A lot has happened since my last blog. As I wrote before, my boyfriend and I were shopping for our first home to buy. Unfortunately, we got pretty far into the process with a house and then everything fell through because the owner and we couldn’t come to an agreement on how to fix some items discovered in the inspection. The main problem was that the home had an underground duct system—it was a 1950s California ranch and, because these homes have exposed ceilings and no space between the ceiling and the flat roof, builders often dug ductwork beneath the foundation. We now know that this is a bad idea; underground ductwork starts to crumble beneath the home and serves as a fantastic breeding grounds for mold. I got some great advice from our fabulous contributor and green-building pioneer David Johnston, but the fixes were outside our price range the homeowner wouldn’t pay to complete them. Ah, well, que sera sera.
Since, we have moved into a townhouse we’re renting to take a break from the house search. The place is great and offers a lot more space than we had before (we were living in a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment and now have two of each, though it's still not overly huge), plus it is on the second floor with ample windows for natural light, unlike our former first-floor apartment that became cavelike because of lack of sun. This alone will help reduce our energy bills and make me a lot happier. The new place also includes newer, energy-efficient appliances, so that’s a big plus. But the extra space meant our paltry amount of furniture wasn’t enough to fill the space and we didn’t have much to decorate with. So, here’s where the fun part comes in. We have been shopping around for stuff to fill our new home, and I’ve already found some great eco-friendly items that were inexpensive and beautiful. So, as so many readers have requested we include more suggestions for how to green a home you don’t own, my new blog focus will be ways to green my new apartment.
The first thing I found that I was thrilled about was a super cute welcome mat made from 100 percent recycled rubber—at Target, no less, and for only $12 (mine is a different design, but must be the same line as these). Then I visited an awesome store in downtown Lawrence, Kansas, (where I live) called Intrigue. The store features all-natural and eco-friendly products that are very reasonably priced. I got a beautiful, large vase made from recycled newsprint that was broken down, mixed with water and terra cotta to form a slurry, and molded. The vase is probably about 3 feet tall and only cost about $30—the same price I would expect to pay for something made in China and purchased from a big box store. To fill the vase, the store had some beautiful flower blossoms molded from untreated coconut leaves. You can actually soak the leaves in water until they soften up and mold the blossoms to any shape. Amazing! We also picked up a very inexpensive rug for our balcony made from untreated abaca plant fibers. The store also features custom-made bamboo furniture and some beautiful light fixtures. I’m still thinking about a hanging light fixture made from a used, old-fashioned bird cage with a CFL light socket inside.
I am employing some other easy tips to keep my apartment more eco-friendly: always shutting off all the lights not in use; not wearing shoes inside, thus reducing pollutants that are tracked in and, yay, my time spent cleaning; and replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs (find more inexpensive tips). Lucky for me, I have a bunch of eco-friendly cleaners that we’ve received in the office recently. I’ve tested them out and they work great and leave the house smelling fresh—not chemical-y (see some of them here).
My next goal is to find some great, earth-friendly throw pillows (we got a new couch and the pillows that came with it are not bright enough for the living room, though we are using them in the bedroom). We spent the weekend hunting high and low but came up empty-handed. I’m thinking of getting some from one of the amazing organic textile companies featured in an upcoming article I wrote for our July/August issue. Looolo Textiles has some gorgeous cushions and so does Viva Terra—but I might have to save up. I will keep an eye out for some pretty, bright and priced-right accents and decorations and let you know what I come up with. I am also planning to find some organic cotton or other natural material and having a friend make curtains out of it. And I need some furniture for the balcony—I am hoping to find something secondhand at our downtown antique mall or a garage sale.
I would love to hear suggestions from those of you out there who are doing all you can to make whatever space you have green. Please e-mail me or comment and give me your suggestions and I’ll let you know what I come up with in my search.