Environmental and socially responsible non-profit law firm, As You Sow, moved their offices across the Bay to bustling downtown Oakland in the summer of 2012. Once again Astrid Design Studio was called in to design a large mundane space into an eclectic and vibrant office. All the furniture from their San Francisco office were re-used and all additional pieces were sourced second hand, aligning with the style of the of their staff. Spaces were creatively re-purposed to accommodate As You Sow’s growing staff and intern capacity.
Designing with reused office furniture, no VOC paint and up-cycled decor, the As You Sow office’s align with their environmental ethics.
Friends of the Earth is an international non-profit working on environmental, social, political and human rights issues. Their campaigns stretch beyond the traditional arena of the conservation movement and seek to address the economic and development aspects of sustainability.
Friends of the Earth moved from their San Francisco high rise office to the LEED certified David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley, CA.
Astrid Design incorporated mid-century vintage furniture with furniture that was donated, all while creating a cohesive and elegant solution. All decor and furniture was sourced second-hand, offering an eclectic and fun working environment. Acoustic panels proved to have form and function in this intimate setting, creating a dynamic wall montage throughout the space. Designing a space with privacy and with the illusion of partitions, in an open floor-plan, was a challenge well accommodated.
As You Sow is a nonprofit law firm that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies.
The offices of this environmental and socially responsible non-profit were designed to reflect the diversity in character, age and demographic of the staff, projects and clientele. The design speaks of the integrity and consciousness of this organization through the 100% re-use of materials, furniture and decor, while juxtaposing these elements in a manner that piques interest. The entire space was sourced from second-hand sources, an element that offers an innate respect for their work, the environment and the desire to live by that which they speak.
Astrid Design created an Eco-Task Force to support this vision, in addition, helped them apply for a Bay Area Green Business Certification.
The Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment is a grant-making public charity. It nurtures positive interactions between communities, the environment and the economy through grant-making, research and advocacy.
The Rose Foundation moved from their intimate setting of two Berkeley apartments, after 18 years, to a highrise in downtown Oakland.
Combining as much of their original furniture as possible with second-hand furniture, the Rose Foundation maintained the non-corporate vibe they desired. Working within the perimeters of a tight budget, Astrid Design Studio pushed the creative limits and designed a space that is fresh and bright all while providing the needs for this growing organization.
By: Melissa Hathaway
Having an environmentally friendly home is no longer solely the aspiration of hippies and dedicated eco warriors. As awareness of the importance of preserving our planet and minimizing our impact on it increases, so does the interest in bringing green practices to the heart of the home. There’s no escaping it now: new environmental knowledge means that everywhere you go and everything you do leaves a huge environmental foot print that you can’t help taking notice of. Adopting green practices in your own home can help you begin to minimize that environmental foot print and even save you money. When it comes to protecting the environment, the work really does start right on your doorstep. Here are some easy ways that you can make your home more eco-friendly.
Think about the temperature
You don’t have to construct your own home with eco-credentials to make significant changes to the environmental foot print of your property. Almost half of the energy consumption within the average home is due to heating the home during the winter and cooling it during the summer. In 2009 41.5% of energy consumption within the home was due to space heating. But you can easily minimize this energy consumption (and save yourself some money in the process too). During cold weather turn down the temperature on your thermostat, and keep it higher during warmer weather. Each degree under 68°F (20°C) during a cold spell saves 3%-5% more heating energy, while keeping your thermostat at 78°F on hot days will save you energy and money. If you have an older furnace, maybe it’s time to consider a new one. Modern furnaces are approximately 25% more efficient than they were in the 1980s, so the impact this could have on your energy consumption would be significant. Finally, consider turning off your air conditioning and shade your east and west windows during warm weather to keep your home cool instead. Consider only using heat producing appliances (such as the oven or dish washer) in the evening when the temperature has started to drop.
