Mother Earth Living

Best for Remodeling

Step into sustainability with these great home-improvement products.
By Misty McNally
May/June 2009
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Photo Courtesy Wicanders
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Totally tubular

Gutters aren’t glamorous, but they’re essential. RainTube’s shape deflects debris, controls splash and works well with rainwater harvesting systems. Plus, it’s made from recycled—and perpetually recyclable—material. “We were looking for a way to collect water and withstand the elements,” RainTube cofounder Steve Spratt says. “We chose recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) as the core ingredient for the same reason it’s so terrible in the landfill—it lasts forever.” RainTube has a lifetime warranty, and you can return it to the company for recycling—a promise that earned the product Cradle to Cradle certification. “If you create products, you should take responsibility for them from birth to rebirth,” Spratt says. “We designed our product around that criteria.” RainTube: $6 per foot (installed). (866) 724-6356.

Get corked

Cork feels good on your feet—and your conscience. Cork flooring by Wicanders comes to your home via the centuries-old tradition of cork oak forestry in Portugal, where the bark is stripped from live trees every nine years, says marketing manager Ronit McGuthrie. The process does not harm the trees, and they reproduce their bark within a few years. Wicanders flooring is a byproduct of parent company Amorim, the world’s largest wine stopper maker, founded in 1868.      

“The agglomerated cork used to create our flooring is bound together with Acrodur, an eco-friendly resin,” McGuthrie says. “It’s 100 percent formaldehyde-free, and there’s no outgassing.” She notes that cork flooring will work in any room except the bathroom. “Our most recent innovation, the cork plank, is micro-beveled on all four sides and has a narrow width to resemble wood,” she says. “Its angled drop-in installation system makes it easy for people to install themselves.” Wicanders Cork Plank: $6.50 to $7.50 per square foot. (410) 553-6062.

Handmade underfoot

Garuda Woven Art rugs are gorgeous—but looks aren’t everything. “When we started in 1996, our intention was to make rugs the way they used to be made, to dye the wool with natural dyes, weave it and wash it—that’s it,” owner Suzanne Engert says. She and her husband, co-owner Tim McMaster, realized that traditional weaving has an added benefit: It’s eco-friendly and nontoxic. “The foundation is unbleached, chemical-free cotton from India, and the rug is Tibetan wool from nomadic sheep on the Tibetan Plateau. We wash the rugs with a nontoxic soap,” Engert says. Garuda also uses Chinese silk and Nepalese hemp, and extracts dyes from plants such as indigo, madder, walnut and pomegranate. Engert and McMaster work closely with artisans in Nepal, where child labor is illegal.  4-by-6-foot rugs: $1,200 to $1,500. (303) 442-2096.

Revolving doors

Liberty Valley Doors has been making custom doors since 1980, but president Mike Pastryk found a new niche six years ago. “We manufactured some doors out of reclaimed wood, and I really liked the look,” he says. “And because it was reclaimed, no wood was heading to the landfill and no trees were cut down.” Liberty Valley’s Rediscovered Wood Door line is made from Forest Stewardship Council-certified, 100 percent reclaimed wood with low-VOC, water-based finishes. The company also cut the amount of waste it sent to the landfill by more than 80 percent last year, mostly through recycling. And its shop is powered completely by solar power, with a monitoring system customers can view online.
Rediscovered Wood Doors: $500 to $1,200. (707) 795-8040.

Wall-to-wall eco

Organic cotton textile maker Mod Green Pod also produces fun, graphic wallpaper that’s light on the earth. “The wallpaper is all hand-printed using nontoxic inks and a water-based glaze,” owner Nancy Mims says. Unlike most wallpaper, Mod Green Pod is made of cellulose, making it totally vinyl-free. “Vinyl outgasses into your house and contains a known carcinogen,” Mims says. The wallpapers are inspired by a wide variety of sources—from vintage designs to Mims’ 7-year-old daughter. “I love old patterns as much as freehand doodles,” Mims says.
Mod Green Pod Butterfly Jubilee in licorice/earl grey: $75/roll (5 yards by 27 inches). (512) 524-5196.


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