Whoa Dude…. What Happened to My Light Bulb!? 2014 The Year of the Light Bulb

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As of January 1, 2014 the U.S. and Canada has ceased the manufacture and importation of incandescent light bulbs. Worried yet? If you are concerned about the upcoming bulb shortages you’d best stock up like it’s a zombie apocalypse because they’ll be going fast and furious. Panic not, the EU and Australia went through with this same ban back in 2009… so it can be done without total mayhem.

Dining room glass feature
Where would we be without the invention of the incandescent light bulb? Scholars argue that there were more than 22 scientist with patents throughout the world over from 1809 until 1879 when Thomas Edison and his wealthy backers (one being J.P. Morgan who owned General Electric and The Titanic) purchased the patent from two Canadian scientists that he improved upon for his now commercially successfully light bulb design. The incandescent light bulb has been evolving ever since but now will see it’s end of days and be dismissed to a shelf in a museum and memories past.
Commercial properties have been refitting their ceilings with fluorescent light fixtures as a cost saving measure since the late 1990’s. The LED bulbs at the time of this great switch-up were priced far out of economical sense for building owners. The new LED (light emitting diode) technology has overtaken the CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulb in new commercial building lighting design. Currently the LED light is only slightly more energy efficient than the CFL for the same amount of light but the LED light also can be dimmed and tinted other colours, as well, the next generation of technologies promises to better the efficiency. Health issues such as seizures and the special disposal of CFL bulbs, since they contain toxic mercury, will see the end eventually of the CFL bulb too. The research into commercial lighting has lit the way for a future of LED lighting in our homes at a reasonable price.

Mud room and Powder room light fixture
Now I’m sure you are smart and understand our governments’ legislation of light bulbs is motivated by reducing energy consumption… we’ll just stick with that premise (see “Research” link at the end for more info if you suspect otherwise). Big retailers such as IKEA, Home Depot and Walmart are on top of the low priced LED bulbs sales… so we should not have to be too worried about finding an affordable bulb for our existing light fixtures. IKEA has moved to only selling light fixtures that use LED technology, so that’s a huge statement of where they think the future of lighting is heading.
A good cost saving strategy is to stock up on incandescent bulbs to avoid the cost of new technologies… then hold on until the competition heats up for the newest and cheapest LED bulbs to come out of the giant retailers … the fight is on for your light bulb dollars. Don’t be tempted by the reduced cost of CFL bulbs either. The environmental impact of even the smallest amounts of mercury that is used in these bulbs is astronomical when the shear number of bulbs that are used in North America are added up. Those bulbs will all die one day and must go somewhere. As with most waste in our countries, not all of it that should be handled with special care make it to the proper facilities and end up in regular waste dumps where the toxins will eventually leak into our precious ground water.

Living room light fixture and custom drapery
If money is tight coming out of your pocket… stretch it a little and stock up on the inexpensive incandescent bulbs to hold you over… invest a little for a few LED bulbs for high use spaces like kitchens… or that lamp you never shut off for “security” reasons… mom. Spend some to save some is the name of the game here. The trendy “Industrial Style” is glorifying the incandescent light bulb in one last hurr-ahh… before they are dismissed from the store shelves as the cause of over consumption of electricity… what’s next? Yes, your oven could be next… or perhaps your refrigerator?? Remember… when in doubt, turn it out … or just light a candle instead!!

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Walmart:
http://inhabitat.com/walmart-launches-line-of-10-led-bulbs/

Canada ban 2014 – Government unprepared for mercury waste from increased use of CFLs:
http://digitaljournal.com/article/341813
http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/in-line-with-u-s-ottawa-to-allow-sales-of-less-efficient-light-bulbs-1.1484749
http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/incandescent-light-bulb-ban-starts-jan-1-2014-1.2462888
Canada govt FAQ for light bulbs
http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/regulations-codes-standards/7281
Ikea news:
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-10-01/ikea-plans-to-sell-only-led-lights-worldwide-to-cut-emissions
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-01/ikea-plans-to-sell-only-led-lights-worldwide-to-cut-emissions.html
http://jamesbedell.com/blog/2013/8/22/ikea-is-going-all-led-heres-what-that-means-for-the-lighting-industry
Research:
http://freedomlightbulb.blogspot.ca/

Living It Large with Less

Before photo of the Exterior front

Before photo of the Exterior front

Final Exterior full view (some landscaping still to be done)

Final Exterior full view (some landscaping still to be done)

Small space living … starting out or emptying the nesting … or somewhere in between?

