The living room is the second most used room in the house after the kitchen. I don’t mean a formal living room, like I grew up with. I mean the room you and your family actually ‘live’ in! Some people might call it a family room or the t.v room. It’s where the family gathers in the evening and where you entertain your friends. With all that use, it should be a healthy and energy efficient space.
Natural light, windows and coverings, and air movement
Windows for natural light will keep electric use down during the day. They can be opened in warm weather to create a breeze. As with a ceiling fan, moving air is cool air, and a breeze can cool you off. Heavy drapes or quilted window curtains are good for cold weather to keep cold air from infiltrating and hot air from moving outside.
Paint that’s friendly to your living room environment
Paints and finishes should be low- or no-VOC. These are water-based instead of oil-based, so they are healthier and clean up is easy. If you need turpentine to clean your brush, it contains toxic ingredients that will off-gas for years. I have written about paints in the past, so I won’t reinvent the wheel here.
Choosing earth-friendly fabrics and surface materials
Textiles are a big part of your living room. Rugs, upholstered furniture, carpeting and drapes can have a huge carbon footprint and an adverse effect on your air quality. The textile industry is a huge polluter. Cotton is a water intensive crop. When a mill bleaches cotton, the wastewater goes into nearby waterways. This water makes it into your house for you to drink. Cotton farmers also use copious amounts of pesticides. Even though cotton is a natural material, the way it’s grown and processed is not very earth friendly.
The plastics in carpeting are made from oil. A green remodel should be using fewer fossil fuels, so carpeting is not a good choice environmentally. It is also an allergen magnet. If you have allergies, skip the carpeting and install hardwood floors. Throw rugs can be washed easily.
The backing on carpeting often has formaldehyde in it, and the padding of recycled foam pieces is toxic. When I had two rooms of really old carpet removed, the contractor wore a respirator. Not a mask. A respirator!
It wasn’t long ago you couldn’t find interior decorating textiles that were healthy for you or the planet. Now most designers and manufacturers have a ‘green’ line of fabrics that are organic, recycled, recyclable, natural, biodegradable and/or renewable. Non-toxic dyes are more prevalent than before, too.
Even if you buy second hand furniture and want to reupholster it, you can find eco-friendly fabrics. Here is some great information about that.
Living room comfort, and your insulation
If you have the opportunity to add insulation to the walls, do. More important, though, is to insulate the ceiling. Heat rises, and if you are short on insulation above, it will rise right out and into the sky. It will melt the snow off your roof, too. That is a good indicator, by the way, of how much insulation you might already have or not have up there. I wrote about eco-friendly insulation here.
If you live in a hot climate, ceiling insulation will help keep your living areas cool, reducing cooling bills. In either scenario, a ceiling fan helps heat and cool. It can help distribute warm air, pushing it back to the floor. When it’s warm out, moving air is cool air, and a fan can drop the temperature five degrees or more. Ceiling fans are an inexpensive way to lower your energy bills.
Healthy living room, healthy environment
Paints, windows, earth friendly textiles that will improve your indoor air quality, and saving on your energy bill are all apart of an eco-friendly living room remodel. You and your family will be healthier, and you will have stretched the planet’s resources. That’s a green remodel.