Green By Design Podcast Episode 002 - How to Design a Green Home with Jennifer Beckely




Transcription:

"Erica: You have just turned into the green by design podcast, which must mean you're an interior designer, decorator home stager furnishings maker, or maybe just a fan of going green inside. So thank you for tuning in today. The goal of this podcast is to help the interior design professionals and the industry as a whole go green through education, discussion and convection. I'm your host, Erica Reiner from eco method interiors and today's guest is Jennifer Beckley sides. Did I pronounce that right, Jennifer? Absolutely. And should we just go ahead and call you Jen?

Jen: You can call me Jen.

Erica: Okay. So I'm going to introduce you guys to Jen with her bio. And so Jen is a Southern California based interior designer who not only focuses on creating timeless interiors with a modern vibrancy, but with the mental and physical wellbeing of the occupants at the forefront of every design detail by inherently choosing to work with nontoxic and sustainable materials, Jennifer creates clean spaces, empower her clients to live healthy lifestyles, which is all to say exactly why she was one of the first people I asked to have on this brand spanking new podcast, which is very niche for us in the industry who are trying to go green and start the discussion and move the industry into a little bit of a healthier place.

Erica:

So thank you so much for being on and agreeing to do this crazy thing with me. I appreciate it so much. Thank you.

Jen:

I'm happy to be here. Good. Great.

Erica:

Okay, well, we're going to go ahead and dig into the first questions, right? So first a little bit of background. Go ahead and tell us how you got started doing what you're doing and the evolution into the green piece of your design work.

Jen:

Sure. So I actually was a teacher. I like to say in my past life. So I was educating, you know, our youth and our future and doing really meaningful work. And I always, always, always had a passion for interior design, not to sound cliche, but I had taken classes in high school and in college. And it was something that I wasn't confident enough to pursue. So, you know, midway into my life, I decided to make a career change and go back to school to get an interior design degree and very, very quickly as I was just sitting there hours upon hours, clicking through website after website, trying to find the perfect sofa in a space, I realized how kind of frivolous the industry was.

Jen:

And just there seemed to be a lack of meaning for me. And it wasn't really sitting right. And, you know, yes, we create beautiful spaces for our clients and we make them feel good in them, but there was still something about it as I was on a holistic journey myself with my beauty products and with my health and fitness and interior design was just kind of counterintuitive to what I was doing. So that's why I decided to go down a different path with interior design and start to niche myself in a more holistic interior design way.

Erica:

So glad you just said the word holistic, I'm playing around with the word holistic in my branding because

Erica:

I'm officially legally rebranding and also trying to make sure that my messaging is on point. And so I'm so glad you said that word because I think it really encapsulates the traditional side of interior design, which is a lot of the design psychology and the mental piece and the stress reduction and the productivity gains and the happiness and joy and expression and all that kind of stuff that comes with all interior design work and then also the physical as well. So we're getting a bit more well rounded here. Well, actually I'm quite curious, just for my own sake to learn how you went into what from teaching into interior design backing up a little bit. Cause I actually have a very similar background, which listeners will hear in my own intro episode. So that is something we have in common as well. And I'd love to hear your transition from teaching to interior design a little bit.

Jen:

Well, you know, there's a creativity to teaching as well. And I really loved creating curriculum and creating a space. I mean, as an elementary middle school teacher, one of the most important things in a classroom is to have a space that children feel safe and that they can feel creative and that they can work effectively. And it's so funny now that I'm an interior designer and I look back on some of the classrooms and I wish I could get my hands in. Maybe that's something I need to do, but our classrooms are so overstimulating for a lot of students. And I mean, that's coming to me right now as we speak, I'm thinking, Oh my gosh, no wonder kid stamped paid attention, but no, really why I switched careers was I got into teaching at a really horrible time when they were laying off a lot of teachers and I got laid off and I just had to say, okay, I'm going to fight an uphill battle and not know if I have a job at the end of every school year, or am I going to, like I said, pursue this, you know, the fulfill almost fulfill this passion.

