Since J. and I rent our current house we don’t plan on doing a whole lot to it. If we did own it getting a solar water heater and some new pipes and wiring would be in order. We also have a great spot for solar panels but we are going to hold off on all that until we purchase a house. That said I think it’s a cop out to not make small green changes on any place we live or work. I know small changes by themselves won’t save the world but they do add up and encourage others to action. So when we couldn’t take the blood red walls in the dining room any longer we started looking for eco paints.
There is a Lowe’s and Home Depot within walking/biking distance from our house and it seemed to make the most sense to purchase from one of them although this severely limited our options. We found one line of no-VOC (volatile organic compound paints). We purchased Freshaire Choice from Home Depot since environmentally speaking it was the best choice. It ran about $30 a gallon and came in primer, flat, “eggshell” (satin), and semi-gloss. In addition to the price the color choices were limited as well. I know that you can find low VOC paints in just about any color but it depends on the brand. Since we found one brand we stuck with those choices. Freshaire offers 65 different colors in 4 collections (atmosphere, earth, waterscape and botanical). The choices they do have are beautiful and obviously stick to more natural hues.
Now you may be wondering why the added cost and limited choices is worth it. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the air inside a home is, on average, two to five times more polluted than the air outside. Because we spend the majority of our time indoors, homeowners are quickly realizing the urgency to keep this space as clean and healthy as possible — especially those with children. And considering how polluted the air is outdoors this is really scary! This statistic is also why we keep a lot of houseplants. The airborne chemicals released during painting, after the paint is dry, and as paint is removed, fall into a category of pollutants known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—potentially carcinogenic carbon-based chemicals that evaporate easily and contribute to indoor air pollution. Harmful compounds in the VOC category range from formaldehyde to pesticides to cleaning chemicals. VOCs are released in the highest concentrations during paint application, but most paint will continue to emit harmful fumes for years afterwards. So whether you rent or own it can make a difference to have low or no VOC paint. I personally feel better knowing that the paint we put up will improve the air quality of the home for as long as it is here.
We went with Perennial Gold and it made a huge difference. We are living in a row home which is also like a shotgun house. There is no hall rather you walk into the living room, there is a door to the dining room and through that is the kitchen. The doorways are almost centered which gave the dining room the feeling of simply being a pass through. It didn’t help that the dining room table seemed collect anything and everything. The other issue was light. Since the house isn’t fully connected on both sides we do have windows along one side of the back of the house but the alley between the two houses is only eight feet wide. We do get light through the windows but not a whole lot. Between the low light and dark red paint the dining room became a black hole. The yellow/gold paint has lightened it up considerably and seems to establish it as a room.
The other thing we did to decorate the space and prevent it from being a dumping ground was to move stuff from other rooms. When we got the house it had curtains on most windows but they weren’t exactly our style. We took the ones in the dining room down and moved some plain sheer curtains from the living room. The centerpiece for the table is the cake stand my Dad made for our wedding and the runner is something I’ve had for years. I never understood why people left a place setting out on a table but it’s the only way to display the orange and pink glass plates I got as a college graduation present. It also prevents us from stacking things up like the dining room table is a dumping ground. (Of course now the kitchen table is being dumped on…).
The dining room isn’t done yet. We only have two chairs set up and they still need a second coat of stain, the rest need their first! But we are getting there. We still need to hang up some art as well as a wrought iron wall sconce but we want to get a buffet and then anchor the art from there. Since we are short on funds and we want to find a used buffet I have a feeling the dining room is going to stay in this state for a while. We will need to finish the chairs by Thanksgiving though since my mom will be in town.
I’m not sure what other green changes we will make to this house other than paint. As the light bulbs go out we will definitely replace them with CFL bulbs but beyond that… Our “backyard” is entirely concreted over so while I will be container gardening I don’t think we would leave them behind. Any other suggestions? If the owners make any changes we will certainly offer our two cents about green options but we only have so much say.