The average American home in the 1950’s was 900 sq.ft, with 3.2 occupants.  The average American home today is 2300 sq.ft, with 2.3 occupants.  That means today’s average American lives in more square footage than a whole family in the 1950’s!!  “The average new single-detached home in Canada is about 1,900 sq.ft. and new home builders expect them to get smaller in 2012.” says the Canadian Home Builder Association.  Most large residences have more circulation areas like stairways, hallways and corridors which is unused space just for circulation from room to room…. that can equal up to 40% of unlivable space in many of the typical track house design … and you have to provide lighting, heating and cooling to all of that space!!

Do we really need all that space to live comfortably??

Living in a smaller place doesn’t just mean ultra modern and expensive high rise condominiums.  Although high-rise condos are a fabulous option if you have the budget and want that lifestyle.  Consider that renovated factories are being turned into up-scale loft apartments … not just for artists and musicians anymore.  Neighbourhood revitalization is taking place in large and smaller cities all over, changing once dark and dangerous streets into family and pedestrian friendly, tree-lined street scapes with cafes, shops and parks.  For a home with easier access to the street, single family homes, whether an in-fill, a renovated older home or a new up-scale town-home are available in posh downtown revitalized neighbourhoods that you may not have ever considered living in before.  A well designed smaller spaces can be organized to satisfy functional requirements as well as aesthetic sensibilities.

Lockhart

Living in a smaller space can also allow you to afford a more luxuriously appointed, with all the bells and whistles type home… possibly in a neighbourhood closer to your work or your hobbies.  Think of your smaller living space like a decked-out sport coupe instead of a basic large 4-door sedan.

A condominium that offers extra features such as roof top gardening beds, barbecue areas, swimming pools, exercise rooms, spas, game rooms and theaters can extend your living space.  Even if you have a mere 600 square feet in your condo, these additional spaces would allow you the luxury of amenities that would otherwise be quite pricey.  Many condominiums also have spaces such as recreation rooms with large kitchens and furnished apartments to accommodate family events and overnight guests.  Just watch out for the condo fees… nothing is free!!

The downtown re-development of many cities has seen an increase in high and medium-rise condominium buildings which allows more people to live in the footprint of the previous building site.  Also, redevelopment of industrial and office buildings into condominiums has re-purposed long empty spaces.  The movement of people back into cities’ downtown cores and extended neighbourhoods will slow urban sprawl, keeping precious farmland and delicate natural spaces from the developers… for now.  Urban planners have increased easier access to natural green spaces for urban dwellers as the positive physiological and psychological effects of natural habitat are well know.  People just feel better and are happier living with access to nature and fresh air.

Moving closer to work and having a short commute is worth more than a big house.  Many who make this move say they have an increase in quality of life as so much of their day that was once taken up with commuting is now available to them.  Also, the cut in your daily commute makes your environmental footprint slightly smaller.

Even if a downtown condo isn’t your idea of easy living and prefer the fresh air of the country, a smaller residence could still be beneficial.  Country living could allow one to build an efficient off-the-grid abode… perhaps with modern and not-so-modern building materials and techniques.  A smaller residence requires less lighting, heating and air conditioning… easier to clean and maintain so more time can be spent in the garden… or tending your pygmy goats and heritage chickens.

