To prevent introducing contaminants into the indoor environment, great care should be taken in sourcing products to avoid VOCs when building and ultimately living with them.
In our home, we have used materials and products that give off fewer contaminants, with little to no VOCs. Healthy, environmentally friendly products and finishes were chosen to minimize harm to our health, both as homeowners and workers on the project.
Example of VOCs include formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, and toluene, which are found in many household products, including paints, varnishes, paint stripping products, and adhesives. VOCs are toxic to the nervous system and some are cancer-causing. While it is difficult to avoid VOCs when building conventionally, building green provides options which avoid using typical building material that off-gas.
- We minimized the impact on our health, by using clay and lime plaster which does not off-gas, and emits no VOCs. American Clay is zero VOC and is made out of natural clay, reclaimed and recycled aggregates and natural pigments. The clay plaster also inhibits mold and moisture, two factors which contribute to bad indoor air quality. www.americanclay.com
- Natural Hydraulic Lime plaster has no chemical additives making it a safe, non-toxic, natural green building material. www.limes.us Using straw bales and plaster surfaces for the interior and exterior walls of our homes allowed us to avoid using paint that can off-gas.
- Broda Pro-Tek-Tor Natural Oil Wood Finish and Pro-thane was used for wood treatments, on the exterior for the cedar shakes and post and beams. These products were also used as a floor finish and on some interior wood surfaces. These products have low VOCs for homeowner and worker and were easily applied. It is an oil-based, waterborne, penetrating wood finish and needs only soap and water to clean up. It also contains a preservative which inhibits the growth of mildew on the surface. CBR products and BRODA coatings are made to the strongest environmental standards, while making them extremely durable and easy to use. www.cbrproducts.com
- Interior furnishings and products were chosen for their environmental qualities, affordability and health advantage. Many interior products off-gas, from kitchen cupboards to couches. A few examples follow.
In the kitchen, we avoided MDF (medium density fiberboard) which contains urea formaldehyde which is highly toxic and off-gasses. We used solid pine and plywood instead. We used Paperstone countertops throughout the house, a non-toxic alternative made from 100% post consumer recycled paper. Natural fabrics such as organic cotton sheets and duvet covers were chosen for their health and environmental advantage. In the kids’ bedrooms, we bought Eco Saks which are bean bags made of recycled and renewable materials. EcoSaks utilize recycled furniture-grade foam, and fabric made from recycled soda bottles. They do not off-gas plus they’re really comfortable and fun. They also offer a completely natural option in eco-friendly beanbags for kids, with buckwheat hull filling and an organic cotton cover. www.ecosak.com
- Using recycled or salvaged materials remove ‘stuff’ out of the waste stream and depending on the product, also minimizes toxins released into the living environment from a health point of view because they either don’t off-gas or have already done so to a large degree.
- Natural Danish Oil was used to treat wooden surfaces as it is solvent free, and contains no heavy metal driers. It is a pure moderately-polymerized linseed oil with no additives.
- Shellac was used for wood treatment on some interior surfaces. This product is a natural polymer secreted by the lac insect, is a natural varnish and is non-toxic once dry.
- Biodegradable and environmental friendly cleaning agents are used in the household that do not harm the environment or our health. We use green cleaning products that do not have harmful chemicals, toxins, products or fumes. They are completely biodegradable and non-allergenic. In today’s world, you can safely wash windows, clean dishes, do your laundry and groom yourself without impact on your health or the environment. This can be achieved easily with readily available store bought products or homemade simple solutions.