Once seen as extreme or eccentric, environmentally friendly living spaces are going mainstream. You don't have to strain your budget or your sense of style to choose a healthy home -- these days, it's easy being green. Here's what's new in environmentally friendly products and materials for the home.
This category encompasses materials that are recycled, sustainably harvested, or organically grown. One retro option now available again (from Forbo and Armstrong) is real linoleum -- made from biodegradable linseed oil, pine rosins, and wood flour on a jute backing.
Air-tight construction addressed the energy crisis of the 1970s, but few foresaw that this approach could be harmful to your health. When building materials emit fumes and trapped air creates mold, sick building syndrome and environmentally triggered illness and allergies can result. One solution is to shop for low-emitting interior products and materials.
Started in Germany, the Bau-biologie movement aims to create living spaces that are both harmonious with nature and human health. Proponents recommend nontoxic building materials, natural air movement to control humidity, filtering of air pollutants, and radiant or passive solar heat.
An offshoot of Washington state and EPA programs, the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (www.greenguard.org) certifies low-emitting interior products and materials through quarterly air-quality performance tests. When you build with these products, you can breathe easier.