Environmentally speaking, with a smaller dwelling, less resources are used in the building and maintenance of your living space.  We are well on our way into the second decade of the 21st century and still large track home builders are pumping out monster-size dwellings with “just to code” level of energy efficiency, despite governments’ commitment improvement of standards. Large swaths of what was once pristine farm land or forests are being leveled for more sub-divisions of clone housing.  From the Canada Mortgage and Housing (CMHC) web-site:  “Sustainability and innovation become the watchwords for this decade as governments focus on cleaner energy, the environment, and sustainable, yet affordable communities.”  It will take a larger commitment from more citizens to push for greater changes in standards to reach sustainability goals.  Perhaps the cable TV shows that have been promoting these monster homes as the desired norm have a social responsibility to show everyone how small spaces can be fabulously chic and livable … and definitely more sustainable environments!!Living room detail shot

Whether you prefer downtown, deep in the country or somewhere in between, one can live a small-space, sustainable life-style in comfortable, stylish fashion.  It just takes planning, creativity and professional execution. Doing things twice or even three times is a huge waste of resources… and details that are not finished with precision are noticeable and take away from all the good things you’ve done in your home. If you’re not a pro, hire a pro to add value to your home and your life.  The small investment of hiring a designer is always money well spent too, as you get access to designer products, services and possibly product discounts, but more important you will achieve a small living space that will work just for you!  Love your small space living!!

Note:  Average American house size:

http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2005/07/12/small-beautiful-us-house-size-resource-use-and-environment

Living with Multi-generations Under One Roof… How to Get Along

It was only suppose to be a temporary situation… maybe a few months at the most. Almost 8 years later and we’re still living in my parents home. I bought a house in the town where my parents retired to. For me and my two children, living near their grandparents was going to make life easier for me, a single parent, to be able to pursue my career in the city an hour’s drive away. Knowing that my kids would have breakfast in the morning and dinner at night, as well as, to and from school safely while I battle rush hour… making the drive a little less stressful. For my parents and children, with son in elementary school and daughter in high school, getting to know thier grandparents on a personal level was priceless.
The house I bought was a real deal, a handyman-special for sure… as were all the properties I looked at in my price range. To my benefit though, I knew what I was getting myself into… so I thought. On the surface the house looked liveable but I didn’t need the house inspector to tell me that there were problems. Most century homes that haven’t been renovated in 40 years usually have issues. I’ll save the details of my reno at Helen Street for a series of blog posts I’m planning for later. So we settled into my parents house for what we thought would be a short term…. but life happens and plans change with or without your consent. Lost jobs, lacking consistent income, parent illness and subsequent death, started and failed business, depression, loss of relationships, new relationships, found self, launching daughter, comforting mother, guiding son… life happens and everything happens for a reason.
I’ve come to understand there is a difference when a living situation is thrust upon you or if you are allowed to choose the living situation carefully. In this case, with me and my children moving in with my parents … we didn’t have a choice of living situations when the house we want to live in was and still is unliveable. I understood this completely when my daughter who was recently married, talked to me about her and her new husband starting a family and worrying that they wouldn’t have much flexibility in thier activities with little ones around and no help. Quickly I said “I’m your go-to Grandma!!”, then added that life could be even easier for them if we just lived with them. So I suggested we look at pooling resources and coming up with a plan of action. Who pays for what? How would things get decided? Who cleans the toilet? The list goes on, but at least it is discussed. Time to finish the repairs and sell that house the we have never lived in.
Multi-generational living is not a new concept. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1950’s when the idea of the “Nuclear Family” was being widely promoted. What it meant was that smaller family units swarmed into suburbs and out of the cities and left aging parent on thier own. There are many cultures living in North America that for them having many generations live under one roof is very common. Typically in North America, if you still live in your mom’s basement, people may think there is something wrong with you. There is even a term for that… failure to launch. More and more families every year are embrassing age-old communal living. Whether it is for financial reasons or for built-in security, there has been a surge in the past 5 years of multi-generational homes.
Successful communal living starts with planning the living spaces where everyone will have thier own zones for functionality, privacy and noise control. Everyone needs private and quiet sleeping spaces. Not all are on the same sleep schedule so planning these spaces are very important to the success of your living situation. If time and budget aren’t a huge barrier for you, designing and building a home specific to your families needs would be ideal. If a new building is out of the picture for you, consider hiring a designer to organize your existing property to get the most efficient living spaces out of it.
The Players and Other Considerations:
Pets … who’s pet is it anyways? cost, allergies, cleaning, feeding, poop, noise; Small children … noise, toy management, bath time, quiet sleep space, discipline rules (Mom & Dad get to set them), little friends, babysitters;
Pre-teen & teens … video games, friends, partying, latenights, electric guitars, loud music, eating right, privacy, sleep-overs, emotions, more discipline rules (Mom & Dad still get to set them);
The Parents (and thier partners and extended families) … long work hours, meal making, chores and the division of work, privacy and intimacy, discipline of children, financial obligation, retirement, travelling, entertaining;
The older parent(s) … noise (24/7 TV on top volume), hobbies, meals and the difference of taste, health issues, sad widow(er), sleeping hours, mobility issues, special equipment;
Dealing with Stuff … material stuff and emotional stuff… and the laundry;
Storage… and enough pots in the kitchen for everyone!!
Some Benefits of Multi-generational Living:
*  Extra eyes on the little ones… and not-so-little ones;
*  Consolidating resources and decreasing costs such as utility bills, insurance, mortgage, rent, vehicles, commuting, child and elder care;
*  Sharing of household duties (more hands to wash dishes and toilets);
*  IT problems will be resolved quickly (as long as you’ve got techies around to hit re-boot);
*  Increase of familia bonding through meals, activities, chores and play time… quality time!

