As You Sow | Oakland

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.

 

Designing an elegant office space, juxtaposed by various styles of furniture seamlessly create a zen work space.

 

 

Highlighting mementos from trips abroad against an ocher backdrop, every office speaks of each employee’s style.

 

 

A sophisticated intern work space made, with reclaimed redwood desks and reused desk chairs against a concord colored wall, makes for a fun day at the office!

Friends of the Earth | Berkeley

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.

 

 

Conference Room – A space that can function as a stand alone office, a place to gather and of course for weekly meetings.

 

 

With an open floor plan, designing a space with proper acoustics and division of space is key.

 

 

Up-cycling and reusing as much as possible was the natural foundation for this project.

 

 

Integrating a workspace with the reception allowed for the open floor plan to seamlessly flow.

 

 

1950′s vintage chairs with contrasting vintage maple table complete this intimate reception space.

 

 

Integrating elements of nature, such as these vintage cattails, was important as a nod to the work that FOE is doing.

As You Sow | San Francisco

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.

 

Reception of San Francisco office

Reception of San Francisco office

 

 

An auxiliary space where staff can casually come together to work, meditate, do yoga or collaborate.

 

 

This dynamic intern station was created for the various interns working on different campaigns.

 

 

Ping pong became a favorite staff past time in between meetings and busy workdays.

 

 

This vignette was created as an ode to cotton and As You Sow’s campaign to bring awareness to the child labor being used in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan and India.

Rose Foundation | Oakland

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.

 

Downtown Oakland

Reception

 

 

Conference Room

This versatile room is ideal for weekly meetings as well as workshops, where the tables can be arranged as a classroom.

 

Copy Room

Working with an open floor plan, the copy room seamlessly shares space with the reception.

Easy Ways to Make Your Home More Eco-Friendly

By:  Melissa Hathaway

Green HomeHaving 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 end use of energyenergy 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.

Fashionable Flooring

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

CFLThis 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!

Eco-Friendly Furniture Gains Momentum

Miami Herald

Forget “crunchy” furniture that looks like it was discovered in an old hippie commune from the 1960s.

“Green” or sustainable furniture now has a level of style and sophistication we didn’t see three years ago when the eco-friendly design movement first gained momentum. Eco-friendly no longer has to mean furniture that looks like it was thrown together from the scrap pile.

“Choosing something environmentally friendly doesn’t mean it has to be stark, uncomfortable or unusual in any way,” says Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of public relations and marketing for the American Home Furnishings Alliance, the largest trade association representing the home furnishings industry. She cited the example of C.R. Laine, one of the first manufacturers to use repurposed plastic bottles in the soft fiberfill of the upholstery backs of well-designed sofas.

The move toward eco-friendly or sustainable furniture is gaining momentum nationally. Other well-known companies like Copeland, Century and La-Z-Boy are joining the movement. So are fabric companies such as Schumacher, the Q Collection and O Echo Textiles.

Hirschhaut’s trade association has been helping manufacturers through a process to help them make more green furniture and reduce their manufacturing’s environmental impact.

“We have been seeing the eco-wave about three years,” she says. “The materials being used are not all revolutionary with the exception of soy-based foam.” The foam became a springboard for upholstery companies to use other green products such as natural fiber covers, sustainably harvested wood frames, recycled metal springs and nontoxic glues, she says.

GREEN SHOPPERS

Despite the increase in choices, only 8 percent of mainstream furniture buyers said they had purchased eco-friendly or green furniture, according to the 2009 Sustainable by Design Consumer Marketing Research Study conducted last October for the alliance. These green shoppers said they believed that the sustainable furniture was higher quality and they were willing to pay an additional 10 percent or more for it.

Consumers aren’t alone. Many designers and architects are also reluctant to go green.

“Designers often think sustainability means too much work and too much money,” Jobi Blachy told designers recently in the Nessen showroom at the Design Center of the Americas in Dania Beach. Blachy is president of Edward Ferrell + Lewis Mittman, a New York manufacturer of green furniture.

“Only 10 percent buy the furniture because it is sustainable and 90 percent because it’s beautiful.”

Cost doesn’t have to be a stumbling block. Industry experts say green furniture costs only 10 to 20 percent more than other furniture.

Herman Brun, a Miami architect and co-founder of the South Florida Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, says green has been popular in Europe for years, then Californians picked up the concept. It just began to take off in South Florida about 1 ½ years ago, says Brun, who owns Den Architecture with his wife, Lizmarie Esparza.

Despite the increased availability of green furniture, Brun says his clients are more into green building — solar panels and efficient plumbing, lighting and appliances — than green furniture.

“We are not getting the demand that would justify huge production of the furniture,” he says. “Most of the green furniture we use is produced custom by local craftsmen.”

USED PRODUCTS

New furniture isn’t the only alternative. Brun says the most sustainable furniture is used or reclaimed. Since it was already produced, the carbon footprint is minimal. He often finds pieces at salvage yards and flea markets.

Interior designer Nancy Astrid Lindo of Astrid Design Studio in San Francisco, an eco design and green consulting firm, also recommends that consumers shop at thrift, vintage and antique stores. She spoke recently on “Designing for a New Era” at MiaGreen Expo and Conference in Miami, a major green event for architects, engineers, designers and builders.

