New products and sound advice for making your home a greener place.
Greening Your Home
After the housing market crashed, many homeowners found themselves having to face the reality that they’d bought into more then just their dream house-they’d also bought heavily into the “bigger is better” philosophy. Since then however, more and more people are realizing that bigger isn’t necessarily better, and having more doesn’t always provide fulfillment. The Slow Home movement supports that growing recognition, and works to enhance the relationship between a home and it’s residents.
Founded in 2006 by architects John Brown, Matthew North, and Carina van Olm, of the Slow Home Studio, the slow home concept came to life in response to what they saw as a growing trend of poorly designed homes. Their goals originated from a desire to provide homeowners with better quality built houses that are designed to promote higher functionality and overall efficiency. They also believe this type of home should be available to potential buyers at a cost that is considered economically reasonable. “Slow homes give us an opportunity to rethink our relationship with our houses,” says Brown. “When a house is well made it will make life easier. We want to help people make sense of their homes in a logical way.”
Slow homes are designed around 12 core philosophies. Focus is attributed to all indoor and outdoor living spaces, high value is placed on quality craftsmanship, and they’re created to be mindful regarding environmental stewardship and sustainability practices. They’re most often compact in size in an effort to reduce unnecessary energy and water usage. Yet, they’re also designed to maximize efficiency throughout a minimal amount of space. In order to promote the use of natural heating and cooling methods, slow homes are orientated to the sun, prevailing winds, and other surrounding elements. An emphasis is also placed on utilizing as much natural lighting as possible.
Similar to the slow food movement, the slow home concept creates homes that combine carefully considered elements so that the overall design of a house benefits residents in the most healthy and enjoyable ways possible. Just as we work to feed our bodies with food and nutrients that promote better efficiency, slow homes offer an environment in which we are better able to live our lives. “Investing in the home in which you live is critical. A home is so important to our well being,” Brown explains with an emphasis on the word home, as opposed to house. “It’s a sanctuary, a retreat. It’s a place where we can be ourselves, a place to raise our children, and to enjoy our life.”
Although a traditional slow home is designed with minimal square footage and is typically situated within walking distance of a local community, it isn’t always realistic for a family to downsize and move, or to make dramatic renovations to their existing home. However, creating a slow home doesn’t have to begin by making major lifestyle changes. In fact, many of the rewards gained through living in a slow home can be obtained by making simple and tangible choices. “Stay where you are and reuse it,” encourages Brown. “It’s a much more environmentally friendly approach then building a whole new house.”
Slow homes focus much more on the attention and care that is contributed by its residents. Brown suggests starting with small changes, such as removing any unused kitchen or other household appliances. He also recommends taking some time to evaluate the function of a variety of existing elements in your home, such as the placement of light switch panels, or even the height of kitchen and bathroom counters. The placement of these types of things should increase your overall efficiency, not work against it. The same goes for the level of decor in a home. If you find yourself spending more time dusting a collection of figurines than actually enjoying them, it’s probably time to rethink their purpose in your home. The true essence of the slow home philosophy can be found in the powerful words of William Morris, “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
Brown stresses the idea that creating a slow home can be an individual thing, and that it is often an extended work in progress. He says, “you do what you can, when you can. The small incremental changes can end up being a big deal.” To learn more about the slow home movement and to explore additional methods to help you transition your house into a slow home, visit slowhomestudio.com.
Using filtered water pitchers like Brita or Pur is a great way to cut down on the plastic water bottle disposal issue world wide. Most families will store the pitcher in the refrigerator for that cold drink of water.
By Elizabeth Barker for Green Goes Simple
Planting and cultivating a garden with your family can offer a bounty of benefits to you and your kids. Along with fostering your kids’ fondness for fresh fruits and veggies, gardening with your children can enhance their eco-consciousness.
“It’s so valuable for kids to see the direct effect of their taking care of the earth,” says Rose Judd-Murray, education specialist for the National Gardening Association. What’s more, working in the garden gives kids hands-on learning about hard-to-grasp concepts, like reducing pesticide use and preventing soil erosion.
Even if you’ve never picked up a trowel, starting a garden can be a snap! Here, four easy ways to build a kid-friendly plot that thrives:
1. Get Prepped
First, size up the soil quality and sunlight availability in your backyard. Choose a space that sees about six hours or more of sunshine each day. To prepare soil for planting, you can add composted matter (a great way to use the contents of your kitchen compost can, if you have one). Then, loosen the soil to give roots a place to grow, and remove any visible weeds. For more tips on prepping soil, visit Garden.org. Don’t be afraid to start small, says Judd-Murray. “You don’t need to dig up your entire lawn,” she says. “You can just begin with a couple of containers, or go to a garden center and pick up some transplants that pop right out of the plastic and into the ground.”
2. Choose Your Crops
When gardening with little ones, keep short attention spans in mind and include a few seeds that won’t take too long to sprout — think carrots and radishes for vegetable gardens, sunflowers and zinnias for flower plots. And while inspiring kids to try new veggies is a great gardening perk, focusing on foods they already love is also essential. “Children might like to plant raspberries to make their own jam, for instance, or grow the ingredients for homemade pizza sauce — such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, marjoram, garlic and basil,” says Elizabeth McCorquodale, author of Kids in the Garden.
3. Add an Eco-element
To teach your kids that plants can flourish naturally, look to eco-options for pest control. “Keeping plants healthy so they can defend themselves is key, so make sure to nourish them with homemade compost and use mulch to seal in moisture,” says McCorquodale. Building barriers from ground eggshells can also shield your plants from attack, she notes. And introducing beneficial bugs like ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies can provide natural defense against the bad bugs and stop them from chowing down on your crops.
4. Cultivate Your Kid’s Green Thumbs
As your children get gardening, take note of the tasks they most enjoy. “Some kids will love the digging and weeding and organizing, while others will get a thrill from the competition of growing the fattest, sweetest or shiniest plants,” says McCorquodale. To keep that enthusiasm from waning, she recommends dividing the more tedious gardening duties into brief blocks of time.
Setting your kids up for gardening success is also a smart move, according to McCorquodale. “Give the children their own sunny corner and fill it with the best weed-free soil,” she suggests. “When it comes to nurturing their love for gardening, remember that a little success can go a long way.”
Elizabeth Barker is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and executive editor of fashion blog NoGoodForMe.com. Her work has appeared in Body + Soul, Natural Health, Vegetarian Times, Variety and Kiwi.