Every living arrangement has it’s pluses and minuses… we choose to dwell on the positive. Having your aging parents close to you can be a comfort knowing that they are well taken care of by all of the family. There are so many benefits but like any relationship, communication is the most important tool for multi-generational families to live successfully under one roof. I’m looking forward to my next living arrangement!!

In Pursuit of Happiness… Our Natural Desire to Feather Our Nest

Every spring our North American bird friends spend endless hours finding the perfect fixings for thier new digs. Searching for the best ingredients for solid structure, waterproofing and of course comfort, readies thier new home for thier expected little ones. Well that explains birds, but why do we feel the need to make our homes look like the cover of Architectural Digest?
Is it just that magazines and television expose us to the best spaces that money can buy? Do you take those visions as a challenge or do younfeel deeper about the rooms in your home? Do you feel the need to keep up with the Joneses whether you can afford it or not? There are as many reasons for the “nesting” feeling as there are … well… people. Decorating means different things to different people and to each his own… beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
For the lady late in her pregnancy, her “nesting” instict kicks in with the impending birth of her child. So is our desire to nest a hormonal reaction or natural instinct? Young couples that move into thier first home are so compelled to spend every last cent they have… or more… to make thier new nest the home of thier dreams.
Perhaps your pursuit of a fabulously sexy pad is motivated by your desire to hook-up. Both ladies and gents of single status who are looking for love, very much take the feathering of thier nest seriously. Making one’s self attractive to others at all levels. This activity is not like a web of deception but displays one’s desire to attract someone of quality or at least show your financial ability to keep up with Joneses.
Does your home make a statement about who you are or who you want people to perceive you to be? Do you want to experience a certain feeling as you walk through your front door? Is it that feeling many of us get as the holiday seasons set upon us, certain scents, colours and objects take us back to a warm happy place… most of the time. Make note of how you feel the next time you walk through your home’s entrance. Is it stress or relief that you feel? Can you recognize what it is about your home that ingnites emotions in you? Being able to notice any negative reactions you or your family may have when you enter your abode will direct you to what your next weekend DIY project should be. If you can’t put your finger on the source of your pain, you may need to call for professional help such as an interior designer.
What is your house pride motivation? Some folks feel that cleanliness is most important but let the clutter slide. Others pride themselves with orderliness, but the dust-bunnies are still safe to reproduce under the bed if time runs out in the housekeepers schedule. Then there is the personality of one who conquers both clutter and cleansing; demanding it from others in the home too. Is your desired space an empty box with little embellishment or do you prefer a full house of furniture, decorative objects and things of memories past? Where do you fall into this scale?
Do you let your budget or line of credit guide you in how much you spend on your nest? Or do make due with hand-me-downs and gifts? One may think that feathering your nest may take a great deal of cash. It can be done on less than a dime but it may take just a little more time and a fair amount of elbow grease to achieve. Consignment shops that specialize in household furnishings and accessories are a great source for finding unique and affordable things to fill your home.
There is a statement in design that says “form follows function”… meaning our spaces should be shaped by our activities but usually we have to stuff ourselves into a container we can afford and make the best of it. Depending on where you are in your life, your home may be a 5 bedroom single in the suburbs or a 24th floor bachelor loft in a re-developed downtown neighbourhood. You may feel that finishing your space to suit as many future buyers as possible is a good investment. Perhaps that is true in a short turn-around property, but in a long term living situation furnishing and decorating (as well as renovating) it is best to make choices that will make you happy. Of course, there are others such as family, future family or pets to considered in any nesting decisions you make.
Nesting is more than the pursuit of material possession, creating a living space that functions well and that you enjoy can add to the overall quality of your life. Happy Nesting!!

