5 Easy Ways To Make Your Home Sustainable

These days, the environment is on the forefront of the news. With major problems like climate change and pollution, it’s more important than ever to improve your home’s energy efficiency and sustainability. You’ll save money and make your home more marketable, all while helping make the earth a little greener.

roof with plantsThis guide will show you easy steps for how to immediately improve your home’s energy efficiency. Green home improvements like installing more effective insulation and preventing allergens through the use of smarter flooring are easy steps to a better, more cost-effective home. With a lower electricity bill, you’ll wonder why you didn’t make these green changes sooner. That said, you’ll also save money in the future when it comes time to sell your home. Green home improvements dramatically increase the value of your home and make it much more attractive to potential buyers. Here are some easy ways for you to start earning money and saving the earth.casementfeatureshot4

Energy-efficient windows

Whether you’re building a new home or remodelling, energy-efficient windows are a great option for reducing the costs of air conditioning. They limit thermal exchange between the inside and outside of your home, decreasing power costs. When you shop, look for windows with a low U-factor score, as this indicates better insulation. Another easy step to maximize your windows’ energy-efficiency is to opt for a double-glazed option. With this feature, you won’t have to worry about the dust on blinds or the low-energy efficiency of curtains.


Just like installing energy-efficient windows, energy-efficient roofing materials will keep your home well insulated. You’ll want to speak with roofing professionals about the best option for your home, as you may benefit more from roofing choices that prevent leaks or icicles if you live somewhere with harsh winters. In general, you’ll look to restore your roof and improve your roof insulation with energy-efficient roofing materials. You may decide on specially designed, heat-reflective roofing material, which is made to reflect sunlight and limit heat absorption. Depending on your budget, you may also implement a green roof, which will help you to manage stormwater and improve insulation. This works best with flat roofs, commonly found in urban areas. Updating your roof is a powerful way to create a greener home.

shuttered windowsEnergy Star Appliances

You can easily seek out green products by looking for Energy Star appliances. Your appliances may draw the most power and resources from your home, making it vital that you choose the best. When shopping, you’ll notice an Energy Star sticker on your product that indicates it meets certain environmental standards set forth by the EPA. It’s a government-regulated qualification that makes for a well-trusted source of information. It’s recommended to look at your appliance’s label and compare how much energy each model will use, in order to make smarter, data-based decisions.

HVAC installation

One of the biggest costs of owning a home is heating and cooling throughout the year. This makes proper use of HVAC systems vital for a cost-effective living space. This starts at the beginning, with installation. Your HVAC tech should follow the environmentally-friendly Quality Installation guidelines, which outline the best practices for installing an HVAC system with maximum efficiency. With the help of your HVAC professional, you’ll have pure air and an efficient home in no time.


If you can eliminate allergens with smarter flooring, you’re one step closer to a greener home. To begin, you’ll probably want something easy to clean, like vinyl or another hard surface. Materials like carpet typically accumulate dust, which make life difficult for those with asthma or allergies. Look for sustainable materials like bamboo or hardwood, though it’s important to specifically ensure that the specific material and brand you’re using is actually environmentally-friendly, and not merely marketed as such. With smarter flooring, you’ll eliminate allergens and improve your health immediately.

It is vitally important to implement green improvements for your home. It’s better for the earth and clearly better for your wallet. By following this simple guide, you’ll start saving the earth and saving money in no time.

The Perks of Using Double Glazed Windows

Remember the witches from Macbeth and their admonishing chant “Double, double toil and trouble”? Unlike in Shakespeare’s era, the concept of dualism nowadays does not always imply disguises, duplicity, contradictions and consequent hassle: in fact, double is a highly desirable asset in the world of contemporary window glazing.

Since the principal purpose of windows is to provide ample natural light indoors while preventing heat loss during cold seasons, double glazed windows are made to perform this function more efficiently than their standard single pane counterparts. If you are considering upping thermal insulation and soundproofing features of your home or office space before wintertime, you should definitely consider installing double glazed windows – and here is why.

windows on brick

Optimal Thermal Insulation

Double glazed windows consist of two glass panes separated by an air-filled cavity. This clever structure helps achieve optimal temperature indoors without loss of heat through air leaks between window panes and frames, which commonly occurs with single glazed windows. The air trapped in the gap between the two panes serves as a barrier that minimizes the impact of external temperatures, allowing your home to stay cool in summer and warm during winter.

