By Jody McCutcheon
Obviously, companies and governments wield a great potential to influence environmental health, as their decisions and policies affect huge groups of people. But you, the individual, also have a significant say. Your decisions each day—what to buy and use, whom to vote for—represent the other end of the equation. Of the countless products you consume each day, many will bring you closer to nature while lessening the environmental burden. The more eco-gentle products and behaviours you adopt, the healthier the planet will be, and by extension, the healthier you will be.
Let’s take a glance at what a day of ideal choices might look like, today or in the not-too-distant future.
The Future of Homes: An Environmental Tale
You’re returning home from your job. It’s cold outside, so you reach for your smartphone and command it to turn on your Nest controlled heater, which has been off all day to save energy and money.
How are you travelling? By public transportation (likely not much improved, even in the future, if London’s policies are any benchmark). So you may prefer to get home by bike. Or if it’s a longer distance, an e-bike, like the Faraday Cortland e-bicycle, which offers you some exercise while saving the atmosphere from vehicular emissions. And you needn’t live so close to work. Powering a 250W, eight-speed front hub motor, the 43V, 290Wh lithium-ion battery offers a range of twenty miles on a charge (not to mention 10,000 miles over its lifetime), and recharges in less than three hours. Charge your bike at work from any wall outlet. With accessories such as bamboo fenders and front and rear storage racks, your Cortland combines elegance, style and clean-energy output.
Bicycling home in the evening, you’ll likely pass several Eco-Mushroom Solar Street Lamps along the way. These special street lamps don’t just light your way with energy-efficient LED lights, they also clean the air. Eco-Mushroom Lamps suck polluted air through four intake apertures, clean it with what’s called a carbon-dioxide scrubber–slash–pollution absorber, and redistribute it through an annular vent located two metres (about the height of a human breathing system) above the ground. The Eco-Mushroom is solar-powered, with photovoltaic panels located atop the lampshade powering a battery pack attached to the pole. How cool is that?
Now you arrive at your hillside brick-and-timber home, something much like Antsy Plum on the Dorset/Wiltshire border. It was built in the 1960’s, back when fossil fuels ruled and little was understood about their long-term impact. But thanks to a firm like Coppin Dockray Architecture and Design, your home is no longer an energy drag. Undertaking a significant renovation, Coppin Dockray not only restored the original structure’s charm, but also improved energy performance. By adding extra insulation and underfloor heating, as well as double-glazing to let in natural light—thereby reducing dependence on artificial lighting—your home’s newfound thermal efficiency has produced an eighty percent reduction in its carbon footprint, raising its energy performance to modern-day standards.
Glancing around your charming, energy-efficient home, you flush with pride at the furnishings and technology you’ve carefully chosen for their aesthetic and eco-friendly value. Want to warm up a room with a cheaper, energy-saving alternative to traditional heating methods? Thankfully, there’s Egloo, the candle-powered heater. Mimicking the qualities of terracotta earthenware, Egloo stores and slowly releases heat, even after its candles are extinguished. For less than ten cents, Egloo—which comes in several different colours—will burn for five hours and increase the temperature of a twenty square-metre room two to three degrees.
Once you’ve eaten dinner, it’s time to wash the dishes. Forget about those old, energy-and-water consuming dishwashers: your Circo Independent Dish Washer is a hand-crank model that will give your arms a minor workout while giving your dishes an efficient cleaning. Rather than electricity, the Circo uses sodium acetate tablets to heat the dishwashing water, while using half the water of a normal dishwasher, and as little as one-tenth the water used to hand-wash dishes. Of course, Circo is space efficient, taking up the area of a drying rack while also doubling as one. It’s as simple as opening the Circo’s door and air-drying your dishes.
Your eco-themed interior may include some antiques from the 1980s (in an ironic nod to the horrid ‘greed is good’ era) or unique pieces made from upcycled materials, like Maurice Klapfish’s Lamp Revival. An eco-friendly mix of tech, art and furnishing, these lamps are fashioned from discarded materials salvaged from landfills and scrap piles. Electric parts, sheet metal, pipefittings, musical instruments, sports equipment, even old light bulbs are incorporated into the designs. The result is a piece of functional art that lends a vintage aesthetic to your home.
Your wall paneling, dinner table and counter top provide another dash of eco-friendly flair and functionality. So much wood has already been produced in the world at this point, there’s really no need to ever use new timber again. Most of your furniture will come from LEED-certified companies like the Reclaimed Table, providing paneling, slabs and tables made from wood recycled from old farms and barns, warehouses, factories and other abandoned historic structures. These works serve to reduce carbon emissions, the waste stream volume, the need for raw wood materials and cumulative energy consumption (by as much as a factor of ten). Just as important, they help preserve architectural accomplishments and pieces of historical significance. Eco-friendly materials used in these durable pieces below include formaldehyde-free Baltic Birch plywood, water-based Eco-poxy and low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) and water-based finishes.
Finally, for the ultimate connection to nature, you’ve furnished your living room with one of Alexandra Kehayoglou’s beautiful “pasture” rugs. Inspired by Argentina’s pasturelands and hand-made from recycled fabric scraps from the family’s Buenos Aires carpet factory, Kehayoglou’s carpets evoke the soft textures of nature. Walk on them and feel like you’re walking on moss, grass, sand, even snow. Can you feel more at one with nature inside your home?
Our biggest responsibility in our role of consumer is to lessen the environmental burden, one product at a time. By incorporating the feel, the beauty, the power and efficiency of the natural world in the daily course of our lives, we can better live in harmony with our planet, and therefore with ourselves.