More reading:
Want to hook-up: http://ca.askmen.com/top_10/dating/top-10-ways-to-impress-a-woman-with-your-home.html
Keeping up with the Joneses and other rules: http://www.viewalongtheway.com/2013/06/6-decorating-rules-to-live-by/

Locavore your Living Spaces… Sourcing Design Products & Services Locally

The name “Locavore” is a popular name tag of Foodies who support food production as close as possible to thier community.  Where you live and what major centres that are near by may influence your decision of how far you are willing to have your home building and decorating products shipped.  I live near a city center that has New York, Toronto and Montreal within a 500 kilometers distance.  I am fortunate in that way but you may live in a prairie or mountain state or province where city centers, having a greater abundance of design sources, are at a much further distance.  We must remember that we are doing the best that we can to achieve our personal standards. There are many products such as textiles, door hardware and plumbing fixtures that are scarcely produced in North America anymore.  Unless you have an unlimited budget, you may have to forgive yourself for having to purchase items produced overseas.  I’m always on the lookout for artisans to fill the void of locally produced products. How does your local purchasing affect your community?  Most importanly, your money stays in your community.  As well, you are supporting the development of artisans skills and building a resource for quality of products.  Your support of local artisans may possibly increase the notoriety of specialized products in your region… think “Shetland” wool and “Waterford” crystal.

Where do you go to find what you are looking for?

  • Search on-line first!!  The easiest research and shopping you can do from the comfort of your sofa!!
  • Furniture – new, hand-made … the Amish community for example is prized for thier furniture production – includes the ability to custom order to fit your design criteria.
  • Thrift shops – especially if you’re handy and ready for a DIY project.
  • Up-cyclers – they’ll do the DIY and dumpster-diving for you!!
  • Recyclers of building products and architectural elements.
  • Crafters – whether on-line or at your local Farmers’ Market – beautiful products such as naturally dyed cotton t-shirts recycled into braided rag rugs, not just for country decor anymore… again, Amish quilts are highly coveted!!  Knitted blankets using local wools would be an investiment your grand-children could inherit!!
  • Artisans of textiles such as weavers, quilters… wood and glass works for vessels, dishes, pottery, plates and windows… metal works for items made from iron, steel, tin and aluminum especially for hardware and decorative items.
  • Antique dealers, estate sales and auctions – Antiques (and thier modern mass-produced look-a-likes) can be edited to fit into desired design styles… paint, change hardware or leave original finishes and hardware to maintain the future historical value.
  • Curb-side pick-ups (aka dumpster diving!!) – free treasures to be found, but you should take care thof yourself and be very discriminating about what you touch… avoid upholstered items (bugs, molds, disintegrating toxic materials).
  • Local College or Art Schools – up and coming artists, craftsmen and women are always looking for a way to make a living from the craft they studied… furniture, textiles, decorative household items, art… You benefit by obtaining less expensive products, unique ideas and untainted creativity.  Schools that specialize in historic artisan crafts such as stonework and millwork (cabinets, trim, etc) for example are a great source for new professionals to add unique details to your home.

