniture manufactured after Jan 1 2015 will clearly be marked with a check whether it’s upholstery materials either “contain added flame retardant chemicals” or “contain NO added flame retardant chemicals.”
Wondering about the furniture you already own? Check out this blog post from the National Resource Defense Council for information on what the previous labels placed on older upholstered furniture pieces reveal.
After many years of discussion with no progress, Congress has finally passed an update to the 40-year-old 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. After a rare bipartisan vote early last month, the house sent the Frank R Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act to President Obama, who signed it into law on June 22.
The new bill is an overhaul of the federal law governing the use of toxic chemicals in homes and business. That law was widely acknowledged to be weak and outdated from its infancy, leaving the Environmental Protection Agency unable to protect consumers’ safety for the last 40 years, with 64,000 chemicals developed and put into use that were not subject to testing, much less regulation. Many of those chemicals are known or suspected to cause cancer or be harmful in other ways and are still in use in a huge variety of consumer products we use everyday, from baby equipment to cleaning supplies to clothing,
With support from a broad coalition, the new law represents a compromise between tougher environmental standards and the chemical industry, and requires new and existing chemicals to be tested at a rate of 20 at a time. Other improvements to the old law include standards that will take into account vulnerable populations including children and pregnant women, the EPA gaining more power for oversight power and stronger monitoring tools, and an emphasis on faster review for higher priority chemicals. In addition, companies will no longer be able to use “trade secret” claims to hide toxic chemicals in their products.
Not everyone is happy about the compromise. Some environmental advocates believe the EPA lacks the funding necessary to take on oversight, and are unhappy that the federal law would override state laws, which in some cases would be stronger. Most opponents also feel that the law still leaves room for companies to tie-up decisions in lengthy court cases.
At Wellness Within Your Walls, we celebrate any progress, and the previous inability to budge the 40-year-old status quo was particularly disheartening. But the products we use every day still aren’t safe, and at a rate of 20 a year, it’s going to take a long time before we can be sure they are. So we agree with Scott Faber, of the Environmental Working Group: “We sincerely hope that the EPA will move quickly to review, regulate and ban dangerous chemicals. In the mean time, we will continue to urge consumers and responsible companies to drive the worst of the worst chemicals out of our homes, schools and businesses.”
How cool is this? A 27 year old dutch designer named Dave Hakkens decided that the world needs to recycle more plastic (only 10 percent is currently recycled). So he created simple machines that can be built from materials readily available anywhere, and shares the plans and instructions for those machines on his website. The project’s other goal? “Let people in every corner of the world know that they can start their own local plastic workshop,” as the website says. We love the double benefits his project offers, and the fact that the project is open source.
Check out this clip from Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.
Yes he tells us some information we already know about the lead tainted water in Flint, but then he goes into depth to educate us on the larger issue of lead poisoning in the United States. We really love how he uses humor to illuminate just how big the problem is, and how shockingly inadequate the approach has been to fixing it.
More great discoveries from our Wellness Spotters! Today we’re sharing area rugs and wallcoverings.
Right, from Company C, rugs made from recycled plastic bottles
and left, from Loloi Rugs, an area rug made with no dyes at all, just wool from different colored sheep!
Below, wallcoverings made from banana peels and lotus leaves, both from York Wallcoverings.
A few more great finds from High Point.
This good looking outdoor furniture from Selamat Designs is biodegradable. So use it and love it, but then when its time on your patio is over, it will break down instead of clogging landfills.
A burled wood dining table from Phillips Collection was made from “trees without a future” (trees that are already dying in the forest).
Our first dispatch from High Point! Our Wellness Spotters have found lots of great chairs that won’t add to the toxins in a home. The first three pictured (right and below) are all from Lee Industries, and all feature FSC certified frames, no-VOC finishes, and Natural or Responsible fabrics and coverings. And the leather chair (middle) is a recliner! The fourth (bottom right) is made in Pennsylvania by Keystone Designer of locally sourced wood.
Meet three more of our fabulous Wellness Spotters. Stay tuned to find out what they discover at the High Point Market.
BEE / Buyer
Where you live: Chamblee, GA (a charming old community right outside of Atlanta)
Describe your personal design aesthetic in 3-5 words: happy, transitional with a twist, warm, casual, unique
Why are you passionate about wellness and health in the interior environment? I believe we are all called to care for the world and those around us. Our homes should reflect that care.
Joana Aranha Living Spaces / Architect
Where you live: Lisbon, Portugal
Describe your personal design aesthetic in 3-5 words: To create an experience to the user
Why are you passionate about wellness and health in the interior environment? WWYW creates the possibility to develop new and better techniques of construction and design. This is the future of sustainability, leading to the improvement of life quality which is in the end the great purpose of any design. As an architect I love to be part of it.
DES-SYN / Director of Design
Where you live: Atlanta, Georgia
Describe your personal design aesthetic in 3-5 words: bold embrace of pattern, color, and texture; balancing function and style
Why are you passionate about wellness and health in the interior environment? Experiencing first-hand exposure to harmful toxins and how it affects me personally and those around me created an internal awareness to connect the dots on how to reduce harmful indoor air quality whenever possible. Mixed with a balanced lifestyle; reducing harmful toxins is the way to a clean and heathy life for ourselves and future generations to come.