“Designers are known for creating interiors and doing a lot of fluff work,” she says. “I want to help them understand they have a much greater responsibility not to create just gorgeous interiors but to create a small eco system within the larger eco system.”

This means using furniture made with no toxic finishes, glues and adhesives, paired with organic fabrics and wood sourced from sustainable forests. If an old piece is being reupholstered, she suggests using soy or rubber as stuffing and going back to organic cotton, wool and horsehair.

But finding eco-friendly furniture outside of used sources isn’t that easy. The movement, still in its infancy, has no standard definition or government oversight. It does have independent certification programs that can help consumers identify green products such as GreenGuard (www.greenguard.org ) and the Forest Stewardship Council (www.fsc.org).

Companies are still “greenwashing,” or making claims for green that are exaggerated or aren’t true. And some furniture retailers may remove the hangtags that designate third-party certification.

Lindo suggests using a design professional to determine if the furniture is really green.

“A lot of manufacturers claim to be sustainable, and to the untrained eye they can convince you that a product is green when it isn’t,” she says. “A trained eye can peel back the layers and ask questions of the manufacturers so you can determine if it is sustainable.”

If you don’t want to use a designer, a good source for information is www.regreenprogram.org. The website, sponsored by the American Society of Interior Designers and the U.S. Green Building Council, offers a series of guidelines and sources for green remodeling.

MAKE AN IMPACT

Blachy says you don’t have to do a whole house green to make a difference. Even one or two green pieces of furniture can make an impact. Ask for certification, such as Forestry Stewardship Council or GreenGuard. Ask for a sustainability statement. Ask for the origin of materials. And ask for one with low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

“I think the main thing is to help people understand that sustainable, green and eco are not just for a certain demographic or a certain stereotype,” Lindo says. “Healthy living and healthy interiors can fit any budget. We need to demand these things of furniture manufacturers and vote with our dollars.”

Spring into Spring!

green cleanSpring 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.

Bronze Cleaner

  • 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!

Designing for a New Era

LivingHome

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.

Happy Hearts Fund – Bring Happiness Back!

HHF

Happy Hearts Fund is REBUILDING SCHOOLS in HAITI! Happy Hearts (HHF) helped the children of Haiti in 2007 by building an IT lab and again, we are there working with the people of this Caribbean nation in the next phase of rebuilding their country.

HHF concentrates it’s efforts on the rebuilding stages of areas devasted by natural disasters.  The post disaster recovery focuses on a sustainable long term plan, aimed at bringing happiness back to children’s livesthrough educational and sustainable programs, such as micro-credit initiatives that will support the projects.   HHF has built more than 46 schools in 8 countries impacted by tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes and
floods in Thailand, Peru, Indonesia and Mexico with additional programs in India, New Orleans, Sri Lanka and Haiti.  Currently, we are building Francisco Perez Acampa School, set to be completed this spring and Rosa de Santa Maria School, also slated to be completed in the spring.  More then 12,000 children and 250,000 community members benefit annually!

Supporting children and their communities through the reconstruction of their communities after natural disasters is a critical component in the rebuilding of a country.  This kind of effort bulids not only long term benefits, but empowers the community with the essence of education, unity and pride.  Children that are uneducated are more susceptible to violence, human trafficking and abuse.  Our programs are geared at helping children integrate back into their communities, build self esteem while exploring their intelligence and their gifts.

Happy Hearts Fund collaborates with NGO’s, local municipalities, banks, universities, private companies, schools and people like you.   It is through mutual collaboration that we are able to succeed in our mission to “Bring Happiness Back!” to the children of devastated areas.

Founded in 2006 by Petra Nemcova, after surviving the 2004 tsunami,  she now relieves the suffering of victims of natural catastrophes through her organization, Happy Hearts Fund.

The Board of Directors underwrites all administrative and fundraising expenses, to ensure that 100% of public funds are directly used to build schools and new infrastructures for
education.

What you can do NOW:

Visit: HappyHeartsFund.com
Twitter:  @HappyHeartsFund
Become a fan:  Facebook Fanpage
Text to Give: Text “HEART” and reply YES to give $5
Watch and Share: Bring Happiness Back

Creating An Eco-logical Home @ Go Green Expo – Los Angeles

I would like to invite you to the panel that I will  be hosting on Saturday, January 23 At 2:00pm discussing ‘Creating An Eco-logical Home.’ I am pleased to offer you 1/2 priced admission, simply visit Go Green Expo and use promo code LASPEAKER All Greenwhen registering for tickets. I look forward to seeing you there!

Go Green Expo, the nation’s premier eco-friendly tradeshow, is coming back to Los Angeles on January 22-24 in partnership with CBS-TV. The event will showcase the latest and greatest in all things green & eco-friendly. Additionally there will be food tastings, a job fair and a variety of panels and presentations.

I will feature some of the most dynamic experts in the field:


- Eric Corey Freed:  Organic Architect – Green Architect, Author

– Davida Heller:  Ecospire – Green Building Consultant
- L. Axil Comras: Green Home -  Product and Eco living specialist

– Shawn Berry – Woodshanti -  Furniture and finish expert
– Stacey Champion - Champion IndoorsIndoor Environmental Specialist
- Jennifer Schwab – Sierra Club Green HomeDirector of Sustainability