Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fumigating Your Home!

I was reading one of my all time favourite blogs today (Something Ivory) and the writer, Kate Harvey, was talking about choosing natural scents instead of synthetic sprays, gels and blahhhs. And that made me want to explore this subject more.

I have hated, yes, HATED synthetic scents for years now. Of course, since I've only lived so long, it wasn't too, too long ago that I actually had fun waltzing around bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, foyers, you name it, leaving behind a trail of aerosol spray behind me. At least I think I loved it for two valid reasons! One, because it smelled cool. Two, because the sprays made cool whooshing sounds and the gels were fun to squish!!

Yippee, holiday scents to make your home smell like Grandma's!

But now, ugh! Don't you dare bring that stuff near me. Why?

Well, there is the simple reason that artificial (and something real, too!) scents irritate my throat and eyes and make me sneeze (good bye favourite perfumes)! But it's also about how dangerous these sprays really are! And I'm not just talking about the flammability factor here.

But...before I get into all of that, I'd love to share some Febreze ads with you!

Here is one I find extremely creepy (like, nightmare-inducing creepy!):

And here is one that makes me cringe and wanna run away, each and every time:

(The uploader's comment was scary too:
"If Febreze can block out the smell of stinky hockey gear in the backseat of a car in the middle of the Texas heat, then there's nothing it can't do." ...Yeah...nothing beats having your esophagus being burnt out!!

I'm sure I sound like I'm overreacting a bit but...come on! One does not even need to do research to realize that it is soooo NOT natural for a little bit of spray to mask, no, overpower the heavy, nasty odour of fish and garbage and hockey gear and whatever else Febreze likes to throw into their commercials.

But, I like to be thorough. So, I researched a little bit...

-I found this lovely little report card (from the EPA!) evaluating the toxicity of Febreze and guess what? It got an "F"! 

-Also thanks to the EPA, here are the lovely ingredients of Febreze: 
  • Silicon compounds (step away from the baby!)
  • Ethanol amine (goodbye nervous system!)
  • Benzisothiazolinone (*itch-itch*)
  • And, naturally (haha!), the inexplicable "Febreze Propriety Odour Eliminator" (the mystery meat of fragrances!)
-Oh, right! I don't wanna just pick on Febreze (the only reason I focused on them is because they tout themselves as the best spray ever and that it, supposedly, masks any scent you throw at it!) so, thanks some nice doctors, here's a lovely chart of hazardous sprays you may be harbouring in your closet:

-Did you notice the baby in the first Febreze commercial? Well, mommy dearest is presumed to have happily sprayed her Febreze right around her baby. Sadly, she may not be aware of just how damaging that little bout of house-keeping could be for her family, especially the baby! I found an article warning mothers about cleaning products (yes, this includes air fresheners): 

"In 2008, researchers at Bristol University found that children whose pregnant mothers used lots of cleaning products...were 41 per cent more likely to suffer wheezing and asthma by the age of seven."

Oh, I hope I didn't scare you...Actually, I really, really hope I did and I hope that we'll all stop using air fresheners! But, hey, that doesn't mean we have to have our cars and homes stink, either! Here are some happy alternatives and tips to keep your environment smelling divine:

-Use delicious and totally non-toxic essential oils (which, by the way, can be used in a bazillion different ways!) to impress all your guests and to unwind after long days! Here are some of Kate Harvey's tempting ideas:

Making your own spray by mixing water and some drops of lavender oil (classic air freshener, minus the evil fumes). The best part? It is TOTALLY safe to spray right onto sheets, pillows and towels! Mmm, heavenly...

Freshen an entire room by dropping a little essential oil into a small bowl of boiling water.

Liven up your dresser drawers by dropping some of your favourite oil on a cotton ball before tucking it into the drawers.

Make a simple lemon air freshener (another classic!) by mixing water and a few drops of lemon oil in a spray bottle.

Add a bit of lemon oil to your dishwasher during the wash cycle for a little scent-boost! (Hello holidays!)

A popular method I've read about a lot of times is to just add a couple drops of your favourite essential oil to help you relax at the end of your day (DIY aromatherapy!)

And an interesting one is to put a cotton ball (with a few drops of essential oil on it) in your vacuum bag so that the scent will release as you do the chore! 

-If all else fails, I guess desperate times call for desperate measures (come on, this blog is based on honesty!) and you can break out that one, secret, spray you keep for emergencies (which can be no less than a boss dropping into your office or a dinner with the in-laws, right??). But do try and use a low-phatalate spray please!