Jen:

Like I said, I was on this holistic journey and I really to fulfill something inside of me that wasn't fulfilled. And that's why I actually applied for a scholarship for an interior design scholarship at Fidel FIDM. And I was like, this is going to be it. This is going to tell me whether I'm going to go forward or not. And I got a partial scholarship. I won second place. Like that's not the sign I was looking for, but it was enough of a sign. And with the support of my family, I went to it and I did it. That's a great story. Thank you for sharing that. Okay. So we already talked a little bit about why green interior design is important to you, but as the years have gone by and with the experience you've gained and niching into the green design field, talk a little bit about what exactly the important pieces are for you.

Erica:

And when we talk about anything green or environmental, that can be so broad. So it's like, we all want to save the earth. So like, if there's anything in particular you're really passionate about, or just a little bit more about like what it all looks like for you and why that's important. Sure. And you know, it's, we talk about green, we talk about wellness, we talk about holistic and you know, these words have almost become synonymous and they're all encompassing because somebody who is green most likely is going to be holistic and they have their wellness in mind. And when I talk about wellness, I think there's the wellness of our environment. There's the wellness of the human beings. There's wellness of animals, every creature on the planet, including the planet, you know, needs, you know, wellness. So what is kind of become near and dear?

Jen:

Well, let me back backtrack. I grew up in what I call a recycling culture when I was in elementary school is kind of the forefront of green and ecofriendly and that's when yeah. Are you from California? Of course.

Erica:

Yes. I know what you're talking about. Please continue.

Jen:

Yeah. I mean, that is when like recycling trash cans did not exist curbside when I was growing up, but you know, we started recycle bins in the classrooms and we recycled for money and it was something that you did in your house and you learned about at school and you learned about it, the rain forest, you planted a tree on earth day. And so all of that really became second nature for me. I mean, I am like a recycling crazy. I will collect bottles like from my car or if I see one in the trash can because we're not all perfect.

Jen:

So yes, there's plastic in my house and you know, but I still big go in the recycle bin and you know, when I have a party, here's the recycling bin. And so it's second nature for me to have that mindset. So then when, you know, I started exploring more and more into the interior design field and we see how much waste there is. And there's, you know, I also love vintage. I'm kind of all over the place right now, but you know, vintage is another thing. And so when you really delve in and you see that there's a lot of waste in products, and then you also see that there's a lot of really great resources out there. If you're into flea markets, you really just kind of learn how to meld both of those things together when it comes to eco-friendly and sustainability. My other passion is mental health and, you know, not to go down an entirely different track here, but I raised two special needs kids.

Jen:

And so we've had a lot of challenges in our house. So again, my teaching background, my mothering background, you know, creating environments that are healthy, not only from toxins or free from toxins, but also address the mental needs of our society. And the occupants is really, really important to me love that.

Erica:

That was all so well said. Yes, absolutely. When you ever use zoom out, which I do a lot, I'm a big picture kind of person. They're all inextricably linked. And so we could go on and on about that for hours, but I love that you brought that into the conversation because it's definitely something we could all stand to learn again, in your story about the recycling kind of being the impetus for your awakening into environmental problems is a theme I've seen over and over again, especially for Californians, because there was a big push in California, like when we were all being taught as citizens on behalf of this state about the new program and what it all meant.

Erica:

And so Californians especially are kind of like, I mean, people are much more aware about other environmental problems now and climate change and this, that, and the other. But back when I first started studying environmental science in 2004, five ish, people were like, Oh, environmental studies like recycling. And I was like, yeah, that's part of it. But yeah, so it's very ingrained into us Californians to recycle.

