Eco-Friendly Family Ideas
This bungalow―located in the heart of one of the Greenest cities in the South―may be small, but it’s filled with healthy ideas that anyone anywhere can do.
Adopting a Green Lifestyle
Banana peels never see the inside of a trash can in Laura Britt's Austin, Texas, house. Nor do crumpled-up paper, wilting flowers, or Cheerios that 2-year-old Ethan sometimes spikes on the kitchen floor. All this stuff and more gets chucked in the family compost bin that sits by the back door between the porch and a black 1973 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible-- another thing Laura won't ever let go to waste. "You don't have to build solar panels on your house or collect rainwater to live Green," says Laura. "You can take small steps. Buy low-VOC paint, throw your leftovers in a compost bin, and choose high-quality natural materials that last longer and are better investments."
The way Laura sees it, one of the easiest ways to adopt a Green lifestyle is to cut down on what you throw away, to resist the urge to bring home cheap, disposable stuff that'll probably end up in a landfill in a year. The city of Austin backs her up on this one. In Laura's neighborhood, each household is allowed to fill one garbage bin a week. If you go over that, you're obliged to put a sticker on your spillover and pay more for the pickup.
Total Comfort, No Sacrifices
Refreshingly, Laura is a designer who practices the Green living that she preaches. She also puts pretty above all else. Her house may be Green, but it's the great style that really stands out--from the warm colors of the textured fireplace and kitchen cabinets to the adorable slip-covered dining chairs to the beautiful artwork and patterned rugs. "I'm not about sacrificing looks and style for Green," says Laura. "Above all, a room has to look good."
When she and husband Jeff Capra remodeled their 1940s bungalow, their choices revolved around comfort, sustainability, and healthful living. They salvaged as many original features as they could, including windows and hardwood floors. Where they couldn't salvage the windows, they replaced them with energy-efficient double-pane ones. In went a split-AC unit--one thermostat controls the upstairs, and one controls the downstairs--to save on energy costs. All the paint used on the walls is of the low-VOC variety. The rugs are made of natural materials.
A New Use for Paper
In the kitchen and laundry room, they installed gunmetal gray recycled-paper countertops, made of sheets of paper pressed together and bound with (if you can believe this) a resin made using cashew nutshells. The brand is PaperStone, and it's in the price range of natural stones such as granite or nonexotic marble. (For more information visit www.paperstoneproducts.com.)
Softer Than Tile
The kitchen and laundry room floors are a warm red mottled linoleum―a totally natural product so there's no off-gassing (putting chemicals into the air). "It's more durable than wood, and it's warmer and softer than tile," explains Laura. You can get it in tile-size squares or by the roll, and it's incredibly easy to clean. Plus, it comes in a wide variety of finishes and patterns.
"Smart Living, Family Style" is from the May 2008 issue of Southern Living.