What to look for…

  • always go for quality … it lasts longer
  • recyled … organic …. natural materials
  • non-toxic finishing ethical production (no harm to animals or people)
  • ask yourself if you really “need” it… and how do I feel about it!!??

Can’t find what you are looking for in your neighbourhood… think about supporting craftsmen and women working with sustainable development projects, home-base businesses, fair trade and community collective businesses… the money from your purchase goes directly into the community where the artisans are located.  Not only would you have a well crafted and unique product but you will also have a warm feeling that you are part of building productive and healthy communities world-wide.  Look for these traditional types of products (especially locally traditional products) as well as the term “social responsibility”… bonus for organic products too!!  Although the product list is endless… third party certification from NGO bodies such as:  “Fairtrade” ( http://www.fairtrade.net) … “The Fair World Project” (http://fairworldproject.org/) and “Fair for Life” (http://www.imo.ch ).

  • textiles, weaving, knitting, sewing
  • pottery & ceramics
  • metal work
  • woodwork, carving
  • glass work
  • woven grasses (baskets, rugs, wall coverings)

Your wallet is a powerful tool and “Big Business” is very concerned about how you use it.  How we spend our money sends a huge message to the marketplace… one that says “make me happy and I may spend more money with you… and so may my friends!!”  That message to industry is strong and can be relentless.  The Locavore mentality can help you to: reduce your personal carbon footprint by purchasing less travelled and packaged products; be conscious to avoid so many of the toxic chemicals used in the mass production of furniture and textiles; reduce the amount of plastics and synthetic materials used in household items and thier packaging; when your items have long out-lived their use and can no longer be repaired or renewed, the disposal of your item will return to the earth with less of the usual toxic residue; and benefit personally by obtaining unique and quality products that last longer than the mass-produced and become heirlooms to many generations. make a difference to your or someone’s community by building local economies. Embrace the emerging “Locavore” tradition and feel good about your consumerism… but please be kind to your friends and family if they don’t understand yet… they will someday, just by your example.  Happy Locavore Shopping!!

Avoiding Toxic Interiors… What’s Making Me Sick?

6 ways to include healthier environments in your wellness journey

In my persuit of healthier living, which began with a personal realization that I “did not feel well” far too often, I found that every element of my life was saturated with toxic chemicals.  I started with a detox diet, then edited my daily diet and started practicing yoga again.  I found I felt better after taking these steps but I knew there could be more I could do to feel even better.  I took a look around my home and realized that the source of alot of my stress was the clutter around me and the possible toxins all this stuff was shedding.

It is a challenge to avoid the toxins being dumped on us in every respect of our lives.  There is a substantial list of sources of toxins in our environment.  Unhealthy chemicals are present in our air, water, food, building materials, medicines, clothing and more.  Even people and stressful situations can be bad for our bodies. Practically every element of our lives is touched by over 80,000 “legal” chemicals.

Even our pets and creatures of the wilderness are affected by our use of chemicals.  Honey bees for example, which our flowering crops depend on for production, are mysteriously dying off.  The reason, discovered by bee keepers, the spraying of herbicides (glysophates) such as Monsanto’s popular product Round-Up… but that’s a whole other topic for future articles.

We don’t live in a bubble and can not possibly hide ourselves from all the toxic substances floating around our environment, but riding our lives of the troubling “low hanging fruit” can be acheived gradually if you have time… or go for the total Detox with “Chemical Cold-turkey”.  Here are six areas in which we can make changes that will make a difference to the health of our bodies and to the environment.