Energy Saving Made Easy

Since double glazed windows provide better thermal insulation than regular single paned versions, you will be able to significantly cut your electricity bills as you will not need as much energy to keep your home cozy and optimally heated/cooled. On hot summer days, double glazed windows will considerably slow down the inflow of heat, while window-bound heat loss on chilly days will be by as many as 50% lower than with standard single glazed windows.windows on wood

Environmental Benefits

By conserving heat, double glazed windows also make your household or office greener. Reduced energy waste means lower carbon footprint and less squandered resources. To maximize energy efficiency at home, check the energy rating of different windows before purchase. In a recent chat with Sydney-based double glazing pros, I discovered that energy rating for windows available in stores depends on U-Values, air leakage rate and solar heat gain.

big windowsAdequate Soundproofing

In addition to providing failsafe thermal insulation, double glazed windows also offer better soundproofing properties than regular windows. Thanks to dual panes with air trapped between them, double glazed windows can help diminish external noise and preserve the comfort and peace of your home or studio. Laminated acoustic double glazed windows are even more efficient in terms of soundproofing, as they can reduce noise by as many as 35 decibels.

Optional Features

For increased versatility, you may choose windows with additional features such as reflective coating on external panes for lower infrared radiation and sun glare. Another convenient option is to have the inner pane of the window coated with reflective metallic paint for improved heat loss prevention and greater energy savings. Laminated panes provide even better protection from negative side-effects of intense sunlight as they reduce UV radiation by over 90 percent.

Thanks to their superior thermal isolation and soundproofing features, double glazed windows are an excellent home or office upgrade for every real estate owner. Good both for your budget and the planet, double glazed windows are made to last over 20 years, so they are definitely an investment that will pay off many times over in the long run. When choosing your new set of windows, pay attention to the general energy rating, pane coating options, glass thickness and the width of the cavity between the panes.

The rule of thumb for double glazing is: the thicker the panes and the wider the cavity, the better the window insulation and soundproofing properties. If you are looking for a perfect stack of windows to install in your home, studio or office, you will definitely go no wrong with double glazed windows, so make sure you check them out – after all, double is always better than single in the modern era.

Cedar Adirondack Chairs

My first woodworking project was to make adirondack chairs out of cedar fence boards.  I got the plans from Sunset magazine & they lasted for about 5 years outside in our Washington weather.

cedarchairs1Adirondack chairs can be made out of just about any wood or even plastic. So why choose cedar? Firstly, cedar is a naturally beautiful wood for many reasons (which we describe below), as well as being incredibly durable and versatile, which is why it is used to construct everything from siding to decks to furniture and even roofing shingles. The natural preservative oils and characteristic smell of cedar also make it very insect and rot resistant.

Cedar is not a very dense wood, making it one of the lightest softwoods available. Cedar also boasts an incredible thermal co-efficient. That means that the little tiny “air pockets” between the cells of the wood end up acting as an insulator when the wood is dry. If it is hot outside, for example, cedar will remain at a lower temperature than most other materials that conduct heat with more efficiency (e.g. other hardwoods, metals and some plastics). The result is a cooler chair to sit on. And don’t forget, because it is a lightweight wood it will be easier for you to move it around (and store it away) than a heavy hardwood chair.cedarchairs2

Even though cedar is a lightweight wood you will not be sacrificing strength. It is a full 80% the strength of mighty OAK! That’s tough!

Cedar also has amazing dimensional stability. More simply put, cedar naturally tries to equalize its moisture content to match that of the air around it, like all woods. However, unlike many other woods, cedar does not expand or contract very much when it is absorbing or evaporating moisture. This is very important because while other harder, denser woods will tend to crack or warp from season to season, cedar tends not to crack or warp. If you live in an area where humidity levels can vary wildly between seasons, cedar is a must for you.