So, have fun ditching toxic sprays and gels and what-not, and exploring the amazing range of essential oils out there! 

Happy Sniffing,

Sabbie :)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Building Castles in the Air...

Wouldn't you love a green house? Like, a Green House?

Personally, I dream of a home running totally on solar power (or something like that!), loads of plants and loads of windows (all ├╝ber insulated)! But a lot of this Green stuff is expensive. Like, really, reeeally expensive. And many people are debating whether "Greening" your home actually pays off all it costs you, too!

But, times are changing! It is getting easier to find green versions of your favourite things without sacrificing all that made them your faves in the first place. And it is getting cheaper as well.

So, as a future designer, I think it's important to keep abreast of sustainable developments. After all, they are going to become the ways of the future! You have gotta:

Okay, sorry about the crazy GIF... it's that it's just one of my favourite movies AND favourite quotes!

Anyways, (I realize how scatterbrained this post is, believe me!) we had an in-class activity today where each person was to compile a summary of a certain sustainable interior design product. Well, I picked paint because, hey! We all use paint all the time, it's supposedly the cheapest and simplest way to freshen up a room (though, this clearly overlooks the sheer mental anguish that can come with painting a house by one's own hand! Exhausting stuff).

So, I've heard of stuff like "low VOC paint" and "think about the baby!" (this, of course, being said to already anxious expectant parents that are creating a nursery for their precious little one) being related to paint but I must admit, it all sounded kind of technical and boring, so I totally ignored it.

But, being an interior design student and all that, you can't avoid things like paint's what I learned in class today:

This post was to be about sustainable choices in finishing up your home

Monday, November 04, 2013

Ye Old Toronto Brick Works

Today, I am here to share with you some further proof of the sheer weirdness that is Arts kids:

We had a trip into the city today! To the old Evergreen Brick Works (shown above). I'm still trying to warm up my bones after wandering around some big, old warehouses but believe it or not, A LOT of brides come here for wedding shoots and people have big fancy corporate parties here too! Gorgeous! (but freezing c-c-cold!!)

Being a sentimental history junkie AND a beauty-seeking fiend, I was beyond impressed with this place! Like, really, really impressed.

But it is far from being just a pretty face or a pretty story. The Don Valley Brick Works (a.k.a. Evergreen Brick Works) are (is?) also the very picture of sustainability! Who knew? Really, who? Because I didn't even know this place existed, let alone contained almost thirty acres of nature-preserving land. All smack-dab, right in the middle of the big bad city! Like I said, impressive!

Starting right from the outside, a lot of the original structures have been kept standing but just updated to be more efficient (energy-wise). Our tour guide pointed out that the oldest buildings started from the left and got progressively newer travelling out to the right.

Also outside, was a wealth of educational areas for the community. From these, the ones I liked best were the sustainable playground for children (to teach them about getting down and dirty with the Earth) and the gigantic parkland where the quarry used to be. 

What really stood out to me was the fact that the organization running the attraction makes a point of maintaining the three distinct, natural ecosystems featured on the land.

 Above: Forest Ecosystem

Above: Meadow Ecosystem

Above: Wetland Ecosystem

Venturing inside, the sheer character of the building is astounding! I just loved, loved, LOVED it (have I mentioned that?)

Above: The gorgeous Welcome Centre

Above: The undeniably cool brick-making machine used originally in the factory.

Above: A cistern (one of many) and pipes that collect rainwater from the rooftop!

Here are just some of the ways in which Evergreen Brick Works runs an efficient building:

-The cisterns collect and store water (from rain and snow) off the roof to provide a significant amount of water for watering plants (something found in abundance in the area) and flushing toilets. I love that! The biggest obstacle, though, was that the cisterns had to be located above ground (because of contamination issues in the earth that date back to the quarry days) and that renders the water frozen and useless during the cold months. Oh well, that's still a lot of water being saved!

-The windows, not that there were too many (just some well-placed ones to keep the areas well-lit), contain heat mirrors (a film) to keep temperatures stable within the building. Also, a simple but often-overlooked step, the company sends out emails to all workers to let them know what days are window-opening days so that no one has windows open when the heat or air conditioning is on. Such a simple concept but completely ignored in all the workplaces and schools I've been to!

-The insulation in the buildings is so amazing that the tour guide declared conventional architecture as being a t-shirt while the Brick Works is a parka. That's sounds so snug and warm right now!

