EcoChic: We are Covered!
We are now in the golden age of materials. Technological advances and innovative industrialists are providing an ever increasing selection of products for flooring, wall coverings, and upholstery to name but a few possible applications.
Designers, decorators, architects and home furnishing buyers have to navigate this maze of possibilities according to aesthetics, technical requirements, and the bottom line.
But what if you are EcoChic? In addition to beauty, performance, and affordability, you want to choose materials that are not harmful to the environment and not detrimental to you or your clients’ health.
Luckily, we are here to be your guide! Although consumer awareness in general has grown tremendously over the last several years around sustainable materials, there remains a large amount of information to sift through in regards to the environmental consequences of our material choices.
Let’s start with an old standard, vinyl. Vinyl has often been considered a material that is bad for the environment- it comes from petroleum, a non-renewable resource, and has been found to off-gas VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) implicated in sick building syndrome and environmental illnesses. One company has taken the situation into hand by considerably ameliorating vinyl’s ecological impact. Lonseal’s new GreenAir vinyl flooring ranges contain 20 to 25% percent recycled vinyl material and wood powder, which at least means getting the bad stuff out of the waste stream. The products are also low in VOC’s, meeting the standards of Greenguard Indoor Air Quality certification. If you are considering using vinyl flooring, Lonseal offers a more ecologically sound alternative to standard products.
Xorel is an interesting textile in the synthetics family. It is intended for applications such as wall covering and upholstery, and is made of polyethylene. As an alternative to PVC, polyethylene has the advantage of being free of the chlorine and other chemicals involved in vinyl fabrication. Xorel products do not require extra additives in order to be flame retardant and stain resistant, and are low in VOC’s as well. They are wear resistant over time, and the weaves come in a large range of fashionable colors.
Wood veneers are often called for in interior applications such as wall coverings and of course in furniture fabrication. Using veneers instead of lumber is a vastly more efficient utilization of wood because such thin layers of material are used. TABU veneers are FSC certified, allowing users to rest assured that they are a sustainable product. Forest Stewardship Council certification is an ecological certification across the board when it comes to wood. The Council has set out 10 principles and 57 criteria that relate to environmental impacts such as forest management, water and air pollution, and even social criteria around indigenous and labor rights. The certification allows for traceability of all products back to sustainable sources. If you are looking for other wood materials, check out their site www.fscus.org. TABU FSC certified veneers also allow builders and architects to qualify for credits from the LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which is a set of guidelines for ecologically sustainable building.
Trees provide more than just lumber; there is a beautiful product called Bark Cloth on the market that comes from a collaboration between Germany and Uganda. A traditional material since ancient times in many parts of Africa and the Americas, bark cloth comes from the inner fibrous bark layer of trees like. It has been updated into a sophisticated material that is soft and feels like leather, and comes in a variety of finishes and colors. It can be used for furniture coverings, home textiles, wall coverings, and even blinds or lamp shades. State of the art coatings are added in the Barktex line of products to make the material stain proof, washable, stain resistant, structural or flame proof. It is an organic, non-woven fleece, and ranges in appearance from lustrous leather to a light, textured paper. Backed with silk and colored by plant dyes, it has even made forays into the world of apparel.
These are just four examples of material choices—two natural and two synthetic, to strike a balance—that are on the market and ready for use. Although different their environmental origins and impacts, they are all more eco-friendly choices than standard materials, and each company is investing in an EcoChic future. I predict we will see more and more efforts in this direction as companies recognize that the future will be green, and sexy at that.
For now, we’re covered!