1.  Choose natural, organic and ethical fabrics.  Why?  Textiles such as nylon are produced using fosil fuels which impact greatly on the Earth’s environment.  These chemical based fabrics also contain endocrine disrupting toxins such as BPA and thalates.  Choosing organic cotton over standard cotton is important because the production of cotton is one the largest users of toxic herbicides and pesticides and thus polluters of our water system.  Most of the cotton crops from Indian are a GMO (genetically modified organism) crop called BT Cotton.  BT Cotton in India has recently been exposed as the reason for the mass suicides of poor cotton farmers.  Another productive fibre, hemp (Cannabis Sativa L) is considered a “carbon negative” material.  Naturally organic, it grows quickly without the usual chemicals, less water than crops such as cotton and higher yields per acre.  Canada has a controlled production of hemp crops and several states in the USA have recently made hemp production legal again.  I could write a long essay on this topic alone.  Silk, wool, linen (flax) and ramie (nettle) are other classic natural fabrics, used for centuries all over the world.  Look for the label of the organic textiles organization OEKO-TEX® on your purchases to ensure you are getting a certified sustainable textile product.

2.  Re-upholster or slip-cover your gently used quality sofas and arm chairs.  Why?  Upholstered furniture sold at department stores is almost always treated with toxic fire retardants.  Studies have shown that Brominated Flame Retardants (BFR) and more specifically Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) are “chemicals (that) may disrupt human thyroid hormone functioning and cause other health effects, prompting many nations to ban or suspend their use in new consumer goods”(1).  These bio-accumulative toxins store in our fatty tissue (such as breast tissue and waist line) and contribute to our suseptibility to cancers.  PBDE are found in household things such as sofas, rugs and electronics and leaches out in the form of household dust (5). Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs) trade names like Stainmaster and Teflon are use as stain guards added to textiles are considered toxic and possible causes of birth defects, developmental problems, hormone disruptor and “likely carcinogen” (6)  Wool is the most naturally fire resistant natural textile.  When you purchase soft furnishings from your favourite retailer, if you can choose the fabric, ask if it is treated with a fire retardant and stain repellant.  If available and guaranteed for long-wear, choose organic and sustainable fabrics that can be washed since dry-cleaning is another toxic source called Perchlorethylene (PERC) an is a known carcinogen.  Don’t take the retailers verbal assurance that there are no toxins… ask for the specifications and organic textile association to be certain you are getting what you are paying for.

3.  Choose no VOC paints, varishes, solvents, furniture, wall coverings & flooring.  Why?  Anything in your home that has glue, paint, varnish or made of plastic emits VOC (volitile organic chemicals).  VOCs can cause allergic reactions and respirtory illness.  Prolonged exposure has been linked with liver and kidney diseases, cancer, as well as autoimmune diseases like Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinsons Disease (PD) (7).  Formaldehyde is a cancer causing chemical found in mass produced furniture with particle board and melamine.  A healthier solution is to re-purpose antiques or purchase quality solid wood furniture (that have a no VOC guarantee) and if you need to re-finish use no VOC paint, varnish and cleaning solvents.  Always refinish in well ventilated space, outdoors is prefered and dispose of the remaining products at proper recycling and hazardous waste facilities.  Don’t dump anything down the drain… it is still a toxic chemical!!    Replace old wall-to-wall carpet and pealing vinyl flooring with factory finished, water-based varnish on solid hardwood flooring and ceramic tiles.  Not only will this type of flooring not have the dangerous toxic dust production but you will be able to better clean these solid surface floors.  Little ones who live closest to the ground will benefit from the cleaner air.  Add natural fiber area rugs to make a softer zone for your crawler, in materials such as wool or cotton.  Wet or areas of your home with more traffic would benefit from durable jute.  Think about the cleaning product you use too!!  Products with perfumes are another source of harmful VOCs.  Read the labels on everything since infants are especially at risk from toxic compounds as thier immune and respitory systems are newly developing and ill and elderly family members may have weak immune systems.

