Refresh 2: How to Choose Better Carpet.

When choosing carpet with the environment and health in mind, the answers to questions such as “synthetic or natural fibres?” or “what chemical treatments have been used?” aren’t necessarily as clear-cut as they might appear.

Natural fibres, like wool, are not always necessarily better than synthetic fibres from an environmental perspective. Wool fibres can be treated with solvents and detergents during processing, and effluent from scouring operations can contribute to water pollution if it isn’t properly treated.

However, natural fibres may have natural stain resistant properties, eliminating the need for nasty stain-repellent chemical treatments, and should only emit low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Natural fibres are also renewable resources and biodegradable.

During manufacture, synthetic fibre production can result in the release of sulphur or nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere, contributing to air pollution. Foam used for a carpet backing may also have been manufactured using ozone-depleting chemicals, or may present a risk to human health through the inclusion of potentially carcinogenic compounds such as 1,3-butadiene.

There are also chemical treatments and dyes to consider. Stain-repellent and fire-retardant treatments typically contain a class of compounds called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, which have been found in measurable levels in human blood and breast milk. They’ve been linked to thyroid and hormone disruption, and other chemicals classed as ‘flame retardants’ have been linked to cancer.

The best materials for carpeting from an environmental perspective are recycled materials. These minimise the amount of waste generated and cut down on resources used. Third-party certification schemes and ecolabel programmes like GECA make finding better carpet products much easier, since they take all of the potential environmental, health and social impacts into account.

Refresh content provided by our Education Partner, Good Environmental Choice Australia.

Ethical interior products are important

”To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, states should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption…”
Principle 8, Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 1992

To be effective in creating change, it is essential to make it part of our everyday life. We have the power of choice and positive choices can trigger wider movement within communities to make ethically conscious decisions.

Ethical interior products are made by workers in good conditions who are paid properly for their time. Even better when the products are made from recycled or upcycled materials and are long lasting.

There are some companies that work with communities to create jobs, whilst investing in a product and cleaning up the surrounding environment. A perfect example of this is a company that works with local communities to make products made out of unused or old fishing nets that are often left in the ocean.

Purchase interior products that you love, have minimal impact on our environment, encourages fair trade and harnesses better working conditions. Remember to always ask the sales people if their products are low impact and, if so, ask them to provide proof!

Refresh No.1: What’s in your paint?

The benefits of paints with a lower environmental and health impact are obvious, but how much do we know about what’s actually in the average tin?

Paint consists of three basic ingredients – pigment, binder and solvent – plus a range of additives. Each ingredient can potentially have a negative environmental or health impact over the life cycle of the paint. Pigments, for example, provide the colour and opacity in paint, and titanium dioxide is often used for this purpose. Unfortunately, its manufacturing process can be environmentally harmful: it contains high embodied energy, is a limited resource and results in unwanted air and water emissions.

The solvent evaporates as paint dries, and if an organic solvent has been used (as opposed to a water base), it most likely releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. This contributes to poor indoor air quality and a range of respiratory symptoms.

Paints may also contain biocides for preventing bacterial or fungal growth in the can or on the painted surface. While these are necessary, it’s important to exclude any that are carcinogenic or otherwise significantly toxic.

Third-party certification, such as the Good Environmental Choice Australia ecolabel, is evidence that environmental or health claims made by a paint manufacturer are verifiable and that the product is a better choice. The GECA Paints and Coatings standard places strict limits on substances such as titanium dioxide and ensures VOCs are kept to a minimum.

Refresh content provided by our Education Partner, Good Environmental Choice Australia.

Sponsor Feature: Smart, stylish and sustainable — introducing Brightgreen’s new LED Surface Series.

Melbourne-based premium LED lighting company Brightgreen has launched a new collection of minimalist surface-mounted designs. The range includes petite, surface-mount, flexi-mount, track and pendant fittings — giving homeowners the chance to tailor unique lighting plans while maintaining continuity in their design.

As part of the Brightgreen’s mission to defy planned obsolescence, Surface Series lights have exceptionally long product lifetimes. Each of the luminaires provide up to 70,000hrs of light, the equivalent of approximately 30yrs on average daily use. The five designs all feature simple, easy-to-install mounting plates — eliminating the need for cutouts and gaps in insulation —giving users the additional benefit of increased home thermal efficiency.

Combining sustainable design with superb quality, Surface Series lights use Tru-Colour technology to enhance the appearance of skin tones, interior colours and design details. The entire collection is free from heavy metals, including hexavalent chromium, mercury and lead, which are found in CFL lights and other LED lights.

Learn more about how the Surface Series can add to your design and increase your home energy ratings at