Hardwood floors are having something of a renaissance, and are currently a hugely fashionable option for interior flooring. If you would like to replace the flooring in your home with wooden flooring, why not consider bamboo. Bamboo flooring is widely considered to be an environmentally friendly option because of its extraordinarily high yield and the fast rate at which it grows. Bamboo takes just between four and six years to grow to complete maturity. In comparison, traditional hardwoods take between 50-100 years to mature, making them a much less sustainable option. Ensure you look for sources that use formaldehyde-free glues.
Time For Energy Saving Light Bulbs
This is an obvious one, but it is amazing how many people still aren’t making use of the new breed of energy saving light bulbs. It’s true that energy saving light bulbs taking a little longer to light up, and the light may not be as bright as you’re used to, but this is by far outweighed by the energy saving benefits of using them. Trading just one ordinary incandescent light bulb for a compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulb prevents the emission of over 400 pounds of greenhouse gases: imagine the effect on the environment, then, when you change every light bulb in your house! If you’re thinking of going green and replacing all of the light bulbs in your home then check out the Environmental Defense Fund’s website first: they have a great section highlighting why it’s so important.
Keep Your Garden Green
No, we’re not simply talking about filling your garden with as many green plants as possible! If you can, only plant plants that are native to your area. Over hundreds of years, native plants have learned to adapt to the local environment. They also support native insects and animals which are essential for pollination and a healthy eco-system. If you enjoy gardening and have a large garden, why not create your own compost heap? You can recycle your household food waste and create a wonderful fertilizer for your plants. Synthetic fertilizer is full of chemicals which aren’t good for local wild life and don’t encourage the production of healthy plants. Want to get healthy and active, as well as become more green? Then why not replace your petrol lawn mower with a push mower! The only energy you’ll be using up is your own!
Spring time is here, the perfect opportunity to dust off that winter layer and ring in a new season. While dusting things off and making way for a new energy in your home, consider integrating some simple green elements into your space. This is an ideal time to begin developing green habits while turning your home into a nurturing, healthy sanctuary.
Start off by opening all the windows and doors and allow the fresh aromas of this season to move through your house. Even if you live a bustling metropolis, outside air is usually cleaner than stagnant indoor air, a bit surprising isn’t it?
Consider a deep cleaning of furniture covers, linens and rugs – an excellent opportunity to get rid of dust bunnies and hiding cobwebs.
During this clean sweep, consider storing heavy winter blankets and trade them for lighter cottons and natural fibers. If you have heavy drapery on your windows, safely store them for the Fall and hang light-weight fabrics that will allow the warm sunshine to stream into your home.
Since this is a time of natural transformation, consider taking a full approach and remove any items from your home that have piled up over the years. Donate what you don’t need and safely remove anything that needs to be handled properly, such chemicals and hazardous materials.
A great place to start is by removing the toxins that already reside in your home. Check under the kitchen/bathroom sink and garage for unknown and miscellaneous products that may be potentially hazardous to your health and that of your family. Many everyday products fall under this category, always read ingredients and caution labels. My rule of thumb is, if I cannot pronounce the ingredient or recognize it, I trust that it is dangerous and opt to not have it in my home. Should you find some of these things and want to get rid of and don’t know how? Drop them off at a Haz Mat (hazardous material) collection site.
Instead of spending extra money on future purchases of some of these chemicals, consider how our grandparents used to clean – naturally!
Here are some DIY recipes:
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- ¼ cup baking soda
- ½ Lemon
- 1 cup vinegar
Mix ingredients into a paste, place inside rim and let sit for a couple of minutes and then scrub.
Add essential oils (ie: tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus) for pleasant odors and anti-fungal/bacteria fighting properties.
Tub / Tile Cleaner
- 1 cup water
- 3 cups baking soda
- For tough stains use white vinegar on a rag to help first.
* Careful as vinegar may also break down grout.
Mix ingredients into a paste and apply with a brush and scrub.
Add essential oils (ie: tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus) for pleasant odors and anti-fungal/bacteria fighting properties.