4.  What’s lurking behind those walls?  Why?  Older homes and those that are less-than-loved may be hiding toxins such as mold and mildew, asbestos and led paint for example.  Be aware that any renovation project on buildings with a mysterious history should be conducted with care and that specially trained professionals may be needed to handle your mold or asbestos issues, so as not to release dangerous toxins into your environment.  Disrupting aged materials can cause respitory illnesses or worse, birth defects if an expectant mother is exposed.  Leave your home while work is being done and allow it to be aired out for several days after the work is complete.  Renovation projects are an ideal time to add sustainable and energy efficient building techniques, materials and products to your home.  Be vigilant and protect your family, pets and your property by hiring a qualified building professional.

5.  Open the windows!!  Why?  Especially in our extreme seasons, the quality of the air in our interiors declines.  Modern air tight buildings offer little fresh air flow and often the re-circulated mechanical air is pushed through dirty filters and vents… commercial buildings are the worst but your home may be making you suffer too.  Plan to have your vents cleaned at least once a year and change your furnace filter as well, especially after any renovations.  This will help keep mold, mildew, toxic off-gassing of new furniture and finishes as well as keeping those nasty VOCs (volitile organic compounds found in paints, varishes and more) at bay.  Opt for fresh air not phthalate ladden air-fresheners.   A breath of fresh air is very cleansing to your body… just opening your windows may not be enough… get outside and into nature… take a deep breath… relax, smile and take care of yourself.

6.  Too much stuff!!  Why?  Visual clutter is mental clutter.  You don’t have to live a minimalist’s lifestyle to rid yourself of the mental anguish of too much stuff, but making your home more organized and editing the things you have is a good start.  My mom, for example has piles and drawers full of video tapes but doesn’t have a VCR anymore… this creates the stress of dusting off things she will never use again (although, she claims she “needs” them!!).  Stress has a negative physiological effect on your body…. and stress manifests itself differently in everyone.  Having too much stuff in one space can seem out of control, cluttered, confusing.  Organizing spaces such as closets and kitchens can make the process of getting dressed and cooking a meal alot more efficient and enjoyable!!  Visitors to your home will also appreciate a calm and uncluttered space.  The task of editing your home, if you’ve never done it before, can be absolutely daunting. Start with a small space and don’t get frustrated.  Make piles of things to go to storage, give-away, re-cycle and trash.  If you can’t do it because sometimes it is just too emotionally difficult or physically challenging, recruit someone you trust who will listen to your desires.  They will also help you make the hard decisions of getting rid of things you don’t need but are attached to.  De-cluttering is like therapy really, you have to be ready for it… otherwise it won’t be successful.  Editing or decluttering your possesions can be a mentally freeing, although many have a difficult time letting go of sentimental items, the act of editing is definitely an emotional one… but the result is freedom!!

We spend so much time and money removing toxins from our bodies with organic food, vitamins and de-tox baths where we should also be mindful of the toxins in our envionment that we have control of.  Being aware of and taking care of our environment is a benefit to us and future generations too.  Take care of what you can and remind yourself not to not stress over what you can’t control in the environment.  The world is stressful enough… we don’t need to add to it.

1.  http://www.ec.gc.ca/ese-ees/default.asp?lang=EnHYPERLINK “http://www.ec.gc.ca/ese-ees/default.asp?lang=En&n=05DF7A37-1″&HYPERLINK “http://www.ec.gc.ca/ese-ees/default.asp?lang=En&n=05DF7A37-1″n=05DF7A37-1

2.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2367656/

3. https://www.oeko-tex.com/en/manufacturers/philosophy/phylosophy_start.html

4. http://www.global-standard.org/the-standard/general-description.html

5.  Smith, Rick “Slow Death By Rubber Duck – How the toxic chemistry of everyday life affects our health”, Toronto:  Alfred A.Knopf Canada, 2009 (page 96-130)

6.  Smith, Rick “Slow Death By Rubber Duck – How the toxic chemistry of everyday life affects our health”, Toronto:  Alfred A.Knopf Canada, 2009   (page 69-95)   (http://slowdeathbyrubberduck.com/CAN/)

7.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2078137/