Breathe Easier in Your Home

We all need to breathe clean air. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more challenging in some places to do that. In the US, we’ve finally gotten a lot of the outdoor air cleaned up, but now our indoor air is even more polluted. That makes it difficult to be healthy and well when we can’t even breathe in clean, healthy air. It’s time to provide you with some tips on how you can breathe easier in your home by making simple choices.

The Chemicals You Don’t See

Most of the things we bring into our homes carry chemicals that are harmful to us. Unfortunately, much of the time we aren’t even aware of the dangers. If we can’t smell them, they can’t be there, right? And if you’re not looking for those chemicals, you may be exposing yourself to unhealthy toxins.

Even if you’re the kind of person who checks labels, it’s not like the label will say, “There are chemicals in here that might be an irritant or make you sneeze.” We buy these things, bring them into our homes, and are left to wonder why we don’t feel good at home. Today’s homes are getting tighter and tighter, and when we add pollutants to that environment, they can stay trapped in there.

Breathe Easier by Not Bringing in Toxins

The easiest way to breathe easier in your home is to not bring those toxins in. Thankfully, product labels are getting better. They’re not perfect, but they are better. Look at the ingredients as a matter of habit.

As you’re reviewing labels, be sure to look for a green label. GREENGUARD is a label that provides third-party, independently tested assurance that a product is safe and healthy for your family. This label can be found on a variety of products including flooring, carpets, paints, glues, and finishes.

Another culprit that’s attacking our ability to breathe easier is fragrances. Everything has fragrance. Fragrances are protected, trademarked secrets, which means that manufacturers don’t have to tell you everything they used to scent their products. They just tell you one word: fragrance. A lot of people are sensitive to fragrances, so this is an area where you need to be careful.

Look for natural fragrances as opposed to those that are chemically derived.

Focus on Ventilation

With today’s tighter homes, it’s important to ventilate. You can let in some fresh air on nice days by opening doors and windows. Or you can talk to your HVAC contractor about adding an air ventilation system. This system is added to your regular heating and cooling system so you don’t even have to think about ventilation. In today’s homes, it’s much more effective than natural ventilation.

Subscribe on iTunes and get the show notes on The Everyday Green Home Podcast. Get the gab with us as we share what we’ve done, as well as tips for greening up your home, your job, your family and your life! Get in on the gab for why green matters.


Fragrance-Free Cleansers

Fragrance-Free Personal Care Products

Safecoat Paints

Listen to the Podcast or Read the Full Transcript Below

Marla:                   Breathe. Air. We all need it. We need it to live. We need to breathe clean air. We need to breathe healthy air. It’s becoming more and more challenging in some places to do that. We finally got a lot of the outdoor air cleaned up in the United States, and now our indoor air’s even more polluted. This makes it awful hard for us to maintain the health and wellness that we really want to, when we can’t even breathe in clean and healthier air.

Hi, I’m Marla, the Green Home Coach. I’m here today to give you a couple of quick tips about how you can breathe easier in your home simply by making some simple choices.

Most of the stuff we bring into our home carries another free rider on it. A lot of that stuff we bring into our home has pollutants in it, chemicals that are harmful to us, and we don’t even know it. Sometimes we can’t even smell it. You also bring in allergens and moisture, and those don’t work so well in our homes either. But today I really wanna concentrate on those toxins, those pollutants or chemicals that we bring into our home, unwittingly, that really may not be so healthy for us after all.

You know, you don’t really think about it, and nobody lists on the label, “Hey, I have a chemical in here that might be an irritant to you, or might make you sneeze a lot.” And then all the sudden we’re wondering why we don’t feel so good when we’re spending a lot of times in our home. Our homes are getting tighter and tighter, and when we bring in stuff that we don’t know what’s in it, hmm, it may stay trapped in our house.

So, what are we to do? Well, number one, don’t bring it in if you can. How do you do that? Well, you learn more about it. Maybe you need to read what’s in the product. There is better labeling going on. It’s still not up to the par I’d like to see it. But one of the tricks I love is checking for a green label.

In particular, for pollutants and toxins and chemicals, the GREENGUARD label is the one to look for. GREENGUARD will give you that third-party, independent-tested assurance that that product is going to be safer and healthier for you and the people in your home. This can be found on different products, like flooring and carpets, and paints, and glues, and finishes. That’s a great place to start. When you bring that stuff in, just check it out, and make sure it’s the safest and healthiest that you want for your home.