- ¼ cup sea salt
- ½ lemon
Sprinkle salt on bronze and use half lemon like a sponge and work in circular motion. Voila!
With these simple recipes you will quickly realize that harmful and expensive cleaners are not necessary to get the job done. You can find more recipes here.
Some other easy tips would be to incorporate aerators on your faucets and low flow showerheads for your bathroom. Be cautious with the amount of water you use and consider it a source for life rather than a resource!
Another simple tip to consider is shopping at the farmers market at least a few times a month. Not only do you support your local economy but you will be assured with knowing where you food comes from.
Spring-cleaning is optimum for enticing the senses and promoting a lighter sensibility. Take advantage of this metamorphosis that is happening all over nature and incorporate elements into your life to help you live a more simple and green life – Happy Spring!
We are living at the dawn of a New Era, a time in history where we have never had this much access to information and technology as well as native cultures from all regions of the world.
With the evolution of design, building and architecture, we have an unprecedented amount of responsibility considering the state of our natural world. Globally, the earth is changing at a dramatic rate, human population continues to grow exponentially and we continue to tap our natural resources.
With the evolution of modern technology and intuitive living, we can shift from a society that extracts to one that is regenerative and in turn is balanced.
By incorporating, site location, human scale, and natural elements such as, weather patterns and local materials into the design of buildings, we can begin to return to a localized way of designing our communities.
For the past several decades, we have been using templates of cookie cutter homes, buildings and commercial structures to design our urban cities. What we have discovered is that every region is specific with its own climate, topography and natural resources. Beginning to integrate all these elements, in addition to, the orientation, the design, materials, and culture of a place we can we begin Designing for a New Era.
Design can be defined as the creation and execution of an object, space or system.
In its broader terms, it has the capacity to represent many things, in this context design is not only referencing our homes and workplace, but also to our landscapes our neighborhoods and in turn our cities.
In taking a journey through design, we begin with the interior and work our way out, painting a picture on how everything is interrelated.
Often times, sustainable design is not seen, but rather it is felt. Now is a time to see interior design as a hybrid of combining such key components as green building and design as well as ecological interior and exterior spaces.
One of the biggest problems we face are environmental toxins, chemicals and other materials, created largely from industry, masked as dryer sheets, smoke, scented candles, antibacterial products, air fresheners, cleaners, furniture, deodorizers, cat litter, sprays, perfume/cologne and synthetic fibers.
These chemicals have saturated our water, food and the very air we breathe, but most important, they have entered our bodies and now we are passing this on to our children.
So, what is in our interiors?
• Phthalates – Found in plastics, plastic wrap, plastic bottles, plastic food containers and fragrances
• Phenols – Found in household cleaners, perfumes, polishes, waxes and hard plastics.
• Urea Formaldehyde – Found in furniture, carpets, upholstery, plastics, building materials and foam insulation.
• Biological Pollutants – Found in dust, mold and mildew.
• Organochlorine Compounds – Found in pesticides, chlorine, paints, waxes, plastics, PVC and vinyl.
• VOC : volatile organic compounds – Found in paint, furniture and carpeting.
• PBDE : polybrominated diphenyl ethers – Found in flame retardants found in furniture, soft furnishings and electronics.
Many of these chemicals are not only found in our living environment, but have made their way into our food supply through the various natural cycles found in life.
Common practice uses a variety of chemicals in our soft furnishings, carpeting, electronics and fabrics; information that should encourage us to be as discerning as possible. It is key to eliminate these chemicals, in addition to, a host of many others that have never been tested for their toxicity levels to human life.
These days there are material and product selection for all things green. Consult your experts and always source products that are built to last, made properly, non-toxic and healthy.
There is a new approach to the conventional way of designing and building that incorporates new ways of thinking, in a more fundamental manner, such as incorporating lifecycle analysis as well as form and function, amongst so much more.
Let us start designing and creating a future that does not require purchasing food, clothing and furniture that does not have chemicals in them, but rather making sustainability standard practice and green building and designing becoming a way of life.