With few exceptions—one being particle-board furniture—if your existing eco-unfriendly floors, walls and furniture are in good condition, do not be concerned about replacing them; simply keep them clean. For example, if the paint on your walls contained VOC’s, any damage from outgassing would have occurred during the first six months to one year. Likewise, if your carpet is synthetic or the material has been doused in pesticides, it too has already caused its damage in outgassing. Most of the damaging chemicals that outgas into your home will do so during the first year. Until you are ready to replace an item, simply keep it is as clean as possible.
If, however, you are purchasing a new home or are in the market to buy new furniture or make other changes, the following general guidelines should help you to make the most healthy and environmentally-conscious choices:
* Purchase refurbished furniture and building materials when possible.
* Buy items secondhand.
* Purchase products made from sustainable woods and grasses, such as bamboo.
* Look for natural, not synthetic products.
* Buy the best quality that you can afford so that items will not have to be replaced often—or ever.
* Purchase only what you need.
* Buy locally harvested or manufactured products and save on transportation costs.
* Recycle whenever possible.
* Revamp. For example, buy good quality throw-pillow inserts and replace the covers, when they become worn or you tire of them, instead of the entire pillow. Likewise, if your sofa upholstery is worn-out, but the sofa itself is in good condition, simply reupholster. Wall-to-wall carpet can be removed, cut to a smaller size and a natural backing like rubber applied to the carpet, for a new life as an area rug.
* Look for eco-labeling on products that you buy. While the criteria varies, essentially an eco-label will include the following criteria:
o Avoidance of resource depletion
o Low energy demand
o Avoidance of chemicals in the manufacturing process
o Avoidance of chemical emissions, residues and outgassing
o Ethical issues
Excerpt from Harmonious Environment, copyright 2007