The other thing we inadvertently bring into our homes is lots of fragrances because everything has fragrance. You know what? Because fragrances are kind of one of those protected secrets that a lot of manufacturers have, they don’t always tell you the ingredients in the fragrance. They just list that word fragrance. I for one am very sensitive to fragrance, so I’ve learned to really be careful with this one. I’ve learned a lot of other people are too.

If you can look for natural fragrances as opposed to chemically derived fragrances, you may have a lot better luck. You’re gonna find fragrance in all kinds of things, including air fresheners and perfumes, and soaps and personal care products. So just look for a healthier alternative to maybe not have to go down that road.

What else can you do? Well, you can ventilate your home. Let in some fresh air, so when you do have those pollutants coming in, you can get them out. Or better yet, talk to your heating cooling contractor about a fresher ventilation system that you can put into your system, and that way you don’t have to think about it.

There’s lots of options here that you can look for. You can look for safer healthier cleaners as well. And this one is the one that I find is kind of the gateway into green, is get started with those healthier cleaners. When you hear about somebody going onto Shark Tank, and drinking their cleaner on the show, you gotta feel like it’s a safer, better alternative. Again, you’ve got green certification labels to help you down that road.

Hey, to learn more about your options and all kinds of ideas for things you can do and buy, listen in to the Breathe episode of the Green Gab podcast, and you’ll learn how to breathe better in your home.

Marla Esser:                       Welcome to the Green Gab. This is Marla Esser, the Green Home Coach, and on here with my intellectual partner in green, Tony Pratte. [crosstalk] How are you doing, Tony?

Tony Prattee:                    I’m doing well, Marla. How about yourself?

Marla Esser:                       Well, you know, a little bit of a cold. Other than that …

Tony Pratte:                       Yeah, you sound a little under the weather. I know you were coughing earlier during pre-production.

Marla Esser:                       I know. If you all hear me go off the air for a second, you’ll know why.

Tony Pratte:                       We’ll fill with something.

Marla Esser:                       Oh, I’m confident of that. No problem. No problem. Hey, this fun. We are … I think we’re right around 19 or 20 podcasts now.

Tony Pratte:                       I know.

Marla Esser:                       Can you believe that?

Tony Pratte:                       No, I can’t actually.

Marla Esser:                       It’s gone fast.

Tony Pratte:                       I didn’t expect to be doing this this year.

Marla Esser:                       Well, no. I didn’t either. We kind of invented this. Didn’t we?

Tony Pratte:                       No, you invented it. You just dragged me along for the ride.

Marla Esser:                       Dragged you along. Wait a minute. I remember you coming willingly.

Tony Pratte:                       You told me I had to be here.

Marla Esser:                       Well, I appreciate you taking me up on the offer, but it does go to show you what is possible when you just allow things to happen and to come into your life.

Tony Pratte:                       Absolutely. It’s a great way to look at it.

Marla Esser:                       Yeah. If you told me six months ago that I’d have a podcast show and would be on my way to 20 episodes, I would have told you were crazy.

Tony Pratte:                       Yeah. Definitely would never have thought that this would be something we’d be doing.

Marla Esser:                       Part of the fun thing about Green Gab is that we get to gab about all kinds of things green. Not only green homes, green living, green companies, or people doing cool things in green.

Tony Pratte:                       Green philosophies.

Marla Esser:                       Exactly.

Tony Pratte:                       You name it.

Marla Esser:                       Yeah. You and I have really found this as an opportunity to help people perhaps see a different side of green homes. It is more approachable, less technical.

Tony Pratte:                       Well, I think we’ve tried to, I don’t want to say dumb it down, but put it in-

Marla Esser:                       But dumb it down.

Tony Pratte:                       Yeah, but dumb it down, but put it into everyday language.

Marla Esser:                       Right, exactly. One of the things that I have always enjoyed doing is being kind of that translator, because I understand the technical side enough to be able to talk that language. Yet, I also feel very comfortable talking with people at a level that’s everyday. I just think it’s so important for people to understand that a green home or the concepts of green home are totally within reach. They’re not just out there. It’s not crazy talk. This is actually really good common sense stuff.

Tony Pratte:                       Well, you have to look at it this way. We know where the industry is going and how things are changing.

Marla Esser:                       Kind of.

Tony Pratte:                       20 years from now, if you pulled this podcast out, people would probably look at each other and say-

Marla Esser:                       Oh my gosh, yeah.

Tony Pratte:                       … “What’s a green home?”

