Heidi Tankersley of A Splash of Green is the green lifestyle consultant for ECO Modern Flats. With her expertise in non-toxic, environmentally friendly products, she has guided the selection of materials used for finishing the interior spaces of the flats. We asked Heidi to tell us a little more about her company, her method for choosing materials for ECO, and keeping a healthier home.
Tell me about your business, A Splash of Green:
A Splash of Green is a Northwest Arkansas company specializing in products that support a healthy home environment. My husband and I run a green construction business, and we found that once a house was built, there was not a local source for the products and materials you need to maintain a non-toxic, healthy home environment. A Splash of Green evolved from the idea of helping people to maintain a healthy home after the building stage.
What guides you in selecting products for use at ECO Modern Flats?
My biggest concern is the health of the people who will live here. I look for products that will limit peoples’ chemical exposure. In particular, I look for products that are evaluated for off-gassing. [Off-gassing is the gradual release of chemical gasses from a product into the air. In the closed environment of a home, off-gassing can contribute to poor air quality.]
In addition to considering the human health impact, I take a holistic view and assess the impact a product will have on the environment throughout its lifecycle. I look at a supplier and ask: “What are they doing to live out what they are selling?” It’s important how the product affects the end user, but it’s also important to consider things like how the company reduces waste, how they are powered, and how products are shipped. Ideally, products that are non-toxic and good to include in our homes are also made in a way that demonstrates environmental stewardship in every step of the process.
Tell me about some of the products you have chosen for ECO. Which are you most excited about?
I’m excited about the no-VOC interior paint from Yolo Colorhouse. [VOC stands for Volitile Organic Compounds, which have been linked to health problems.] I really like working with suppliers like Yolo, because everything they produce is something that I would use in my own home. They make only no-VOC paint. Some larger suppliers offer one or two green products, but Yolo is committed to producing products without chemicals that have been linked to health problems.
All the interior paint is from Yolo, and Yolo has custom mixed ECO’s signature grellow, orange, green, and blue, which will be used on apartment doors. We are also using STONE .07, a modern grey, for an accent in some flats.
I’m also really pleased with the countertops. We’ve chosen a locally-made concrete counter for the kitchen. These counters have a gorgeous dark glossy finish that compares to solid stone. And since they are made locally, we have saved all the emissions associated with shipping tons of material across the country.
HEATING AND AIR CONDITIONING
The mini-split heating and air conditioning systems were chosen primarily for their energy savings and the ability for each unit to have complete control over heating and cooling. I’m excited about the systems because they have a great health impact, too. Over time, dust and allergens can build up in the ducts of conventional forced-air systems. This mini-split system is ductless, so there’s no place for dust and irritants to hide!
The textiles used in conventional window textiles can be a huge source of chemical exposure. I’ve found a great line of hemp/cotton blends, and I’m working on a sample curtain project now. There are also some other window coverings that we are evaluating.
What’s one simple, inexpensive step that someone can take to make their home a more healthy indoor environment?
One thing that you can do today is to take a long hard look at the products you use to clean your home. We have a belief that killing germs and bacteria equals clean. Somewhere along the line, we lost sight of the fact that our bodies are equipped to handle a few germs—but our bodies are not built to handle constant exposure to synthetic chemicals. With so many conventional cleaning products, we are trading germs for toxic chemicals, which can have a much more harmful effect, especially on children and pets.
With some very inexpensive basics—I use vinegar, baking soda, and borax—you can replace the toxic chemicals with harmless ones. I use a simple mixture of diluted castile soap and an essential oil as a multipurpose cleaner. Tea tree oil is one of my favorites—it’s an antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral all in one. If you aren’t ready to make your own cleaning products, there are good ones available at natural foods stores or at A Splash of Green. When you use these cleaners, you can smell the difference. You don’t have to run out of the bathroom with a gasmask!
ECO will use only all-natural cleansers, and this is so important. So often in a rental setting, you have no knowledge or control over the chemicals that you are being exposed to. I hope it gives people some peace of mind to know that we’ve considered their health all along.