eva finkelstein

woman_poppiesBy Eva Finkelstein

The interest in better indoor air quality is a hot topic as the facts about traditional cleaning products are being uncovered.  The paradox is crystal clear: cleaning isn’t always clean.  

The EPA does not require full disclosure of chemicals in cleaning supplies, and the mystery in the bottle is up to the consumer to contemplate.  


The good news is very good: simple, low cost solutions are available and very effective!  The bad news is quite bad:  our health is at stake in the majority of our buildings that often rely on carcinogenic or toxic chemicals to be “germ free.” “The most offensive common ingredients, according to a 2006 study by the University of California Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, are ethylene-based glycol, used commonly as a water-soluble solvent in cleaning agents and classified as a hazardous air pollutant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and terpenes, a class of chemicals found in lemon, pine and orange oils that can morph into carcinogenic compounds when they mix with ground-level ozone. Also, chlorine, often labeled as “sodium hypochlorite” or “hypochlorite,” is almost ubiquitous in household cleaners, unfortunately for the inhabitants of many homes. Breathing in its fumes can irritate the lungs, and as such poses a serious health risk to those with pre-existing heart or respiratory problems.” [Earth Talk, The Environmental Magazine]

So, what are our schools, stores, and hospitals using for cleaning supplies?  The above mentioned chemicals are ubiquitous in public areas as well as in homes.  The employees and homeowners simply aren’t taught to use pH balanced ionic water, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, borax, castile soap, or lemon juice instead of Clorox, Windex, or Soft Scrub.  And, yes, the non-toxic products also kill germs!  

When reading labels isn’t even a possibility in many cases (since the ingredients are not required to be listed by our government and often the labels are only in English), then what are our options?  As usual, be an educated consumer.  Avoid petrochemicals, phosphates and formaldehyde.  Seek 100% biodegradable, non-toxic, plant based ingredients as well as septic safe and greywater safe products.  

Greywater safe means that the cleaning product will not contaminate water used for flushing toilets or washing machines or watering lawns, for example.  Greywater is not drinking water, but it won’t hurt the environment.  And finally, use a recyclable bottle if you buy ready-made cleaning supplies.  There are many options for “Earth Friendly” cleaning supplies.  Even Clorox has started a green line that appeals to those who want healthy indoor environments.  Shouldn’t we all want clean, honestly clean, air to breathe?  Seems logical.

bath_girlBy Eva Finkelstein

Why use green products for cleaning?  Let’s consider the following before we decide: health, safety, toxicity, flammability, asthma, allergies, respiratory illness, eye irritation, skin irritation, liability, heavy toxic corrosion, shorter life expectancy ( not just of humans but of their purchases), the Federal Anti-terrorism Act (i.e. no matches in custodial closets), need I continue?  Even Clorox is advertising the reason to not use their OWN harsh products and  instead  use their new green line:" So you can benefit from extraordinary cleaning power without worrying about harsh chemical fumes or residue. " [http://www.greenworkscleaners.com/products/chlorine-free-bleach/]

Isn’t it amazing when companies admit that they are selling harsh chemical fumes and residues?!  Pay attention to these disclosures—why would they admit to their own faults?  Because they know old habits die hard.  Who wants to give up Clorox?  Schools don’t.  Homeowners and all kinds of businesses think it’s the answer to germs, but it opens up a can of other worms, which even a company as big as Clorox is blatantly admitting!  Are we listening?

We CAN kill germs with plant based products.  We do not have to expose ourselves, our babies, our children to harsh, disease producing chemicals.  Imagine that?  We have the education, the resources and the proof  on the bottles. Jack Daniels Whiskey is 43% proof, and Purell is 63% alcohol!  What is the point here?  Did you know that your most common furniture cleaner (Pledge, for example) is petroleum based, destroys the surface, is highly flammable and, by the way, fingerprints easily? But it’s what we, including the custodians, are used to.  Should we not change?  Change is so hard!  Or is it???

kitten_By Eva Finkelsein

Natural sunlight can be brought inside residential and commercial spaces through windows, doors, skylights and light tubes to enhance the lives of the occupants as well as reduce the environmental impacts of electrical lighting.  

Passive daylighting is both healthy and inspiring to people, plants and animals.  It is becoming a crucial component in sustainable design and development for a multitude of reasons. The United States Green Building Council has designated LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) as the national standard for sustainable building, and tubular daylighting devices can fulfill the following categories for LEED certification: Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation in Design.  

LEED and Energy Star certifications not only increase the efficiency of a building, but increase a building’s value as well!  However, certifications are certainly not necessary to enjoy an energy efficient, non-toxic, well-lit space!

The latest technologies allow the sun to shed its light minus the UV rays.  Some passive tubular units can also control the heat exchange that could affect the indoor climate.  If the heating or cooling systems must struggle to try to keep the indoor temperature steady, then the utility bills could actually increase.  Again, buyer  beware, because not all daylighting systems have the capacity to keep your fabrics from fading and keep your indoor air temperature optimal.  

Solatube International, for example,  is currently manufacturing light tubes that have the ability to efficiently separate indoor and outdoor air as well as prohibit UV light rays from traveling inside.  The Solatube solid tubing is lined with the most reflective metal on the market, which allows the light that is captured by the clear dome on the roof to travel from 0 to 90 degree angles through the tubing, delivering the purest color rendition possible.

Fortunately, the government is rewarding daylighting with tax credits that make an environmentally responsible choice a profitable one as well.  Schools, warehouses, dark offices and rooms without windows are excellent places to consider adding natural, passive lighting.  We all need healthy places to live and work, and daylight is a need that we should not ignore.


pond_lilliesBy Eva Finkelstein    

Eco-friendly bamboo is harvested at maturity every five to six years.  In contrast, an oak tree is harvested at maturity every 60-70 years, and after re-planting, takes 60-70 more years to grow.  That’s 120 years, at least, renewable!  The bamboo plant, which is a grass variety, does not need to be re-planted since the plant is cut above the extensive root systems.  Cutting this grass allows it to send up new shoots for decades!       

Most of our Green Design Expo bamboo products come from the well-managed Moso bamboo forests of China, using environmentally responsible processes.  Unfortunately, the U.S. does not have bamboo forests. Traditional horizontal and vertical bamboo floors are still available, and, in both, strips of bamboo are laminated together.  The Janka rating, or hardness rating, of these floors are slightly less than oak.  To create a horizontal floor, the wide edge of the bamboo strip faces up, exposing the growth rings.  For a vertical lamination, the strips are placed on their sides to create a lined look.     

Can a bamboo floor stand up to years of children, pets, and high traffic use in a residence or commercial space?  If it is strandwoven, the answer is, “Yes!”  Unlike traditional horizontal and vertical bamboo floors, strandwoven bamboo is made by weaving strips of bamboo together, resulting in one of the most stable products on the market…twice as hard as oak!  The woven strips come prefinished, so there is no need to add polyurethane when they are installed, saving time, money and indoor air quality.     

Strandwoven bamboo can be bought in a cornsilk or natural color, or stained into pecan, walnut, marbled, burlwood and nutmeg colors, creating what looks like traditional and exotic hardwood floors!  Distressed stained bamboo creates a more rustic décor with textured surfaces and color options like chestnut and java. Some types are available as wideboard flooring as well.  Depending on the subfloor, the strandwoven pieces may be clicked together, glued down or nailed into place.       

Bamboo floors are not only affordable, but are usually manufactured and finished in a socially responsible manner.  But, as always, buyer beware…with the right purchasing and application, bamboo can be a great choice for floors that are both beautiful and durable!

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