Americans are increasingly interested in creating less waste and being kinder to the planet. If we’ve learned anything from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s that our own homes need to be healthier.

Houston interior designer Yésely Love of Canaima Design spoke at a recent Access Design event — co-hosted by the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Design District — about creating healthier homes and workplaces and more durable.

Using an air purifier is a great start to clearing the air around you right away, but Love urges homeowners to look for furniture and materials made from recycled products, with fewer chemicals and more of natural materials. Here are some things to think about:

1. Plants

Trees and plants – living things – are nature’s air purifiers. They also do the same job inside. Love encourages all of its customers to incorporate living plants into their decor.

Spectacular installations can involve living walls using lichen or moss, plants that are easy to install and thrive in our humid climate. Our homes can be air-conditioned to dehumidify our living spaces, but many offices have these living walls, and they like the warmer air when the air conditioning is changed on weekends when many offices are not in use.

2. Carpeting and flooring

Rugs made from natural fibers, such as sisal or jute, are one way forward, but Love noted that great strides have been made in creating durable and attractive floor coverings that are environmentally friendly.

Marmoleum – a vinyl tile brand marketed as CO2 neutral and phthalate free – is made with a lower carbon footprint using renewable natural materials and some recycled materials. Although Love has used this product in commercial design projects, she said it can also work in homes.

Eco-friendly rugs and even cork flooring — recyclable and organic — are also good options, she said.

3. Paint

Most understand that paints give off fumes, although even after that initial smell of new paint has dissipated, they may continue to give off fumes for six months to two years. Low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) or no-VOC paints are the best options for healthier indoor air.

However, VOC-free paints tend to cost more. Sherwin-Williams SuperPaint with Air Purifying Technology is listed online for $71.99 per gallon, while its SuperPaint with Sanitizing Technology is $73.99 per gallon. Benjamin Moore’s ben water-based interior paint costs $48.99 per gallon.

4. Wallpaper

The return of wallpaper is still going strong. Look for options with certification such as Greenguard Gold. Specifically, wallpapers printed with water-based ink or low to zero VOCs. Many are made with metals such as arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium or tin, so make sure they are free of these.

The famous British brand Farrow & Ball uses its own low and zero VOC paints. Graham & Brown, York Wallcoverings and Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines are other popular brands touted as low in VOCs and healthier for the home.

Cork can also be used as wall covering due to its acoustic qualities, helping to reduce noise in a room or shield it from outside noise.

5. Certificates

Several organizations rate household products for air quality, energy efficiency and durability. Certifications to look out for include LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), Green Building Initiative (GBI), Energy Star, BIFMA (for commercial furniture), FloorScore, Green Seal, ISO 14000 and Greenguard.

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