Posts

A Minimalist Christmas | The Tree Alternative

With the world of things like Pinterest at our fingertips, it’s no surprise that people are jumping at the alternative of easier and smaller Christmas Tree solutions. When I was 18, I had rushed my boyfriend (now husband) to a big box store to buy a fake tree on sale. It had lasted several years which is great, I love decorating trees, but in a few of the places I had lived over the past few years, it was not ideal to have even the smaller scale tree I had. I didn’t even know there were other options!

It’s hard for people to justify investing in a tree that they only have out for a month in a year, and still be able to store it (and storage is valuable real estate in the apartment world!). Along with the tree, the decorations, lights etc., also need to be stored somewhere, so now it’s impeding even more.

For those who love the traditional tree-feel, I’ve seen many people go for the 2-3’ trees (in various colours: white, purple lights, black with red lights, traditional green with white or multi-coloured lights), which can be placed on tables (read: away from mischievous pets, and small fingers). I know my hubby and I lived in this very cramped basement apartment for 2 years where my (what I thought was small) 6’ tree took up most of our hall space! It was very invasive! A 3’ tree would have been far more practical, but still offer my love for decorating trees.

I have some friends who have kindly provided/shared with me some of the things they’ve done to overcome their tree space challenges.

1: The DIY Tree

My friend Morgan says: “Each of the top smaller pieces are on their own and the longer bottom lengths are cut in half so they’re each 2 pieces.” She followed up to mention her boards are comprised of cardboard, cork, batting and then felt. As of right now they’re tied together and hung with a string in the back, however she’s looking at finding a better hanging solution. She puts a little shout-out on Facebook to her friends, who collectively (over the years) make her decorations for her tree. It’s a great solution for conserving her space, while also creating a personal touch to her space.

2

2: Au Natural

I really love this look; my friend Jessie was inspired from something she saw on Pinterest. She actually had her dog find the sticks, “I used a pocket knife to debark and make them the right length. I used walnuts to polish them.” Which is a great personal touch. She adds lights and a few simple colour themed decorations to it to help keep it simple, but still stunning.

3

3: Simple Tinsel

This was a fun and very simple artistic way of giving that look of a tree, just up on the wall! My friend Meagan here used tinsel by itself. Please be careful with tinsel if you have pets, it can be very harmful if swallowed. That said, it’s a fun way to create texture in a very simple way! There are many ways to put a creative spin to this, or if you do not like tinsel, you could use other variants of garland, or purely just lights etc. The options are endless!

1

These of course are just a few of the very many choices out there in the world. Feel inspired and have fun!

Wishing everyone a very happy holidays from Nested Green.

Green Jobs | A little Speech

While juggling a few different things in business right now, I have an exciting update on a recent event we were very pleased to participate in. Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) had invited us, well… Katherine, to speak to students and those interested in a career that revolved around the environment. The speakers promoted passion but also sustainable business structures to help inspire those interested in this field.

With approximately 50+ students and those interested in changing career paths, it was actually a larger turn out than we expected. The few other speakers were engineers and large corporate businesses focusing on sustainable environmental factors from a much larger scale.

With a quick speech from most speakers, Katherine insisted on telling us where she got started in the business. When we spoke to the many people eager to chat with us, they seemed inspired and enlightened to find a natural business… on a smaller scale. This made us very happy!

IMG_2802

Of course our evening went much longer than we anticipated… with hearing hopes and dreams from many others, we attempted to guide them in the best direction possible to help achieve their goals. It made us both so excited to see so many eager faces ready to jump into the work of environmental design (and living!).

Suffice to say, Katherine enjoyed telling her story so much she (and I) can’t wait to go and do something like this again! Despite her recovering from illness, she did very well in her speech… come take a look for yourself!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uH1UEEvhv8&w=420&h=315]

Plan your Reno in the Winter | Tips for the savvy shopper

IMG_4454Here at Nested Green we’ve interacted with many folks who have expressed starting their renovations in the spring or summer and some into the late fall. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s great you want to get started! However, it can lead to a lot of unnecessary stress because of schedules, availability of product or contractors and most importantly, affect what you want. The most important thing about planning for Spring/Summer renovations is to plan over the winter.

Why?

There’s lots of reasons why you should plan your renovation over the winter:

Contractors are busy people. Often they’re booking weeks or months in advance, and naturally they are always looking for work. By planning late fall or early winter, booking them in advance, at least for consultations for early spring with plans to renovate later is very key to their scheduling. This way they can try to schedule you into their books based on your schedule, and not theirs.

You have a few months to keep dreaming. This is extremely important in any design planning. This of course involves booking your Interior Designer/Architect *wink wink*. Joking aside, whether you hire a designer or not, it’s extremely important to browse the world of Pintrest, Houzz, and all the unlimited resources we have at our fingertips to discover what you want, and even more importantly, what you don’t want. Make a list of priorities and what you’re willing to compromise on, this will help you narrow your needs/wants in your renovation and design and get what you want. What do you want the space to look like? What are your dreams? If you’re not hiring a designer, do a lot of research into the products that are available and this will help with coming up with your….

BUDGET. I really shouldn’t have to say more than this, but be sure to evaluate your financial situation before starting a renovation or project of any kind. Determine what type of renovation you’re doing and make sure to do research on the types of products you’re interested in and what the average costs are for doing these renovations/construction. Make sure to allow for unexpected costs as no one knows what’s under old floorboards or behind walls that might unleash a whole can of something.IMG_4492

To add to this, if you’re intending on renovating an older home like a heritage home, be sure to get the right people in to evaluate the situation appropriately. Your project may add up quickly if you discover you want to renovate your bathroom to find out all your plumbing is lead or electrical is knob and tube. Things like this are completely against code, and are required to be fixed immediately. It could mean the difference between getting all new electrical and getting the upgrades you wanted… which would ultimately impact your design, and of course you would be left disappointed.

Account for product delivery and ordering. By planning during the winter, it offers lots of time to measure and quote out the products you want as some are 4-6 weeks while others are 10-12 weeks. By ordering these in the right timing, it will prevent your project from being delayed any longer than necessary. Additionally ask about your designer, architect and contractors timeline…how much time do they need to get started? Designers often need 4-6 weeks depending on complexity/technicality and project, but it may require submitting to an architect technician with a BCIN (Building Code Identification Number) to then submit to the city for permits. Please be aware that technicians charge on the upwards of $1000 for their time to review and stamp the project. Once submitted to the city, permits could take 2 or more weeks depending on the project. If this is already completed by the end of winter, then in the spring you’ll be all set to start!

Consider your return on investment. Do property research of those around you and if you need to, get your property evaluated by a real estate agent. Be sure you’re not putting unnecessary funds into your property that you won’t see when you try to sell your house. Play it smart: use the budget efficiently in the right project upgrades (an interior designer can help with this!) and it’ll increase your property value but still at realistic pricing. All too often we see houses trying to sell for far more than they’re worth for the area.

Lastly, be sure you’ve planned around your project. Updating your only bathroom or kitchen? What will do you then…will you stay somewhere else? Something that must be considered especially if there are children in the home. Respect your contractors time and space, if you are getting in their way, this will delay your construction and cause aggravation all around. Stay at a friends/family’s house, go on vacation, stay in a hotel etc. until your project is at a reasonable stage.

Thanks again for tuning in, I hope these tips helped… please share this to your friends/family or anyone looking to start a project in the near future!

– Jennifer.

[image from dailymail.co.uk]

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/