There's a lot of talk about going green, especially in the spring and particularly around Earth Day, which falls on Sunday this year. Being environmentally aware in your interior design choices can take many forms, from installing solar panels on your roof to buying eco-conscious products aimed at protecting your family and the planet.
If the prospect of greening your life seems overwhelming, though, it doesn't have to be. Eco-aware designers recommend beginning with small steps.
"I think going green has to start with an awareness, and the awareness has to start from the top down," says Peter Sabbeth, principal at Sag Harbor developer ModernGreenHome, whose firm designed the renovation of an East Hampton home. The redesign included -- but was not limited to -- installing solar panels on the roof, recycled materials and wood from managed forests.
Maggie Wood, a green design consultant in Jamesport, says being green is also about perspective: How much energy did it take to produce a product? Is it healthy for the user? Can it be recycled?
"Something can be green if it falls into just one category, or two, but for me it has to fall into all three," she says. "But I tell people to prioritize. Think about who you are, where are you and what your priorities are."
Putting energy into saving it
For Michael Cohen of East Hampton, going green was about respecting his environment and passing that respect on to his family. When it came time to renovate, it was a natural choice to stay as eco-friendly as possible.
"Our value system, and our understanding about what's happening in our environment, means we wanted to raise our kids in nature," says Cohen, a consultant who lives with his wife, Cari Harendorf, and their three children. "We're not activists, but if you're going to renovate your home, why wouldn't you do it green? If you think about energy production and energy savings, it's the right thing to do."
For the kitchen, Cohen and designer Sabbeth used boards and wood from recycled material or a managed forest, and low-VOC paints. In the living room is a 6-foot-long energy-efficient gas ribbon fireplace from Sparks. "It actually saves us money, because if we're in the living room, we can turn off the heat."
The wall unit in the living room is made from the same type of recycled boards as the kitchen cabinets as well as the vanity in the master bathroom. There, the bathtub is acrylic, made of the same materials as Corian, a countertop material. "They took all sorts of chemical waste and solidified it, colorized, and it doesn't off-gas at all," says Sabbeth.
This old eco-house
Some people go green because it gives a home a distinct feel. "We like the size of new construction, and the height of the ceilings, but we wanted the character of an old house," says Jill Smith, a philanthropist who has lived in this Water Mill home for five years with her husband, Bob, an investment banker.
Smith says she wanted to use existing materials when she decided to renovate the library of the house, now on the market, with the help of Mark Epstein, principal at Mark Epstein Designs.
Epstein, who splits his time between Manhattan and his own home in Water Mill, sheathed the walls in vintage wood, which is more affordable than new mahogany, and warmer. The room uses recycled barn wood instead of traditional paneling.
NYC Green Festival
The Green Festival New York launches Saturday and Sunday at the Javits Center North in Manhattan. There will be two days of exhibits, lectures and activities. Day passes are $10 and $15 at the door; weekend passes, $15 online and $25 at door; Festival Fun Pass includes T-shirts and more, $49 online, $65 at door. Tickets include tote bag while supplies last. Children 18 and under, free; visit greenfestivals.org.