Just as breathing fresh air when outdoors fills the lungs and makes one feel better instantly, breathing toxic air can bring down one’s mood and make him or her feel worse in no time. This is the reason why proactive people are starting to consider ways to rid their homes of the toxic elements that fill the air in the average house. One of the best ways to reduce this in your own home is to replace commercial furniture with organic alternatives.
The manufacturing of non-organic furniture often involves the use of adhesive. This is done either as a means of reinforcement, or in the actual making of the structure. Particle board, for instance, is made with high grade adhesive and long periods of pressure. Those adhesive elements can, and often do, contain harmful chemicals, which are thought to be carcinogens and neurotoxins. Similarly, the stains and varnishes that are used even on the purest hardwood furniture also contain hosts of chemicals and odors.
Buying eco-friendly furniture to replace the used, outdated versions is an excellent way to reduce your impact on the environment and also clean up the air within your home. However, before sharing information on how to shop for “green” furniture, it might first be noted that used furniture is best donated or given to those who can reuse. Though these might not be ideal from the environmental aspect, they are better to be reused by those who need them, than to be tossed aside. This would defeat the good deed you are aiming to do. If you cannot donate the item, call a nearby recycling center for more information on ways to dispose of it in this best possible way.
Green Furniture: It might be red, blue, or black in color, but in truth, this furniture is 100% green. When looking to buy eco-friendly furniture, you should focus on those pieces that use water-based glue, water-based finishes, and natural latex foam. The adhesives will take the place of those that contain formaldehyde, which is the major player in producing the damaging fumes. Water-based organic finishes will help protect the wood and can even add color and shine, but will not contain the toxic elements of traditionally used urethanes, lacquers, and paints. Though, what we consider ‘traditional’ today was not always so commonplace. Antique furniture (or vintage) rarely incorporated the volatile components that are so widely used in more modern pieces. This is great news for those who are looking to create a ‘throwback’ look in their home. Finally, it is time to talk foam. It makes our seating comfy and cozy, but it can also be horribly harmful. Polyurethane is a petroleum-based product, and makes up the majority of cushioning in modern furniture. It is made from non-renewable resources, and carries with it many dangerous fumes. On the other hand, natural latex (the eco-friendly option) is made from rubber trees. This is a renewable source, which provides resistance to fire, mold, mildew, and dust mites.
The Seal of Approval: When shopping for your new décor, there are a few helpful tools that can guide you on your way to choosing the ‘green’ route. The Forest Stewardship Council awards a label to those organizations that develop truly environmentally friendly furniture. Furthermore, it is good to know that pieces awarded this label are also building the pieces without depleting the natural forests still in existence. The wood is either recycled or harvested from tree farms that replant to replace chopped trees. Another seal is that of secondary species wood. What this means is that the wood that is harvested for the creation of the piece was that which grew in around the areas where maple, oak, and other commonly used woods once grew. This allows the primary species to grow without the pressure of having to overtake the secondary species. These secondary species often grow faster and more abundantly, making it easier to replace that which is taken and they are often found in great abundance throughout the world already.
Though you seek a new approach to home decorating, you should not fear that the old sensibilities of design and aesthetic will have to be pushed aside. Eco-friendly furniture comes in many colors, styles, and designs that will work to match nearly any person’s tastes. Even accessories such as rugs, lamps, end tables, pillows, and throws come in eco-friendly versions, as do wine racks, duvets, shams, and paints, so your home can look better and breathe better than it ever has. Better yet, these pieces are not always more expensive than traditional furniture. Many times, because they do not feature the most popular woods, they are actually less expensive that those that will give off the harmful fumes and vapors, which deprive your home of fresh air and your lungs of the oxygen they deserve.
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Your office equipment puts in a full day, and often a full night, of work. Office appliances use more electricity than lighting in the business sector, making it the number one energy expenditure. We know that unplugging our household appliances can save us a significant amount of our energy bill: in fact, seventy percent of the energy consumed by our household appliances is used when they are turned off. Office equipment, including computers, are typically left on during the off-hours, and this can translate into skyrocketing energy bills. You can save a lot of money very easily by turning office equipment off for the night.
How much does phantom energy use cost your business? Let’s take a look. Say you have an office computer. If you leave it on all day, every day, as is common, it costs $39 in electricity to operate each year. This doesn’t sound like much, but what if your office has dozens or even hundreds of computers? It adds up. And it adds up even faster when you leave the monitors on. When you leave a monitor running all day, every day, it costs $54 per year. Again, multiply this by the number of computers you have. If you do turn off your computers and monitors at night, they cost $9 and $12 a year to operate, respectively.
Using Energy Star rated appliances cuts your cost even further. A computer, for instance, can cost $20 annually to operate even if left on. If turned off, it costs $2.00. To save even more, try:
- Try automatic timers to turn machines on and off at night and on the weekend. Powering down your machines is better than leaving them on but they still use energy. If you must leave them on, turn off the monitor.
- If a computer upgrade is on the horizon, consider switching to laptops, which use less energy. If you do need desktops for some applications, see if you can replace at least some office models with the smaller laptops.
- If you do have desktops, consider upgrading to LCD monitors.
- Your copy machine is a big energy hog, but it may need to be plugged in continuously. Check with your manufacturer to see if yours can be unplugged.
- Try smart power strips that combine a power strip and surge protector with an electrical current sensor. You’ll be able to turn appliances off and on much more quickly.
According to the EPA, 80 percent of office printers are left on, 70 percent of copiers, and 30 percent of computer monitors and lights are left on when workers leave for the night. Even if you cannot unplug or turn off everything, you can cut the energy to many appliances. The office coffeemaker, microwave, desk lights, monitors, fans, and other pieces of equipment can safely and easily be turned off. Every business needs to watch costs, and cut them. This is one of the easiest, least painful, ways to do this.