Why Sustainable Furnishings are Crucial for your Health & The Health of the Planet
Deane Nelson is a Sustainability and Green Design Consultant. Through a variety of life experiences, the focus of Deane’s work has shifted back to her original focus of sustainability and green Interior Design. Home is where the heart is and it can also become one of the healthiest places for us. Deane advises and coaches on Green Living, and helps individuals and families reduce their exposure to toxins and carcinogens while creating homes and home offices that function well for all, look and feel good and are Earth-friendly.
My start into eco-friendly living began in earnest as a caregiver to my mother, who had been diagnosed with cancer. I had just started my studies toward a degree in interior design with a focus on sustainability and, in my effort to make our home as healthy and supportive to her recovery as possible, I researched everything from food to fingernail polish to furnishings. What I discovered changed everything.
As a self-proclaimed aesthete, with a particular love for architecture and interior design, it was disheartening to say the least when I learned about the effect the built environment was having on our ecosystem overall.
I was aware of the importance of choosing organic foods, but I had no idea what was going on with furnishings. The home and wood furnishings’ industry, in particular, add to the deforestation problem, which, of course, affects CO2 emissions, which negatively impacts the ozone layer, which effects global warming. Home improvement products greatly impact the indoor air quality as toxins can be bought in through carpet, faux wood flooring, countertops, draperies – just about any item that people are placing in their homes to improve them. Having just hit the tip of the iceberg, I felt a huge responsibility for the items I would place in my clients’ homes that I still feel today. Such as it is, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides are part of the agricultural process to grow cotton, which is, in turn, used to make upholstery fabrics. Mattresses and upholstery foams are loaded with endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. In pediatric health trends, we’re seeing more food allergies, birth defects, autism and leukemia. In adults, there’s an increase in heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases and reproductive challenges. Suddenly, my concern was not just for my mother, but also for life on the planet as a whole. Sadly, in the western world, one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime: 1 in 3. That’s a statistic I can’t just stand by and accept.
The modern home or small business presents additional risks. As we continue to live more and more closely with technology, we’re exposed daily to radiation emitted from televisions, computers, cell phones, microwaves and wi-fi signals. Having difficulty sleeping can be attributed to this combination of electromagnetic frequencies,which can lead to chronic fatigue, as well as to difficulty losing weight and irritability. And, while there is some hereditary aspect to who will be diagnosed with cancer, the greater percentage of those diagnosed are simply due to exposure to carcinogens in their lives. There are layers upon layers of toxins in so many things, in body wash, body cream, cyber pollution,fast foods and even window cleaner. This results in daily exposure to toxins that the body simply cannot filter.
While traditional interior design is concerned with the finished look and visible aspects of a space, I became increasingly concerned with the invisible environmental aspects in any given space, and their effects on our health and the health of planet. The shift for me went from simply earth-friendly considerations to holistic – seeing humans and the environment as a single system -that happens to one aspect affects the other; there is no separation.
We have to consider the products, all of the products we’re exposed to, and that includes furnishings. The number one thing we all need to do when considering any new item for purchase is to ask the question: “What’s it made of?” We have to become people who read labels and ask questions. When considering new furnishings, don’t be shy. Do your due diligence, whether you’re purchasing online or on land. If the sales person can’t give you the answers you need, find someone else to purchase from. Your health, the health of your family, your pets and the planet depend on it!
The good news for us is that we can make new choices. There are a host of new furniture businesses springing up here in the United States that are manufacturing sustainable, Earth-friendly, non-toxic pieces, like Cisco Brothers (see photo). Whether you’re purchasing for your home or your home office, it’s important to consider sustainable furnishings to keep the options growing in what is now still a niche market. Also, many of the more established brands are now shifting completely toward sustainability, or are at least beginning to integrate Earth-friendly manufacturing processes. The more we as consumers read labels and ask questions, the more we will see a shift in the offerings available to us.
So here we are. Life in this modern world comes with so much: entertainment, speed, convenience…but that convenience has a cost. What we must do will require strategic changes over time: reduce your exposure with different choices and thereby reduce your risk. Reboot your home into an eco-haven of health for you and your family.
We can do this!
For more information on sustainable, healthy living, please visit my website at: