Natural and Not: Everyone’s “Eco”

Natural and Not: Everyone’s “Eco”

Greater Cincinnati’s Annual Home & Garden show proves “green” products are here to stay, but knowledge of trends and environmental attributes is still playing catch up

There was a time not too long ago when we had to search to find “green” products and companies at the annual Greater Cincinnati Home & Garden Show.

But these days, you have to search hard to find exhibiting companies that don’t have some claim to being “green.” Even when I was sure I had found one on opening day, I was wrong.

There is nothing, I was sure, of environmental note about the slot machines on display by Gambler’s Oasis. But then I learned that this business buys machines that are about to be discarded, refurbishes them, and sells them for use in home game rooms.

“I hadn’t thought about pushing this as a ‘green’ product,” says owner Michael Piper. “But now that you bring it up, there are a lot of batteries and other parts in them that would not be good to send to the landfill.”

Accidental or by design, we have reached an age where most business owners know it’s politically correct to think about the planet and the impact of products on indoor-air quality. But we still face challenges in understanding how to tell if a product is trending natural in addition to being better for human health or the planet.

Nature’s Carpet

Naturally, this task is always easier when the retailer can explain it, and the explanation stands up to investigation. In several of the show’s booths, you will see that many  products carry third-party certifications that attest to how “green” a product is.  Still, these certifications only guide us through levels, from green to greenest.

An array of energy-efficiency companies at the show and elsewhere will be happy to show you their scientific calculations on how much you’ll cut your energy bills by using everything from geothermal to solar energy.

As you continue through the show, past all the banner slogans of “Green” this and “Eco” that, you might begin to pause and wonder. Yes, you’ll surmise, this slogan is logical on this shower wall that has been tiled with 74-percent post-consumer recycled glass.  But what about this countertop that is a mixture of granite and epoxy resins?

This flooring, you’ll observe, made of old, deconstructed barns clearly is natural and planet-friendly, in addition to being a growing trend. A few aisles away, you might recall, that concrete floors are a hot “green” trend on the West Coast right now, but what’s being added to the eye-catching styles with bold colors and metallic finishes?

You will get some guidance from an article titled Green Living Tips & Trends in the directory handed out to each show visitor, though its comment that traditional bamboo flooring “is the biggest trend right now” is a woefully behind design trends.

The best guidance you will get is from those who work with the products frequently and are able to give you the facts, including stylishness, durability, chemical content and testing results. The good news is that these people no longer are few and far between.

And despite resistance from some segments of the conservative building community to using low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints and other products, more builders are embracing “green,” and spreading their expertise. Case in point is a feature, also in the show directory, featuring the home of Dan Neyer, owner of the Neyer Properties real estate development company.

Most indicative that “green” is here for good is the language author Judi Ketteler uses in describing the Neyer home, where, she writes, there was no discernible “new house” odor.

“Instead of that aromatic blend of pressed wood and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the Neyers’ home smells like … nothing (otherwise known as fresh air).”

Some of us would just call this natural.©

— Nancy Kibbee is editor at naturalinteriors.com.

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