As the rental market continues to grow in several areas of the country, the need for environmentally responsible design solutions for those living in apartments has been increasing on a daily basis. Even though when it comes to interior design, there is no such a thing as one size fits all, below are few tips on how you can live in an apartment that is environmentally responsible while renting.
Know what you are bringing home – Considering that having good indoor air quality is a priority in a sustainable home, you must be aware that many interior finishes and furnishings come loaded with pollutants, including, among other chemicals, formaldehyde, benzene, and toluene. Next time you go on a shopping spree for your home, look for formaldehyde free products, low to zero VOC paint, and if possible chose products carrying Green Seal and Green Guard labels. Prefer organic cotton or natural fibers over synthetic ones. Finish up your décor by accessorizing with artwork made of recycled content or recycled glass.
Adopt a green cleaning products policy in your home. It feels great when you walk into a place and it smells clean, doesn’t it? But do you really know what chemicals are behind the cleaning product? Did you know that in one study, a plug-in air freshener was found to emit 20 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including seven regulated as toxic or hazardous under U.S. federal laws? Since only the word “fragrance” is required by law to be listed, all those chemicals are not included on the label. Furthermore, the majority of fragrances come from petroleum products, and many of them haven’t been actually tested to see if there are any adverse health effects in humans when inhaled. However, you can eliminate a massive amount of chemicals from your home simply by adopting a green cleaning product policy in your home. Instead of buying a ready-made cleaner at your grocery store, make your own mixing water, white vinegar and essential oils (for scent). In the kitchen, use sliced lemons or oranges and baking soda for a clean scent.
Make your home a smoke-free zone. Even if it is ok with your landlord to have smokers as tenants, besides the fact that a cigarette smoke by itself contains more than 4,000 chemicals, smoking can give you cancer, breathing problems, heart attacks, and stroke. Furthermore, secondhand smokers will be inclined to develop ear and respiratory infections, asthma, cancer, and children may suffer sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Protect your health and the health of your loved ones by prohibiting the use of tobacco and any other smoking substances inside your home
Check your HVAC system. Make sure you replace your HVAC filter on a regular basis and your entire system is cleaned every few years or immediately after a major renovation involving construction debris. Don’t wait until your white air vent or return turn into black to call a cleaning company. Talk to your landlord about it. Besides providing a better indoor air quality for your home, having the HVAC cleaned regularly will also help to extend the life of the product.
Clean up your home regularly. Clean up your home on a weekly basis, by mopping, sweeping, vacuuming, and dusting off all the dirty that doesn’t belong to your home. Weather allowing, open up your windows for few hours to bring some fresh air into your home.
Decorate with plants that will act as living air purifiers – their foliage and roots work in tandem to absorb chemical pollutants released by synthetic materials. Besides being pretty, softening those empty corners, and bringing the outside in, those plants will also help you to breathe a cleaner air. Plants like aloe vera, snake plant, golden photos are great foliage options to improve your indoor air quality. If you like flowers, consider chrysanthemum, gerbera or azalea. — Azalea is a beautiful flowering shrub that will convert formaldehyde from sources such as plywood or foam insulation into oxygen.
Talk to a professional. Regardless if you live in a house or in an apartment rental like the ones seen here from Apartment Guys, or if you own or if you rent, your home should be a true representation of you and your persona. If you start feeling overwhelmed, or if you simply don’t know where to start, consider talking to a licensed interior designer who is also a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) to assist you. A well trained interior design professional will be able to help you to create your green home without breaking the bank.
VK Sustainable Concepts’ Principal Andrea Vollf, LEED AP ID+C, is a registered interior designer and sustainability professional with over fifteen years of experience in the interior design and marketing industries. Ms. Vollf is an active member of the U.S. Green Building Council – Illinois Chapter, with in‐depth knowledge of all aspects of Sustainability – Social, Environmental and Economic. Connect with Andrea on Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.