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Green By Design Episode 301: Eco Method Interior's Approach to Sustainable Interior Design


Hi, it's Jessie from Eco Method Interiors. Welcome to season three of Green by Design. In this episode, Erica's going to tell us about the elements and categories of sustainability and eco friendliness that we consider in relationship to any given design project. She will also be giving you a sneak peek into what we will be talking about in this coming season.


Welcome everyone to season three of Green by Design. I'm your host Erica Reiner from Eco Method Interiors. And we are back for this year's season.Over the past two seasons before this, you have heard from fellow green, interior designers, architects, consultants, manufacturers, makers, and many more. We've discussed everything from different approaches to eco-friendly interior design, human health, planetary health, and social issues that all connect and integrate within this topic.


What are our listeners going to learn this season?


This season we're gonna do things ever so slightly differently. We're gonna start this episode with an overview of the main elements or categories of sustainability and how that applies to interior design, at least through my lens. And then the following episodes, probably nine of them, will cover specific certifications that I look for to help me source cleaner greener products and materials and go over the specific positive impacts that these have in a greater context. Will also try to shout out a company, a vendor, who supplies products with these particular certifications or attributes to give you some real world context and my goal with this season is that it'll be a little bit less abstract and theoretical in talking about problems, issues, et cetera, and drilling down on some of the very tangible solutions and my personal approach to what makes it the easiest for me.

We in the past have gone over two certifications so far: the Global Organic Textile Standard and the OEKO-TEX 100 certification, which are both applicable to textiles. We're gonna go well beyond that into different kinds of materials and products and try and just help folks be able to find things so they can create that demand for better products. So here we go, let's kick into categories or elements of sustainability. These are the things, the elements that I'm thinking about when a project is coming together. So you could certainly argue there are more out there or that these could be broken down into a more specific subcategory. This is how I'm organizing it and communicating it to you all and I will note that these are also super interconnected. They bleed into one another. It's really hard to separate some of them out from each other because <laugh>, I'm talking about natural systems and a bit of science here in some regards and that's just how the world works.


Describe the different categories of green design you focus on for Eco Method Interiors' projects.


So this includes issues like waste reduction, raw materials, consumption reduction, and indirectly includes habitat preservation as well as CO2 reduction and secondary market economies in the building thereof. So circularity that is in reference to a life cycle or the circular cycle of any given product. So how is it made what's it's transportation like what's it's life like, and then what happens to at the end of it's life cycle. So being able to keep using things and keeping them in use, out of landfills, out of habitats, all that kind of stuff, and being able to upcycle, recycle, all of those cycles, is going to be lumped into the word circularity. And for an example, recycled PET plastic water bottles, getting the fiber reused and woven into something like an outdoor rug. So it continues it's life into a totally different object that then I will source.

The next category is resource conservation. This is something I think about that includes issues like energy savings, water savings, raw materials reduction. So anything like petroleum, wood, agriculture, fiber, whatever raw material we're talking about, and indirectly includes habitat preservation. So for an example let's take something like salvaged wood shelves from a tree that already had to be cut down instead of getting chipped and sent to the landfill. We're creating something of that wood and so we are preserving the habitat. We're not buying new woods, so we're not dropping down new trees, the whole domino effect in relation to whatever resource that goes into creating a product and the product itself.

The next big category is carbon dioxide equivalency emissions. The equivalency just means like different processes and different activities release different kinds of greenhouse gas emissions. So for instance, when you have a landfill and there's a bunch of stuff in it, it releases methane, not carbon dioxide necessarily. And those all have different atmospheric polluting powers. So to make it all one unit and easier, we just call it CO2 E equivalency, it converts it, all the CO... What it would be like, if it was CO2. So this is including things like product and material production. So the actual manufacturing and things like transportation of the good and end of life decomposition and incineration. So that would be the greenhouse gas production of a landfill that I just mentioned. And then incineration is obviously when you're burning something up and directly putting particulates into the air or decomposition, hopefully not into a natural habitat, like the ocean or something like that, which we don't want to do. Also for CO2 emissions, I am thinking about things like habitat destruction indirectly. So for example when we use new trees, new wood, that could be destroying a habitat, a forest, or anytime you cut down a tree, that tree no longer can absorb CO2. So that's an integrated connection there.