Jen:

And we're a bit horrified whenever we go somewhere where there's not, what do we do? There's no recycling bin. What do we do? I mean, honestly it goes in my purse. It literally goes in my purse and it goes home with me. I literally just today like dumb stuff out of the trashcan that shouldn't have been in there and like put it back because totally guilty totally. That happens in this house too. Sometimes I'll stand there with my husband and be like, look, this doesn't go in there. Like I've got to do.

Erica:

Okay. So my next question for you is you touched on this a little bit. So my question was going to be, what does eco-friendly interior design look like in your world or, or for your clients and your top three ways to go green working on a space in a project. So I think you mentioned a little bit about vintage, which is something that has lived for a long time, not gotten into the waste stream. And also you don't have to create demand for any new resources. So I'm guessing that's going to be one of them.

Jen:

So we'll, I'll touch on vintage first. So sourcing items, it's difficult, it's difficult to find sustainable eco-friendly nontoxic items that are readily available, that you don't have to do custom that are at the right price point. So when I source items, first and foremost, I try to source from the U S or at least North America, because it isn't always feasible to source from the U S and there's some great sources in Canada as well, and even in Mexico. So, you know, not everything has to be bamboo and, you know, that's kind of a myth. It's not a myth. I mean, bamboo is sustainable, but you know, you think the first thing I think of when you think sustainable furniture is, Oh, it's made out of bamboo, but you can also source beyond boo I'm from California and within the U S so trying to eliminate anything that's coming from overseas, primarily China is first and foremost.

Jen:

So if you can't find something that is made out of an FSC wood or it's bamboo, or it's sustainable, then you do the best that you can. And I think that's the important thing to remember when we are trying to shift gears into green and nontoxic is you just do the best that you can. So if you can't find that perfect piece that is absolutely sustainable, then source as locally as possible. And it doesn't mean the shop down the street per se. It just means, you know, within the U S within the continent, reducing carbon footprint as much as possible. And that also means vintage. And I mean, I love a good early morning flea market finding these, you know, little treasures. And I didn't mention that I was actually a history major as well. So vintage is, you know, gets me all giddy and weird inside.

Jen:

So finding something and putting on a beautiful textile and I'm reusing it and repurposing it is, you know, it's something really special and it's unique, which that's, what we aim to do is add something unique to our client's homes. So there's one.

New Speaker:

Absolutely. That's great. That's perfect.

Jen:

Then another way I mentioned textiles, and another thing is that textiles, you know, have some of the worst chemicals that pollute our planet and pollute our air and pollute this space that we live in. So we think it's really, really important to source certified textiles. And there's all kinds of different certifications, but focusing on certified textiles, not only means that you are putting a nontoxic or as nontoxic material as possible into your client's space and protecting them from the offgassing, but those certifications also cover the factories. And so there's reducing the chemical waste in the factory.

Jen:

It's not going into the water supply, it's protecting the fauna and the flora, and it's protecting the drinking water of the occupants that live around there. So textiles is another biggie for me. So sourcing locally, sourcing vintage, and then using organic and untreated fabrics, there's also, you know, performance fabrics is a big thing. There are performance fabrics on the market that are better options. Then the third one is greenery. And here we kind of go back to planting the tree roots, and I will fully admit, I have absolutely no green thumb. My son on the other hand wishes, he could live in a jungle and he has plants all over his room, but incorporating plants into your face, not only eliminates that eliminates toxins in the air and naturally purifies it. So if you do have items in your home that are offgassing carpets, mattresses, et cetera, it helps with the offgassing, but nature is also an inherent mood enhancer.

Jen

So living around nature. So you have some plants in the background there. So I love it. I've got my trees, even just putting pictures up on your wall, or, you know, wallpaper with nature is proven to improve mood. And so, again, we're not only doing something good for the planet, but we're doing something good for ourselves and improving the quality of life, kind of for everybody.

Erica:

Yeah. Amen. To all that. I can also not keep anything alive except for English, Ivy, which are in vintage decanters that I am raising from my wedding centerpieces. So I have Ivy in those and that's it because nothing else I can live, even though I am so deep in this world, but we just do the best we can. Exactly. Yes. So those are such great top three ways to go green when you're working on a client project and usually they can get, or in your own home.

