Meet WWYW Ambassador Kathy Browning

KBrowning headshotThrough 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.


Slaying the Flame Retardant Beast

Cheerful child playing in robot at home

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.

TB-117-2013-219x300Remember 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.