Cedar has a very low flame-spreading ratio and is low on the “smoke developed” scale when burning as well. This means that it doesn’t spread fire as fast nor produce as much smoke as some other types of wood.

cedarchairs3Finally, cedar is very decay and weather resistant. If you leave the furniture outside you have the option of either staining it every year or two if you want to maintain its fresh new look, or allowing it to age gracefully into a beautiful silvery gray color. If you choose to leave cedar permanently outside through all of the seasons, every day, every month, every year, we highly recommend treating it to protect the furniture properly and greatly extend its natural life. After all, cedar is resistant to decay but is not impervious to it. No wood is impervious to natural aging. Staining cedar just gives it an extra durability edge against Mother Nature, especially if it is left in constant contact with the ground.


authentic green sustainable in your home furnishings

As a kid who grew up in Seattle for part of my life I knew IKEA pretty well. My grandmother is an avid decorator and I grew up watching shows like Christopher Lowell and Martha Stewart, which fostered an adult habit of self-soothing with HGTV (before it became non-stop House Hunters – seriously why is it so hard to put on a decorator show once in a while?)

IKEA is also hard to resist – but their smooth Scandinavian lines, slick photo vignettes depicting the perfect Danish family and Walmart-cheap prices hide the fact that IKEA has been clearcutting Siberian old growth forests (yes the ones Siberian tigers make their home in) to make crappy furniture that doesn’t even last long enough to be resold at Furniture Works most of the time. To give you an idea of how horrible that is – the last glass fronted bookshelf I sold was over 150 years old from Bernhardt’s factory on the East Coast of The United States. So next time your friend brags to you about their newly bought IKEA shelf just remember there’s a tiger out there that probably died for it so they could hold their stuff for 5 years before hauling it to the dump.

A good gift for an IKEA lover is a Pussy Riot CD and this. 

Unlike Walmart, IKEA doesn’t even try to own their shame. They launched a greenwashing campaign in 2009 – part of a haphazard pattern of deceit that had been going on for a while – they allied themselves with the (rather dubious in recent years) WWF in an effort to obey the Earth Day lights out hour – except they didn’t turn off their lights like everyone else. That would affect the bottom line.

With so many cheap options out there for furniture that doesn’t require cutting down swathes of old-growth tiger habitat in impoverished Russia, why do people choose IKEA?

At Furniture Works we source from many different companies – some of them green, but not all of them. I dislike idealism but care deeply about the enviroment. It’s pointless to attempt to go “all green” in a city full of people who would rather go to a big box store to buy particle board chic than pay $200 more for a company that is totally eco-friendly and sustainable.

The hope is that the deal intent customer will happen upon an even better deal in the used sector, as they are often better quality even though they are cheaper. (We have couches dating back to the 50’s that are still going strong – a testament to that era’s emphasis on quality)  Still, even if the customer does go with a sofa from the cheaper brand due to style or warranty concerns, it’s as good a quality as anything from Ikea or Walmart, if not better.

I find that the majority of Olympians care deeply about the enviroment including their local economy, and generally want to avoid particle board due to health concerns and enviromental concerns. Still about 1% of my customers insist on comparing prices with big box stores – I’m always finding I have to explain the difference between a $35 particle board “designer” stool from a big box store and a $135 solid teak stool from a permaculture company like Tropical Salvage.

The practicality of having a chair that lasts a lifetime is a value not lost on many descendants of Western pioneer culture, who had to make due without frequent shipments of factory items across the Great Divide. I’m sure anyone from a family who came from a survivalist lineage heard the phrase “Waste not want not” which basically means if you don’t waste anything you’ll never want for anything. (This meme has also probably been horribly misinterpreted by chronic hoarders, but it’s still a great sustainable sentiment.)

So how do you choose high quality furniture that won’t fall apart in 5 years after offgassing its toxic compounds into your lungs, leaving you feeling disappointed and environmentally unfriendly? It’s not always easy to discern what is junk and what’s not – and the price tag doesn’t always give a clue. The store you buy from has a markup and if that markup is very high – you’re overpaying. Try to get the manufacturer’s name of a piece you like and call a few dealers for quotes. That will give you a better idea about whether it is overpriced and cheap, or a good value. Secondly, a professional salesperson will know their stuff and can explain different types of construction to you, and demonstrate these features on any piece of furniture you like. If they can’t do this, they’re not a professional salesperson, they’re an order-taker, and won’t be much help.