Erica:

And usually clients can get on board with those three things, especially with like the revival of mid century modern and how interested people are in those pieces and original vintage pieces. And even if you're not into vintage parlaying, not into preload, I like to call it use basically accomplishes all the same things. So even if you want ultra modern contemporary trendy on point, right now, you can still find things that were maybe bought last year, last season, that for whatever reason are back on the second hand market. So there are so many options today. There's apps like, let, I think it's called let go. There's Facebook marketplace. There's Facebook groups like buy, sell trade groups in your local area. So like here in LA there's different neighborhoods buying and selling and trading. And there's other apps like offer, offer up. Yeah, yeah. And quite a few more.

Erica:

So it's so easy. It's easier than ever to buy pre- loved. Even if vintage is not something that's going to work in your current clients project. And the plant thing, 100%, it's improving air quality it a little bit. It's not like, you know, like a modern air purifier, but it does help a little bit. And it makes you happy plants are life. So put a plant in your house and those are all great things. And then reducing your carpet from going local. Why? Because the things that are coming from overseas is hugely carbon intensive to ship over here. So whether that's on like a straight up ship with like, I don't even know if they use coal anymore. Do you know? I don't know about shipping. I think they, I don't think so. That would be pretty crazy.

Jen:

And like, Just imagining like Titanic and like movies,

Erica:

Or like the ships have coal. I don't think they do because we've had all those oil spills. Yes, yes. Oil tankers, but they definitely run on fossil fuels. Tell you that. I can say I'm not sure which one probably just good old fashioned petroleum in some sort of fashion. So that is hugely intensive. And then the trucking as well, some places have slightly greener trucking, but it is an infancy. So basically all the miles it takes for something to get to you. And then the second piece is when something is made overseas, the people who are making it are there labor laws and exposure to things and conditions are going to be different depending on whatever country it's sourced from. So whenever something made in the U S you get a double bang for your buck in terms of quality, environmentally, carbon footprint, and also the production itself. So not only that, but when you are buying pre loved, you are not creating demand for any new resources. So the new, the wood, the steel, the whatever is in the piece that you're talking about, that is not Virgin resources that is being cut down. So all really amazing points. And let's see what else we have on here for you to pick your brain and share your wisdom. That's such a weird expression. Pick your brain. I don't think it came from somewhere.

Erica:

Okay. So, Oh, here's a good one. What would you like to see more of happen in terms of where our industry is going? So how would you like to see industry go green? And what would that look like?

Jen: There's so many ways. I mean, there's so many ways and, you know, it's twofold, so we need to make demands out of the manufacturers. And I think that accessibility is really kind of the issue it's price point and accessibility. And I think that we're on the forefront of it, but I would like to see more and more manufacturers not just comply with, you know, California's propositions. That's kind of like the number one is, Oh, California, you know, has a new proposition for California complaint. Well, no, let's do this because it's the right thing to do because, you know, you're, you're making things for the home.

You have workers that are, you know, putting these things together, that their health is just as important as the homes that your items are going into. And then we have the environmental factor. So, you know, it's a lot of these, like California laws were actually born from the health issues that firefighters were having. And then I'm like, well, wait a minute. We're interior designers. We're in these spaces, you know, all that. Sure. Things aren't burning, but we're in these off testing spaces for hours upon hours. Our health is just as important. We're not insulated from that. So the industry as a whole, I would love to see, take more responsibility and make things more accessible. And by making things more accessible, then, you know, the demand goes up and the price goes down. And so it becomes the norm, you know, green and wellness needs to be the norm, not the niche.

