Archive for September, 2009

Eco Table for Your Eco Home

September 25th, 2009

With global warming never far from the headlines, we all need to find a more sustainable way of living. This includes the way we furnish and decorate our homes, and investing in eco tables is a great place to start.

Tables are often the centrepiece of the lounge and dining room. So an eco table will provide a great topic of conversation whether you’re inviting friends over for coffee or dinner in the evening.

Eco tables can be made from a wide variety of materials, which can be split into two main types: recycled materials and those taken from sustainable sources.

Eco tables made from recycled materials

With a bit of imagination and some DIY know-how, there’s a wide variety of items that can be turned into an eco table.

An old car hood, for example, can be welded and reshaped into a hardwearing tabletop. A coffee table made from old bits of cars and other discarded objects will certainly give your living room a unique, eye catching centrepiece.

Other items that can be recycled and used as eco tables in your eco home include wooden doors, food trays, bottle tops and waste plastic, all materials that would otherwise be dumped in our clogged up landfill sites.

Eco tables made from sustainable materials

When shopping for a wooden eco table make sure it’s made from FSC certified timber. FSC stands for Forestry Stewardship Council, and wood marked with the FSC label ensures it’s been cut from sustainably managed forests where trees are replanted and cleared areas aren’t left as wasteland.

Another sustainable material growing in popularity for making eco tables and other eco furniture is cork. Cork is an exceptionally environmentally friendly building material because it’s simply stripped from an oak cork tree’s bark, rather than having to cut down the tree itself. The bark will regrow within 10 years, enabling cork to be routinely stripped from trees without causing deforestation.

So whether you prefer the unique look of an eco table made from a recycled car door or from sustainably cut wood, there are plenty of great eco tables to choose from for furnishing your eco home.

ITV Seeks Proud Eco Home Owners

September 21st, 2009

ITV is looking for proud home-owners to show off their home and compete for a cash prize in a new TV series.
If you’re proud of your home, love showing it to friends and family and have spent months – maybe years – making your home look just right – or downright unique – we would love to have a peek inside your front door.
We are looking for diverse homes of all shapes and sizes and are particularly on the lookout for Eco Homes. Have you created an environmentally-friendly dream home for yourself? Have you furnished your home entirely from recycled products?
If you think all your eco home deserves a place on the nation’s screens please contact us at 0113 22 27111 or email besthouse@shiver-productions.co.uk

Cut Your Eco Home’s Energy Bills with Eco Window Dressing

September 21st, 2009

The cost of gas and electricity has shot up in recent years. So being able to reduce how much energy you use to heat your eco home can offer great savings in your household bills.

Eco window dressing offers a great way of cutting your energy bills and caring for the planet at the same time. Whether you need blinds for your bathroom or curtains for your living room, there are plenty of great eco window dressing options to choose from for decorating your eco house.

Eco blinds

Eco window dressing blinds made from reeds, bamboo, grasses and other natural plants are an environmentally friendly option that’s ideal for bathrooms and kitchens.

As well as being made from renewable, natural materials, which can be harvested over and over again, they’re handcrafted using natural finishes, such as sun bleaching or oven baking. This means they’re biodegradable and won’t contaminate the earth in landfill sites if they ever need to be replaced.

Eco curtains

Curtains are enjoying a renaissance at the moment because they can add a touch of elegance to people’s homes. Elegance can also be partnered with being green thanks to eco curtains made from natural, sustainable fibres.

Many curtains are made from synthetic textiles, such as polyester and nylon. These are very polluting to manufacture and are non-biodegradable, which means they’ll pollute the earth when dumped in our already clogged up landfill sites.

Eco curtains, on the other hand, are made from natural plant fibres, such as hemp, organic cotton or linen. These are far less polluting than synthetics to manufacture, and when combined with natural dyes they offer elegant, biodegradable eco window dressing for your eco home.