Take an example, let's go American made chair. So for CO2, what are we looking at here? We're looking at the transportation of that chair to you, and, when it was made, what electricity or power was that factory using? Like what grid is it using when they were in there making things and have the lights on and have the workers in there? So for instance, grids all over the world have different percentages of renewable energy, supplying the supply to the grid we're all using. Most of it is non-renewable and those percentages are different everywhere. So approximately in the United States, and this is very different state to state, the USA has 20% of the power going to the electrical grid and being distributed everywhere else to the factories and where things are made at about 20%. For reference, let's use Thailand: They are at 15%. In Canada, they are at 67% - go Canada! Caveats: things like, again in the United States, something made in California is gonna have a different percentage of renewables than the oil belt states. And then we're also looking at percentages between all the places, for example, the percent of production versus the total gigawatt output. So just a couple caveats if anyone is interested. All right.

So the next category, a very large category, something we talk all about, something that is very up topic in this industry is health and toxicity. So this is representative of issues like exposure to chemicals of concern. And beyond that, those are just the ones that we know about that we are pretty sure are associated to some gnarly diseases. There's also untested chemicals and both of these, you know, lists can impact the end users. So our clients or homes, but also the factory workers, the installers that are working on behalf of the end users and homes and offices and indirectly people and communities where the production is taking place and their community and habitat pollution; because let's take like, fabric dying, that has to happen somewhere and if there's not proper systems and places, all of the dye-stuffs and chemicals that are introduced to fabrics, if it is not treated correctly, and there's not wastewater treatment facilities, it just goes into the groundwater, surface rivers, all that kind of stuff. So it's not just, you know, what ends up being on your rug in your home. It's like what is happening in the places that these are created? An example for health toxicity, let's use Global Organic Latex Standard certification. So for organic latex, for a mattress or for your sofa film, that would be an example there of something that is going to have less chemicals for the end user, for the maker and for the air quality of wherever this mattress is being made, whatever community that it's in, here or abroad.

All right, last but not least, we have social ethics. This includes issues like fair trade and fair compensation. Things like appropriate working conditions, things like the absence of child labor and I'm including humane animal treatment in this category and indirectly habitat preservation. This is a fairly convoluted, indirect consequence. But what I can tell you for sure is that people who have fair working conditions and fair wages take up less habitat resources and contribute less pollution to them, meaning they don't have to illegally harvest endangered trees and sell them on some, like, shady aftermarket. If they have fair labor conditions or they don't have to go into a natural forest and shoot down some endangered animal species to cook up that night, if they've got money to buy something from the market, the above ground market. So human and social issues like economics and social wellbeing are very much connected to environmental wellbeing. So that is the long bow there. So social ethics, this would be something like for child labor, Good Weave Certified for rugs ensures that the rug was not made from a factory that employs or uses children in any way. Okay. So the little percentages of energy comparisons, et cetera, that'll be in the show notes. Again, the categories are circularity resource conservation, CO2 emissions, health, and toxicity, and social ethics.

And so those are the categories that I'm thinking of when I am sourcing, when I am looking to get something for a project, when I am wanting a client to think about considering something that was made alternatively with these things, or one of these things, or a combination of these things in mind, that's kind of also the piece that they're paying for. I recently broke this down for a client and I thought this would be a good way to kick off what I wanted to share with you guys. And there we have it. So many more examples, many more certifications, many more pieces of this puzzle that I'm gonna be breaking down into tangible ways that we can incorporate this into our sourcing and buying and styling and business practices. As I think that that will be really helpful for all of us folks trying to do better in this industry. So hope to see you in the rest of the season.


Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) -

OEKO-TEX Standard 100 -

Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) -…-standard

Fair Trade Certified -

Good Weave Certified -

International Renewable Energy Agency -

Enerdata -

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