Erica:

It needs to be something that we all have access to. That's so quotable. Thank you. I'll have to put that somewhere. Again, so much Yes To all of that. If anyone listening is not familiar with Arlene Blum, she is amazing. And I'm going to try and reach out. Maybe she'll talk to me one day, but she does a lot of work with flame retardants and did a lot of really important work, getting them out of our homes. And so she first realized all these kiddos back in the day, or being inundated with fire retardants on their pajamas. And she has worked over the years to get them out of certain areas of our home. And California had a stipulation for a long time that all furniture and flammable things had to be sprayed with fire retardant. And she told us that studies showed it actually only gave you five more seconds of suppressing a fire or not bursting into flames, which is not very much time.

And it was destroying firefighters health, let alone our health as we're exposed to fire retardants in the home. And so she basically helped change California law where things no longer have to be sprayed. Things can be made fire resistant or meet flammability standards in different ways, besides just spraying them with horrible chemicals, which by the way, is a bio accumulation and magnification through the food chain, because it's stored in your fat cells and your lipids, and it's not processed out through your body. So you, as you're exposed, you just build and build and build the quantities and then pass them onto your kids and so on. So she did amazing work on that front. And you're so right about, about all of that. So I think that the way like LEED started off to be the standard, the creation of late and the creator of some of those systems really just wanted it to be the norm.

Speaker 1:

Like not the, 'Oh, you get a gold star for doing this'. It was really like meant (and LEED is leadership in energy and environmental design.) I got that. Right. I know that itsounds right. Correct me if that's not if I got it switched, but basically the building envelope in the construction that certain features that the building has to be more sustainable. So we saw a little bit of that with that. And now that kind of like has gone a little bit out of style and it's pretty expensive, but we just want to see those standards be ubiquitous across all construction. And then when it comes to our job on the interiors, we want to see those standards across everything that's on the market. And so you brought up a really good point about supply and demand and the market reacting to our demands.

Erica:

So the more that we can vote with our money, which is like one of my favorite sayings and ways to encourage people to go green, the cost of things that are currently a little bit more expensive than the green world will come down and be comparable. And then there's no competition because if you have something that's green and something that's not green and then cost the same price, of course, that's an easy decision. So just like with technology and access to smartphones and access to three D printers and all that kind of stuff, the cost starts off high, but as it themes, popularity awareness, and then the early adopters take it on the prices can really come down and make it accessible to us all. So that's so important vote with your money wherever you can, in whatever phase of the project you're in. And even if that small, just doing the best you can on every, every project you've got good stuff.

Erica:

But what positive changes have you seen since you have started incorporating green practices into your design work?

Jen:

We'll actually have the same answer, accessibility. I mean, it's, as we need it, we need so much more of it, but I've been so impressed with how quickly that we are making gains. And two of the mass marketers that are adopting these that I am super impressed with are big box retailers like Ikea and like target. And, you know, there's mixed feelings on Ikea being fast furniture. It's not going to, you know, stand up to the test of time. Yes, but 10 a college student who needs inexpensive furniture, furnish their apartment with fairly nontoxic choices with sustainable, you know, woods. There was an article recently that they were coming out with some curtain panels that might help with some air filtration. So again, while this isn't going to fix the problem, it's all these little tiny steps and you're doing the best you can.

Jen:

So again, yes, it's, you know, Ikea furniture, but it hits a price point that makes people feel good, that they're taking steps in the right direction, that they have affordable choices. And that person is then going to go on to make those same choices with higher end items as they're, you know, living their life and buying their first homes. And it's now being ingrained into them just the same as recycling was ingrained into us. So having those accessible is really important. And then target, if you don't mind me backtracking for a moment, a little quick antidote, my brother, when he was little, my mom came home from a long day and found my brother had pajamas sitting over on lamp in his room and the pajamas she freaked out because, Oh my gosh, our house could have burned down, but lamp was still on. And you know, all it happened was it melted a hole in the pajamas and he was warming them up. So he wanted a warm up his pajamas. But I think back now, and I think, Oh my gosh, they were so riddled with, with fire retardants and chemicals and our largest Oregon's slept all night in those pajamas are largest organ. And so again, the fact that you can get certified sheets and organic Ecotech certified sheets from target is huge. It is this little baby step. That again is making it so accessible for anybody. Just the same way you're picking up that, you know, nontoxic cleaner off of the shelf. You can now make a great choice and putting certified, you know, sheets on your child's bed and on your own bed that isn't, you know, putting more toxins and what they're already getting into their body. So I think that it's huge that we see these big box retailers making these affordable options available to us.