 

Thermal linings cut your eco home’s energy bills

 

It’s estimated that 80% of your eco home’s heat is lost through your windows. This can be reduced by 30% with thermal curtains, so investing in thermal linings can offer great savings on your heating bills.

A thermal lining consists of an additional layer of cloth on the back of the curtains. You’ll often find thermal linings on hotel room curtains. The additional layer helps to block the sun to keep rooms cool in summer and to retain heat in winter.

Whilst more expensive than standard linings, thermal linings offer long-term benefits both in reducing fading causing by the sun and in reducing your energy bills. This makes them an economical and environmentally smart eco window dressing option for decorating your eco home.

Eco Shutters

Having discovered new research conducted by the BBC (see full article here) we can see that heat loss from windows can also be reduced by installing interior window shutters. Whilst curtains and blinds have a similar eco appeal, one of the benefits of fitting shutters in your home is that you can source FSC wooden shutters, which means that not only are you benefiting from sustainable wooden window treatments but also keeping the cold out of your house. Two benefits from one solution which we think works really well and can create a really modern stylish window treatment for home owners. Read more about the Forest Stewardship Council and their environmental work here which is having a lasting effect on our forests and hopefully climate change.

 

Eco Textiles Help Reduce Pollution for Your Eco Homes

September 15th, 2009

Buying eco textiles for your eco home not only says something about your green views, but can also help pressure the textile industry to be more environmentally friendly.

The textile industry is the world’s number one industrial water polluter. It uses millions of gallons of water to dissolve chemicals, dyes and detergents, which are then poured into the local water system where they can damage plant life, wildlife and seep into the groundwater.

Consequently, textile manufacturers are now being pressured to adopt more environmentally friendly manufacturing practices, such as being more energy efficient and recycling water. A lot of this pressure is being applied by the clothing industry, because eco textiles are becoming more popular all the time, both for use in fashion and in eco homes.

The growing popularity of eco textiles in fashion

The fashion industry has a bad reputation for designing throw away clothes at the lowest cost to producers, whilst at a high cost to the environment. But now the trend towards sustainability is influencing the clothes people buy on the high street.

Now trendy labels, top designers and catwalk models all want to be associated with a more sustainable way of manufacturing textiles. This means a greater availability of eco textiles for your eco home.

Ethical fashion encompasses reducing child labour, improving wages for workers in third world countries and making textiles from sustainable materials.

Eco textiles are more sustainable

Synthetic textiles, such as polyester, acrylic and nylon, are all made from petroleum, which is very energy intensive and polluting to manufacture. However, there are greener materials available though for use in your eco house.

Eco textiles are made from natural materials. This includes animal wool and plant fibres, such as organic cotton, hemp, jute, bamboo or linen. Eco textiles can be harvested over and over again and are more energy efficient to produce than synthetics.

Cotton, for example, is the most widely grown textile material in the world, but is also the most chemically intensive to harvest. It’s estimated that cotton crops use a quarter of the world’s insecticides and 10% of its pesticides.

But organic cotton is far more environmentally friendly. The greener harvesting methods used to grow organic cotton means it’s free of toxic chemical fertilizer and pesticides.

So when buying textiles materials for your eco home, make sure they’re eco textiles. This will help keep pressure on the textile industry to be more environmentally friendly in how it operates.

Why Eco Lighting Can Reduce Your Eco Home’s Bills

September 15th, 2009

Previously, eco light bulbs have had a bad reputation: taking ages to heat up and even then only providing a drab, flickering light. Well, a lot of progress has been made in eco lighting in recent years, and the latest generation of eco light bulbs can help dramatically reduce how much energy your eco home consumes – and reduce your energy bills at the same time.

It’s estimated that £1.9 billion is spent every year in the UK lighting people’s homes, with it accounting for 10-15% of our energy bills. With this in mind, it’s unsurprising that the government banned the sale of 150 watt incandescent bulbs earlier this year. The aim is to phase out incandescent bulbs (which still use the same technology Thomas Edison invented nearly 130 year old) altogether by 2011. In fact, they’re banned already in Ireland.

