Release Date: July 8, 2010

Green in details: Simple steps in simple projects

The Post-Cresent

Nick Mueller is a project manager with The Boldt Co. in Appleton and will be a new occasional contributing columnist to The Post-Crescent.

Like many weekend warriors that are also do-it-yourselfers, Friday lunch breaks are oftentimes filled with stops to the home improvement store for the items that will end up in our homes the next day.

If your main concerns for the project are that you get the right color and that it sticks to the wall, I challenge you go a little bit further. How safe is the product? Who and how was it manufactured? What would the professionals use? Should I be choosing a "green" product?

Just about every paint manufacturer has a product that has low or no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). In reality, that "new car smell" isn't very healthy for you. VOCs are the air contaminants released from building products that can be odorous, irritating, or harmful to installers or occupants. Hallman Lyndsay Paints has a wonderful line of paint products that are low or no VOC, and they're also manufactured in Sun Prairie. Not only do we have the opportunity to purchase a safe product for our homes, but also a product that supports our local economy and also use less fossil fuels.

Remember to pick up some paint stir sticks on the way out. Did you notice at Lowe's, their paint stir sticks are marked with a Forestry Stewardship Council chain of custody number? The Forestry Stewardship Council establishes environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable forestry practices. Commercial construction companies have been using FSC lumber since 1993. Why wouldn't you consider using FSC lumber on home projects?

"Green" isn't just about saving the planet, it's also about making healthful, safe decisions that are economically responsible for our families and communities.

Professionals have been using these and other products for years for the exact same reasons. What was difficult to obtain only a few years ago is now readily available for consumers.

Take for example carpeting. While you may have moved on to selecting the rake for your shag, you may want to stop and consider the how the carpet itself has been manufactured and how it will perform in your home. Much like paint, carpet also is a carrier of VOCs.

The Carpet and Rug Institute, a trade organization representing the carpet and rug industry, have a Green Label program that has developed a set of standards that ensure low VOC levels in the carpets and rugs. According to the Carpet and Rug Institute, the Green Label carpet program has such a positive impact on the indoor environment that the American Lung Associate approves its use in its Healthy Homes programs. Perhaps the rake isn't as important?

In an effort to reduce demand for virgin materials, it may be an easy choice to select a carpet -- or other materials for that matter -- that have been recycled. While some carpet may be manufactured using other previously used materials or industrial byproducts, some carpeting is actually recycled versions of itself.

According to their website, Shaw Carpet has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for innovation in carpet recycling, collecting more than 90 million pounds annually and recycling it, representing nearly one-third of the industry's carpet recycling capabilities. While the decision to select a material with recycled content may not directly affect your home, it's an easy decision to make to help the planet.

Being a "green" consumer is about making choices. Most often a choice can be made to select a material that has both healthful and safety benefits that also benefits the environment. When purchasing materials, simple choices in material can have a significant impact in our families and communities.