Marla Esser:                       Yeah, because then it will just be the way everything is built.

Tony Pratte:                       Correct.

Marla Esser:                       Although, taking an older home and bringing it up to a better level, can be a challenge. A lot of us are never going to get an opportunity to live in a new home. Ironically enough, the topic we’re going to challenge ourselves with today, indoor air quality or indoor environment really applies to existing homes every bit as much as a new home, and this is one area where all of us can take immediate action. In my home, the very first place I started with indoor air quality was my choice of cleaning products.

Tony Pratte:                       Well, that’s a smart one. That’s a smart one. We have to remember, these houses, they are older stock. They might either have been built at a time where houses still breathed, or they were built in a reactionary time where everybody just decided to seal them up because they’re trying to be more efficient without thinking about what’s in the house.

Marla Esser:                       [crosstalk] happened in the ’70s and ’80s in a lot of cases. Yeah. They built them more energy efficient, but they sealed everybody in with the nasties.

Tony Pratte:                       Exactly.

Marla Esser:                       You said something a minute ago I want to circle back around to. You said a house needs to breathe. I hear people tell me this, “Wait, wait, wait. My house needs to breathe.” My response to that is, “No, not quite. You need to breathe.” Why is it that people have this misunderstanding that their houses need to breathe?

Tony Pratte:                       That’s a great point. When you look at a house, the older houses, the construction, the leaky house, you had [crosstalk].

Marla Esser:                       They’re the ones that had coal as a heating source.

Tony Pratte:                       That’s right. That is why. Because you were burning a coal fire in the house, and you needed that smoke-

Marla Esser:                       To leave.

Tony Pratte:                       … to escape. You didn’t want it to sit there. In today’s standards, when we say a house needs to breathe, it’s not that the house needs to be leaky. It just has to have a fresh air exchange so there is fresh air coming in in a managed way, not through every corner of the known universe of the house. We like to bring in fresh air from the outside, and get rid of old air from the inside, just like if you or I were breathing.

Marla Esser:                       Let’s put an analogy out there that might help people to understand this. When you breathe in air, your lungs filter it, clean it, take what they need from the air, and they exhaust the spent air.

Tony Pratte:                       Correct.

Marla Esser:                       Full of all kinds of icky stuff that we really don’t wan to keep in our bodies, including carbon monoxide and a number of other chemicals. If you wrap a scarf around your mouth and breathe through that scarf, you’ve added another layer of filtering, which may filter things going in, but it’s also going to stop things from going out.

Tony Pratte:                       Correct.

Marla Esser:                       If your home is leaking through the joints and through the cracks and the crevices and the penetrations in the roof and along the foundation and in the walls. Think of every place there’s a plumbing pipe going outside or an electrical connection or a flue.

Tony Pratte:                       Window, door.

Marla Esser:                       Windows, doors, all of these holes in your walls. If they’re not sealed up, are exhaling and inhaling air through whatever material is there. For instance, if you have insulation, Batt insulation for instance, that that insulation is filtering some of that, not necessarily in a good way. It’s like that scarf. Right? It may be keeping some of the icky stuff out.

Tony Pratte:                       It’s keeping some of it in.

Marla Esser:                       Exactly. What we want to do instead is be like a snorkel.

Tony Pratte:                       Basically it’s just like if you’re snorkeling in the water, you’re going to take that first deep breath before you go under, but then you’re just going to sit there and bring fresh air from above the water to your lungs. We want to do that same thing with the house. We want to have the house with a nice, tight seal just like our lungs underwater, and yet we’re bringing fresh air in from the outside via not really a snorkel, but something close.

Marla Esser:                       It’s the best analogy I could come up with.

Tony Pratte:                       Well, it makes sense.

Marla Esser:                       In between coughing fits. Breathing is important as evidence by my coughing fit. Right?

Tony Pratte:                       If we don’t breathe, we kind of die.

Marla Esser:                       Exactly. Why would you want to have stuff in your house that’s making you not breathe so well?

Tony Pratte:                       You wouldn’t.

Marla Esser:                       I know if we can’t see it, we can’t smell it, or we don’t know it’s there, head in the sand, and it’s all okay. However, folks, it’s time to start reading labels. It’s time to start taking responsibility for your own health, your own wellness in your own homes, and reading the labels and understanding what you’re bringing in your home is a first step to that.

Tony Pratte:                       Well, a little prevention now-

Marla Esser:                       Goes a long way.

Tony Pratte:                       … is going to go not only a long way, but it’s also going to help prevent a larger medical bill-

Marla Esser:                       Down the road.