The availability of low energy bulbs means eco lighting is a great way in which everyone can help reduce carbon emissions, whether or not you live in an eco house.

Why everyone should invest in eco lighting

Normal light bulbs last 1000 hours and on average use 60 watts of electricity. Energy saving CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs, on the other hand, use only 9 watts and can last 10,000 hours.

When you consider that the average house has 15 bulbs, investing in energy saving eco lighting can offer enormous savings on your energy bills. Homes also emit 30% of the UK’s carbon emissions, so adopting eco lighting makes smart money and environmental sense.

As well as CFL bulbs, LED (light emitting diode) lighting is now available that’s even more efficient. LED lights can last 100,000 hrs and use only 2 watts (they can even be set to change colour). LED lights use 75% less energy, 80% less heat and are 100% recyclable because they don’t contain mercury or lead.

CFL bulbs and LEDs might be more expensive initially than conventional incandescent bulbs. But when you consider the cost savings over their lifetime (one estimate is that CFL bulbs can save you £90) and the fact that you’re dramatically reducing your carbon footprint, eco lighting is a great way everyone can help to look after the planet.

Eco light shades and Sun Jars

To cover your eco light bulbs you could use recycled light shades. These are available in a wide range of funky designs and materials. This includes polypropylene (the most recyclable plastic) and recycled cardboard. Light stands are also available made from environmentally friendly wood that’s cut from sustainably managed forests.

Another type of eco lighting you might like to use in your eco home are sun jars. These were voted the Eco Gift of the Year in 2007, and are a great way of providing night lights in your garden or in your bedrooms.

They don’t require plugging into a wall because they generate all of their own electricity. Simply leave them outside during the day and the solar cell inside will recharge its battery.

The jars also have diffused frosted glass which gives the impression of there being captured sunlight inside, making them an attractive way of eco lighting your eco home.

Eco Wall Coverings for Your Eco Home

September 15th, 2009

To keep your eco home smart and attractive you’ll want to redecorate it every few years. But this needn’t mean causing damage to the planet in the process. Because there are a variety of attractive eco wall coverings available which are environmentally friendly both in how they’re manufactured and disposed of.

Eco friendly paint

Conventional lead based paint contains a toxic soup of pesticides, herbicides and solvents which emit harmful particles into the air. These volatile organic compounds (VOC) are blamed for causing asthma and damaging people’s health.

Eco friendly paints, on the other hand, are made from natural products, such as milk, water, plants or soy, and contain none or fewer toxins than conventional paint. Consequently, eco friendly paints don’t cause people to develop breathing problems, so they’re ideal for decorating your eco house if anyone in your family suffers from asthma. Eco paint can also be easily poured away without contaminating the earth.

Eco wallpaper

Wallpaper is experiencing resurgence in popularity. But traditional vinyl wallpaper generates a lot of toxic chemicals when it’s manufactured and isn’t biodegradable. Traditional wallpaper paste also contains toxins to prevent the growth of mould, which can be damaging to people’s health when they’re inhaled.

Eco wallpaper, however, is a healthier eco wall covering material for both your family and the environment for decorating your eco house. It’s made from paper that’s harvested from renewable sources and you can use eco friendly paste to apply it to your walls too. Eco wallpaper also uses ecologically friendly water based paints and dyes, rather than synthetic colouring agents, which is another way in which it’s a greener way of decorating your eco home.

When purchasing eco wallpaper remember to check whether it’s marked FSC certified. This label ensures it has been harvested using renewable methods approved by the Forestry Stewardship Council.

Natural plant fibres

If you’d like to add some texture to the walls in your eco house, eco wall coverings made from natural plant fibres are an excellent option.

There’s a wide range of natural plant fibres to choose from, including arrowroot, sea grass, jute, hemp and hand pressed leaf. The fibres are woven by hand, and because they’re naturally produced they can be harvested over and over again without causing long term deforestation.

