Life in the Green Lane

Environmental journalist Candice Batista shares video clips and eco-savvy advice from her TV show, A Greener Toronto.

Doing some work around the house? Here’s a look at how to lay the foundation and build a green home brick by brick. Let’s start with the floor, vinyl flooring is popular because it’s cheap and easy to clean, but its also not the best option when it comes to your health. Vinyl is made with Poly Vinyl Chloride or PVC, which releases thalates and chemicals that bind with house hold dust and can contribute to respiratory problems, especially in kids. Natural cork tiles are a great green alternatives, they are made from replenished wood and even better cork trees grow in 8-9 years. They’re easy to use and need no glue, and they also act as a natural thermal insulator, helping you cut back on the energy used to heat your home. If you have your heart set on tiles, make sure their are recycled, Terra Green makes a great alternative, and their tiles are over 50% recycled glass. VOCs or volatile organic compounds are found throughout any home, so is you are using glue, look for ones that have low VOCs. Most synthetic carpets are installed with glues that contain VOC’s. If you really want carpets, try floor band tiles, they are made from recycled materials, and are held in place with stickers that have low VOC glue. Wood flooring is the greenest way to go, for added flair think about area rugs made with natural grasses like sysil and jute or go for natural fibers like hemp, wool or organic cotton. For a wood floor, go for bamboo, bamboo grows fast, reclaimed and recycled wood is even better. Now onto the walls, color can add so much to a room, when choosing paints avoid ones with VOCs. Most paints contain chemicals like benzene, carcinogens, nuero toxins and formaldehyde, just to name a few. These chemicals are bad for us and have been known to cause headache and nausea. Here's a breakdown of materials: Moso Bamboo comes from Asia. It is a renewable resource especially if it comes from a well managed crop. Once cut down, bamboo grows back in only a few years. Be wary of some bamboo products, they main contain formaldehyde (in a toxic adhesive). If you are using cork, its a great choice. Cork is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees in China and the Mediterranean. (Mostly Portugal and Spain) It's a renewable resource because its harvested from mature trees over a nine year period, at that point the bark grows back. Its renewable because every ounce of harvested bark is utilized, there is no waste stream. It's recyclable and can be grown without using herbicides, synthetic fertilizers or irrigation. Although cork is harvested in China, its not the best quality as it usually contains higher levels of formaldehyde. You will also want to avoid cork products that use toxic adhesive and coatings. If you are not sure, buy cork products from the Mediterranean instead. If you are going for wood, make sure its reclaimed wood. Reusable wood recovered from deconstructed buildings or factories is the best. This practice is growing in popularity, here in Toronto, you can find gorgeous one of a kind pieces at a company called Urban Tree Salvage. Reclaimed wood products takes stress of old growth forests and keep junk out of our landfill. A word to the wise though, if you are collecting reclaimed wood yourself, make sure you recover it in an eco-friendly manner as extraction can harm the ecosystem it comes from. If you are buying reclaimed wood products, look for the SmartWood Rediscovered label to be sure. Finally, if you are going for recycled plastics, paper metals or glass, find out how much of the content is recycled, The higher the "post consumer" percentage, the better! Whatever your next home improvement project is, try to make it an earth friendly one. Happy building. EcoCandy.