Erica:

Oh yeah. 100% again, totally right on point there. So I have been to target, I think I was looking for a set of quick like guest sheets or something for an Airbnb or something like that. And I flipped it over and it said OEKO - TEX 100 after it, which is like a certification classification. I was so impressed. I like how the Instagram from the store, because it is a little bit more money on their end to make sure that for a product that has been sent through a third party to ensure that there is nothing basically harmful to humans in the end product. And so to see huge big box stores take steps that is not just the bottom line and really more towards the triple bottom line, which is people profit planet. So that is so important. The sheets were still very okay fordable it was still target prices, right? So it was like a matter of cents difference. I was so impressed. Loved it. And yeah, same, same for Ikea. They were one of the first to phase out flame retardants from some of their furniture, hopefully all of their furniture at this point. So they get a big gold star for that too. So you are absolutely right. I would say in the past five years, I have seen so many more smaller makers come onto the market with their own eCommerce store for healthier greener things that we have access to everything from like tiles. I think I've already mentioned this so sorry to anyone who's already heard this - But tiles made out of old skateboard decks, which was this fabulous, vibrant design. So everything like that from countertops made out of recycled material to fabrics that are in textiles that are now certified.

Erica:

So there's so many different little things, different kinds of makers are able to compete and they're able to be seen with online platforms, commerce source, which is so great. Oh, for those of you that can hear it. That's my dog snoring in the background. It's very adorable. I asure you. But yeah. So, and then everything from that, and the good thing about living in a capitalist society is that the market responds to the consumer desires. So the more word we can spread, the more we can share about this and the more perceived barriers to entry that we can smush down, the better it's going to be for everybody. So, yeah, absolutely. I would totally agree with you now last but not least. Is there anything you want us to know that we haven't covered? We've covered quite a bit and we could probably talk for hours, you know, just speaking to the interior design industry as a whole, you know, interior designers really need to do their due diligence and creating their spaces.

Jen:

And I just think it's so important because I think sometimes we get away from why we're designing a space and we just want to make things pretty, you know, we want to make them Instagram-able, we want to be published. And I think that he being, you know, the wellness and the wellbeing of everybody from our planets to the occupants in mind is really important. And even if your client isn't interested in that aspect of things, cause we're going to run into that. It's making sure that you are still sourcing responsibly as much as possible. We're never going to be perfect. We're never going to do it all the way, but it's always just doing the best you can and having some sort of standards for yourself, some ethical standards and sticking to them. And again, you're not going to be perfect. You know, we, I, say this all the time because we just need to do the best that we can, but in your interior design practice, making sure you do the best you can talking to your manufacturers, your vendors, and just being educated, just educate yourself as much as possible so that you can educate your clients or you can make the best choices.

Erica:

Tell us one place where people can find you.

Jen:

Well, you can find me across all social media at JB side's design. And if you don't mind me giving one more place you can find me is that I'm co founder of a Facebook group called wellness designed for designers, where we talk all things, green and wellness. And we are trying to find all of those vendors and, you know, be able to share and create that demand in the industry for it to improve. Yeah.

Erica:

And help each other out, which is what the group does because I'm in it. So I can definitely vouch for it. Well, thank you so much for showing up and sharing all of your really valuable insights and for sharing with us all today. So thank you so much.

New Speaker:

Thank you, Erica. I love what you're doing and can't wait. Okay. Well, we will talk to you soon and have a beautiful rest of your day."


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