Natural plant fibre eco wall coverings are also 100% biodegradable, so they can be ecologically disposed of rather than dumped in landfill sites.

Bamboo

Bamboo is another great eco wall covering option for adding texture to your eco home’s walls. Bamboo regenerates within 3-5 years, whilst wood takes 15-20 years, which means bamboo can be harvested more regularly without harming the environment.

Bamboo eco wall coverings are hand woven and applied to a paper backing to create wall flats for giving your eco home a unique, modern and ecologically friendly look.

Cork

Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree, which grow in the Mediterranean. Because it’s the bark that’s removed, rather than the tress itself, cork is an exceptionally environmentally friendly eco wall covering material. It offers a soft, velvety texture, and its honeycomb structure makes it a beautiful material for decorating the walls in your eco home.

Eco Materials for Decorating Your Eco Home

September 15th, 2009

One of the ways you can make your eco house as environmentally friendly as possible is to decorate it using natural eco materials. Whether it’s the type of glass, paint or wood varnish you use, there are plenty of eco materials you can use for smartening up your eco home and looking after the environment at the same time.

Using eco materials is also beneficial for the construction industry because they’re easy and cheap to produce. Eco materials contain natural, rather than synthetic, substances, so they can be harvested over and over again. And because they’re also biodegradable they can be easily disposed of, rather than pollute the earth after being dumped in a landfill site.

Eco Glass

Eco glass generally comprises of 95% recycled glass and plastic, and can be used as a hard wearing surface for kitchen worktops. Eco glass worktops are available in a range of finishes to resemble marble, quartz or granite, and match conventional glass for practicality and style.

Eco fabrics

Natural eco fabrics are the environmentally friendly alternative to synthetic cloth because they’re made from renewable plant fibres. The two most popular eco fabrics are cotton and jute (also called hessian), and other types include hemp, recycled polyester, organic leather, wool, felt and fair trade silks.

Eco fabric can be used for armchair coverings, carpets, curtains and rugs in your eco home. As well as being more environmentally friendly and biodegradable, eco fabrics are more breathable than synthetic cloth.

Eco Paints

Conventional lead based paint emits harmful chemicals into the air, such as pesticides, herbicides and toxins, which are referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOC). These chemicals are damaging to the environment and people’s health. In fact, conventional paint is blamed for causing asthma, chest complaints and sick building syndrome.

Eco paints, on the other hand, contain fewer or no toxins at all, in which case they’re labelled as being VOC free. Eco paints are odourless and popular types are milk, plant, water or soy based, rather than lead.

If anybody in your family suffers from asthma or other breathing problems then you should consider switching to using eco paint to decorate your eco home.

Eco varnish

When decorating wooden surfaces in your eco home, you should consider using varnish with a natural, rather than synthetic, resin. Conventional synthetic varnishes contain acrylic, vinyl and algid, which are environmentally damaging to manufacture and dispose of.

Eco varnishes, however, contain a plant based resin. Popular types contain resin from dammar, copal and rosin trees. Eco varnishes are therefore more environmentally friendly to manufacture because the resin can be harvested over and over again, making them the green friendly eco material for protecting wooden surfaces in your eco home.

Top 4 Eco Flooring Materials for Your Eco Home

September 15th, 2009

Eco flooring for your eco home needs to provide the perfect balance between comfort, appearance and, of course, the minimal impact on the environment. Made from materials that are either recycled or harvested sustainably, there is a variety of eco flooring types to choose from:

Bamboo

Bamboo is a great environmentally friendly alternative to hardwood for flooring your eco house. Trees take 15-20 years to regenerate, whilst bamboo takes a mere 3-5 years to return to its previous state. This means it can be harvested more regularly with less damage to the environment.

Bamboo is exceptionally strong, with a hardness that’s closer to steel than it is to hardwood. Coupled with this is that bamboo easily matches the natural beauty of timber. And bamboo eco flooring is available in a range of earthy tones and colours.