-When the lights are at fifty-percent (often), they are actually at fifty-percent. Meaning, not only is the light received at fifty percent, so is the energy expended.

And really, the list goes on and on. After all, Evergreen Brick Works is planning on getting LEED certified! (Remember my last post? Well, I did say "something like LEED is better than nothing like LEED"! Besides, Evergreen just seems like one of those feel-good, do-good companies and I love that!)

All in all, this place is a must-visit! There is just SO MUCH to see there and I haven't even begun to cover it. Needless to say, I plan on revisiting that place again and again in the future. It's THAT brilliant!

And to end this post on a pretty note, here are some pictures of my favourite area of the Brick Works!

Above: The old kilns and brick-storage (with preserved graffiti!)

 Above: A closed kiln (well, they are all closed now...)
Above: More gorgeous graffiti!!!


All photos from this post were taken by me and my numb fingers!

Sunday, November 03, 2013

A Little Too Much LEED...

So, last week, in Sustainable Practices, the class had our midterm exam. The subject of this trouble?

A little something called LEED...

You know, I'm all for anything that helps the environment but it's pretty annoying how so many companies and people are trying to cash in on our collective guilt for crushing the environment. Maybe it's just me, maybe it's not just me, but I tend to look at everything "Green" with a very suspicious eye these days (perhaps you remember my first post?).

LEED, in theory, is very helpful and revolutionary in the world of construction and design. It is supposed to encourage and reward those who build or renovate properties to be as Green as possible. It can be effective in the commercial industry, especially. Which customer could criticize a company for trying to be kinder to Mother Earth?

Well, I still can't help but be skeptical of such things. And, after completing this exam (a mark which I hope won't haunt me), I felt a bit...disillusioned (again) about big Green promotors like LEED. Obviously, something like LEED is better than nothing like LEED (or so I hope!) but LEED is so not as earth-shattering (or earth-preserving) as some have made it out to be. In fact, it kind of gets on my nerves. Why am I so harsh? Let me explain.

The exam we did last week required us to write up a report on a hypothetical LEED makeover of our school building. Before the exam, we had been asked to read up on the CaGBC (the Canadian Green Building Council--mother of LEED). I definitely did and it seemed that the more I read, the more complicated and unhelpful LEED certification became. Then, when the test came around, we had to sort through a ninety-page document outlining ways to get LEED points.

That's right. LEED points. Guess what they are used for? Hint: It's really not so different from collecting tokens in a video game!

Well, the number of LEED points a building collects determines if it receives LEED certification. And at what level.

Ta-da!! LEED certification!

Hmph. Sounds pretty juvenile to me. And I have to say, going through that big checklist made me feel kind of silly. Ok, a lot of silly. Like a sugar-crazed kid zipping through an arcade trying to rack up as many points as she can so that she can win the shiny new ___ (insert trivial prize to be soon forgotten once attained).

What you see above is a page out of that ninety page document and yes, that is a 
checklist you can use to tally up those points I was talking about.

Since when is Green building about collecting points? It's just so ridiculous! Why? Because:

A) It's inaccurate (a cookie-cutter method of evaluating buildings isn't evaluation! What makes sense for one building can't always make sense for another! Location, purpose, original structure, etc. These things all matter and should be taken into account to decide how Green a building really is!)

B) What are you encouraging? This isn't a scavenger hunt, so why are you sending everyone on a weird chase to scoop up as many points as they can. Putting aside effectiveness (or lack of), all this point-racking seems to lose sight of what the actual point is. It seems impersonal, yes, but also turns "green-ness" into a commodity. And, come on, whenever something even starts to seem like a commodity, people exploit the heck out of it!

All together, I have to say, LEED may or may not prove to be effective in the future (it's still a relatively new system) but the way they go about promoting green buildings is certainly strange enough to make me wary of them.

And apparently, I am am not the only one! Here's an excerpt from an article written by an American woman:

"...what makes me see red in these kinds of "green" stories is the fact that all across our nation, all the way down to the local village level, the people who lead our cities and states have bought the so-called "sustainable" agenda hook, line and sinker. Either they are ignorant of what it represents, or they agree with the tyrannical scheme". Read on here.

So, on that delightful note, I hope that LEED does find a way to make a difference in the Green Building world and that they'll prove me wrong. In the meantime, I continue to recycle and use curlicue lightbulbs!

Happy recycling,