In that case, you can figure it out yourself – looks can be decieving to tactile oriented people, so touch the furniture – wiggle it around to check for wobbly joints, feel the back and sides of upholstery. Many cheap sofas will have cardboard, or worse, nothing but empty space between the fabric and the frame. You want a solid feel on most sides.


This inexpensive large club chair from Coaster has reinforced solid sides and back with a midrange brocade microfiber fabric.

The fabric should have a luxurious feel, even if it’s a rustic weave, like baize or tweed. Keep in mind that almost all weaves from chenille to faille are now manufactured with microfiber threads. There is a big difference between cheap microfiber and top of the line luxury microfiber, and the performance between each kind is substantial.

Leather is a whole ‘nother animal, and if you’re not going to bother with top grain cowhide and its $500 and up price tag, go for a good quality bonded leather (fabric/leather blend) – bicast products are plastic coated and use the cheap and flimsy underlayers of the hide. They are less durable than cheaper bonded leather from a reputable company. Most leather products on the market sold by mid range design stores are bicast. Keep in mind that almost all leather products are produced using highly toxic chemicals and are not enviromentally friendly at all – particularily the cheap bicast products. Although some companies do produce organic leather, it’s almost exclusively for clothes.

A handful of manufacturers such as Tropical Salvage are jumping on the sustainable bandwagon with everything they’ve got. Others like Winsome Wood, a local company based out of Woodinville, Washington, make sure they only source from sustainable wood, (Rubberwood from farms in Indonesia) but still use standard varnishes. Rubberwood is also sustainable at the moment because the trees used to produce latex in Indonesia are burned after they reach the 30 year mark. Turning them into furniture prevents farmers from doing this sort of mass-burn and puts money in their pocket. If the latex industry bottoms out Rubberwood may not be sustainable anymore.

Organic furniture is out of the price range of most buyers still, even though it’s often much less costly than high-end designer pieces produced using enviromentally unfriendly chemicals and materials.

This sustainably harvested Javanese white teak table from Tropical Salvage elicits cries of shock both at how inexpensive it is, and how pricy it is, depending on the customer. ($790)

This sustain-ably harvested Javanese white teak table from Tropical Salvage (shown with rubberwood chairs, $135 each) comes from the volcanic ash fields in a conservation forest. It elicits cries of shock both at how inexpensive it is, and how pricey it is, depending on the customer. ($790) The savings to the planet’s fragile ecosystem are substantial.

If you’re on a budget and can’t afford sustainable new, you can’t go wrong with a gently used couch or chair, or try to buy something that is not made out of particle board or unsustainably clear cut old growth pines like Ikea’s lineup. There’s plenty of great used solid wood furniture available in the market if you have to have something stylish and trend forward looking.


This unsustainably harvested 1950’s secretary-bookcase of Danish make was only $225 used. Because of its used status, it is eco-friendly despite its dark origins. (Clearcut Indonesian forests)

Innovative Design – practicality

We are stars

                        We are snowflakes
We have our lights
       And our unique designs
Keep shining
            Stay intricate
Write your story
-from WritersCafe.org
And so it is with our homes, which represent us to others and it is where we are most ourselves.  I’m often told by customers that a) they’re looking for inspiration and ideas, b)  but they don’t know much about design and decorating and c) they’ll know it when they see it. And they are, to some degree right.  It is very hard to implement a change without imagining it first.

This is the first of several articles addressing innovation in design.  In this article, we’ll look at some practical innovations in design.  Most of these designs can be called “modern”, in the sense that not only are they new but they incorporate a strong sense of minimalism.  Form follows function, as they say, and these examples are intended to meet a function while adding as little extra to the design as possible.  Note: This all comes from excessive web surfing and I’m supplying links for my sources when obtainable.

How about being able to read without needing extra tables and lamps?


Seems like everything plugs in these days, but where do you set the device while it is charging?

I guess the text in the graphic explains it.

Ever have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night?  Ever stub a toe?