The only drawback is that bamboo can warp in moist environments, which means it maybe shouldn’t be your first choice as eco flooring in your bathroom or laundry room.

Cork

Cork is harvested from stripping the bark from oak cork trees. The bark can be stripped without causing permanent damage and will grow back within 10 years, making it an exceptionally environmentally friendly eco flooring material.

Cork offers excellent heat and sound insulation. And its durability makes it ideal for busy areas, such as lounges and hallways, in your eco house. Exceptionally flexible, cork will spring back to shape after people have walked across it. Cork is also water and stain resistant, making it perfect for bathrooms and other rooms with a lot of moisture.

Available in a range of colours and patterns, cork is an attractive and durable eco flooring choice for your eco home.

Marmoleum

Marmoleum is a particular brand of linoleum made from cork, linseed oil, rosin, jute and limestone. These are all natural products and 100% biodegradable.

The properties of marmoleum are often compared to those of vinyl, with one big exception being that vinyl is totally synthetic. In the creation of vinyl a lot of toxic pollutants are created, which are very damaging to the environment. It’s for this reason that marmoleum is becoming a popular alternative.

Marmoleum is very hard wearing, so it’s ideal for eco homes with pets and children. The only drawback is that it can excrete a slight aroma of linseed oil, which might irritate some people.

Available in a wide range of colours, marmoleum is an excellent environmentally friendly and durable eco flooring material.

Carpet

Most carpets are made from synthetic materials (such as nylon and polyester) and account for an estimated 2% of the waste in landfill sites. However, environmentally friendly carpets for eco homes are now available, made form natural fibres like wool, jute and coconut husk.

Eco friendly carpets also often have a hessian backing, which makes them a completely natural eco flooring option.  They can be easily recycled, which can give them a greater stain resistance than synthetic carpets.

Eco friendly carpets offer warmth, comfort and the reassurance knowing that when it needs to be replaced you won’t be contributing to our already overflowing toxic landfills.

Turn Your House into an Eco Home with Eco Furniture

September 15th, 2009

With tackling global warming, pollution and our shrinking rainforests high on the agenda, living an ecological lifestyle is seen as the responsible thing to do. This is why eco furniture is growing in popularity all the time.

It seems inevitable that eco houses will become more widespread in the future. And eco furniture, such as eco chairs, eco tables and eco sofas, enables you to start living in your own eco home today.

Why We Need Eco Furniture

Some scientists estimate that half the world’s mature tropical rainforests have already been cut down in the last 50 years, and that we could be left with only a fifth of the world’s rainforests by 2030.

With rainforests so vital for reducing pollution and global warming, it’s essential that we find more sustainable ways of living. And this applies to the way we furnish our homes too.

Eco furniture is built from recyclable materials or those from sustainable sources. Being made from recyclable parts means they can be easily disassembled and reused, whilst wooden eco furniture, such as eco chairs and eco beds, is made from wood taken from ecologically managed forests.

The environmental impact of eco furniture is also minimised by sourcing materials locally. This reduces the carbon emissions produced by transporting them to the workshop, compared to the pollution created by planes and ships hauling them across the Atlantic.

Longer lasting

A lot of cheap, mass produced furniture isn’t designed with longevity in mind. So it often deteriorates and breaks after a few years, instead of lasting a lifetime, as well designed furniture should. This leads to unwanted furniture becoming dumped into our already overflowing rubbish tips.

Eco furniture, on the other hand, is designed to be durable and easy to repair. This helps it to last a lot longer than furniture which isn’t designed with sustainability in mind. So investing in eco furniture makes smart economic as well as ecological sense.

Elegant and comfortable

Going green and creating your own eco home doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on comfort and style. Eco furniture is just as luxurious, comfortable and attractive as any conventional item of furniture.

In fact, lying in your own eco bed in your eco house can offer a heightened sense of comfort knowing you’ve helped to reduce pollution, save trees and take care of the planet at the same time.