Our experts help you create an environmentally friendly inner sanctum.
1. Make the bedroom cozy—not too big or too tall. If you need extra space for reading or exercise, add a bay, an alcove, or an adjacent area, rather than supersizing the room.
—David Arkin, AIA, Arkin Tilt Architects, Berkeley, California
2. Keep things off the floor as much as possible so you can clean the floor easily. In the closet, install shelves that are mounted off the wall, which keeps the shoes off the floor.
—Sandy Campbell, 1 Earth 1 Design, Seattle
3. Reduce electromagnetic fields and electropollution by unplugging anything that’s running next to, under, or behind the bed. For a healing environment, keep computers and the TV out of the bedroom—they’re not conducive to healthy sleep.
—Mary Cordaro, H3Environmental, Los Angeles
4. Think about sleeping outside when and where it’s appropriate. You could have a seasonal/migratory bedroom, maybe on the roof or in a screened-in porch. Pitch a tent in the backyard for those nights when you can’t get away but really want to get outside. Indoors, try for natural ventilation and natural temperature variation. Even in winter, you may be able to occasionally turn down the heat and open a window. A good blanket or comforter is a lot more energy efficient than even a good HVAC system.
—David Eisenberg, Development Center for Appropriate Technology, Tucson, Arizona
5. Orient the bed toward a view. When designing a new bedroom, set the windows low so you can see the view from bed height. A common problem is making the windows too high.
—Eric Corey Freed, organicArchitect, San Francisco
6. One of the biggest bedroom pollutants is formaldehyde. It’s a known human carcinogen and continues to be used in manufacturing all kinds of products, including mattresses, pillows, carpet, curtains, and paint. To create a formaldehyde-free sleeping environment, an organic mattress and bedding are obvious starting points, but look at the other components of your bedroom with an eye to minimizing your exposure.
—David Johnston, What’s Working, Boulder, Colorado
7. Low-VOC paint is good, but no VOC is better. Plus, VOCs aren’t the only problems in paint—there are other chemical constituents that are bad for your health and the environment. Ideally, get no-VOC paint with Green Seal certification. If you’re remodeling, look for nontoxic adhesives and sealants in addition to healthy paint. Put your contractor in touch with an environmental building supplies company that’s done the research on these materials.
—Scott Lewis, Brightworks Northwest, Portland, Oregon
8. Minimize bedroom clutter to create a sense of serenity and to keep “everyday life” from intruding. Bedroom colors should be subdued to enhance quiet and a sense of refuge. Natural finishes such as plaster and milk or limewash paints are a good choice for walls.
—Sandra Slater, Sandra Slater Environments, Palo Alto, California
9. Ialways feel that part of a ‘green’ home is surrounding yourself with things that have meaning for you. The bedroom is one of its most sacred spaces, where we go to sleep and dream every night; it has a spiritual importance for us. So it makes sense to surround ourselves with meaningful objects, not just meaningless stuff.
—Sarah Susanka, architect and author of The Not So Big House, Raleigh, North Carolina
10. Allergies to dust mites are common—more than a quarter of the U.S. population is estimated to be sensitive to them. The mites live in beds, carpet, and upholstery. To minimize dust mites, enclose your mattress and pillows with fully encasing, impermeable dust-mite covers; wash bedding weekly in hot water; and regularly dry-steam clean and vacuum carpets and upholstery.
—Darryl Zeldin, M.D., National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
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