Interior design in Eagle Co. " the green way |

Interior design in Eagle Co. " the green way

Matt Terrell
Vail CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” So you’ve built your environmentally friendly, solar powered, beetle-killed pine tree house. Good job.

Now you just need to fill it with all sorts of green stuff. Sofas. Refrigerators. Kitchen flooring. All that can be environmentally friendly, if you know how to look for it.

Along with everything else labeled “green” in the United States, so called “green interior design” is growing in popularity.

The way you decorate your house, from painting your bedroom, to your bathroom tiles, to your appliances, can all effect the environment, say Kari Foster and Debbie Hindman, partners in Associates III, a sustainable interior design firm based in Denver. They recently published a book called “Sustainable Residential Interiors.”

So how do you deck out your home in the greenest way possible? Most of it comes down to product choices.

With every product, it’s possible to examine what impact it has on the environment compared to others. Foster said you should ask yourself two questions: “Where does it come from?” and “Where does it go?”

Did this product come from a rainforest? Was it pulled up from deep in the ground and can’t grow back? Were a lot of trees chopped down to make it? Is it made from some strange space-age polymer requiring tons of fuel to create?

If your answer is “yes” to any of those questions, you’re probably not buying a green product.

You could buy a footrest imported from China, burning tons of fossil fuels along the way ” or, you could buy a footrest made from a local craftsman, who maybe used some recycled wood. You can just put it in the back of your pickup truck ” no cardboard boxes, plastic wrapping and Styrofoam cushioning needed; no 24-hour, across the Pacific shipping.

Then, you ask where that product will go when you’re through with it. Would someone want to reuse your old sofa? Can you pass it on to your children? Can your wood flooring be recycled? Or will it go to a landfill? Will it sit in the Earth for millions of years?

Foster points out that buying these type of products often create paradoxes ” some products that are long lasting, say made from steel, also take a lot of energy to make. While other products, while more environmentally friendly, won’t last as long and will have to be replaced.

Here are some general tips Foster and Hindman shared on sustainable interior design:

– Use recycled materials. It reduces waste and reduces the need for people to pull up more raw materials from the earth. For instance, Associates III designed a kitchen that used salvaged wood from a bowling alley for the kitchen island tops.

– Use renewable materials. This means buying products made from things that grow back quickly, like bamboo. Other examples are “rice board” or “wheat board,” which is made from the leftover, inedible plant matter left behind when rice and wheat are harvested. Using wood cut down from trees that have been around for ages isn’t a good thing.

– When choosing wood for things like doors, look for wood that comes from a well managed, sustainable forest.

– If you hire someone to do work on your home, find businesses that incorporate environmentally friendly practices in their job, such as making sure they recycle leftover lumber scraps.

– Look for the “embodied energy” of products. Did it come from Brazil? Or did it come from down the street?

– Look for things that are long lasting. Things made of stone or concrete, while they may have taken a lot of energy to make, are good if you plan to keep them for a long, long time. If it’s made to last, go ahead and use it for all its worth.

– Natural paints are an easy choice to make. Instead of harmful, polluting chemicals, they are made from things like milk protein, clay and soy.

– Furniture can be a tough one. Locally made furniture is wonderful and cuts down on packing materials and shipping.

– When you’re choosing appliances, choose high efficiency ones as made by Energy Star. Look for low water toilets and low-flow shower heads.

Check out to learn more about green interior design and to buy the book “Sustainable Residential Interiors.”

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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