Tony Pratte:                       … later on.

Marla Esser:                       Yup. On that thought, let’s take a quick break off the Green Gab, and we’ll be back to talk more.

Marla Esser:                       Still gabbing about green homes. We have been doing that and coughing. I think it’s appropriate that we’re talking about indoor air quality, and I’m having a hack attack.

Tony Pratte:                       It’s very appropriate. It’s very appropriate. Basically showing what it looks like when a house can’t breathe.

Marla Esser:                       Exactly. You didn’t know. This is how much I care about what I do.

Tony Pratte:                       You’re going all in on this performance.

Marla Esser:                       I am. I am all in. I am in all, but your point is very well taken in all seriousness. Breathing is critical, and we’re seeing so many health effects from people not being able to breathe well. We’re seeing a rise, a rapid rise, an epidemic rise in asthma and allergies and COPD, and a lot of this is coming from environmental conditions-

Tony Pratte:                       Absolutely.

Marla Esser:                       … and pollution not just outdoors, but indoors as well. Matter of fact, in the United States most of our indoor air is more polluted than our outdoor air.

Tony Pratte:                       Well, they can trace a lot of this to the early ’70s once we had the oil embargo, and that changed the perception for a lot of people. It was, “Oh, my gosh, the cost of energy is skyrocketing. We have to tighten these houses.” There was no forethought of, what’s going in the house before I tighten it?

Marla Esser:                       Well, we also used materials that oftentimes trapped moisture inside the house, so we’d have mold and mildew issues. I have one friend that lost her entire home to black mold.

Tony Pratte:                       Wow.

Marla Esser:                       They were sick for about … I don’t remember how many years, but several years, she and her daughter. Granted, these are extremes. They don’t happen in every situation, but if you can keep these situations from happening, more and more of us are becoming more sensitive to a lot of this stuff, both natural and synthetically produced, chemicals and toxins and allergens and spores and all kinds of things. While living in a pristine environment is probably not going to happen for most of us if not else just because of the natural world. Keeping it in balance as much as possible certainly helps. If you know you have those choices that you make up front, why not make them?

For instance, first of all, you want to control what pollutants you bring in. Right? Control the source. That’s a great place to start. Just keep it out. That can be your choice of materials. That can be your selections. For instance, not even having a fireplace in the house can help control pollution. Now, a lot of us really like a fireplace, so there’s ways to do it that are safer. By no means are we saying don’t have a fireplace, but we’re saying be aware if you’re going to have a fireplace what the safest way to have it is.

Tony Pratte:                       These are the things you should do if you want to have that amenity.

Marla Esser:                       Exactly. Here’s one that’s kind of hard on us in modern day America. An attached garage is a huge source of additional pollution inside of a house because most times that wall between that wall between the garage and the house isn’t sealed well enough, and the pollution from the car gets into the house.

Tony Pratte:                       You have carbon monoxide, you have sulfuric oxide, you have nitric oxide.

Marla Esser:                       All kinds of nasty oxides.

Tony Pratte:                       Oh, yeah.

Marla Esser:                       If you’re going to build an attached garage to your home, know that, and know that it needs to be really well sealed. Your door needs to be gasketed or better yet put at an angle where the direct fumes don’t come. I had one house that the door was at a perpendicular angle to where the cars were and offset that little area, so I didn’t get the direct flow of air from the cars.

Tony Pratte:                       You would have had to get the indirect exhaust.

Marla Esser:                       Right. Even simple design factors like that, if you’re going to have an attached garage can give you a little more protection. Simple things about thinking it through before you just go with any answer can really make a big difference in the long-term viability of what you’re bringing into the house unintended. The other thing is a lot of us store our chemicals in the garage.

Tony Pratte:                       Oh, yeah. Paint, gasoline for the lawn mower, oil for the lawn mower, you name it.

Marla Esser:                       Paint actually really should be stored in an area that doesn’t freeze, so you really should be storing it inside the home. Then you have the flammability issue. There’s not a perfect answer. Right? Chemicals, I usually encourage people to not use so many chemicals. The chemical run-off that we’re seeing, and this has nothing to do with indoor air quality, well it does because it’s chemicals. Right? The amount of chemicals we’re seeing in the run-off waters and in our ponds and in our rivers and our lakes, and a lot of it’s coming from the chemicals we use in our yards.

Tony Pratte:                       Right.

Marla Esser:                       A huge amount.

Tony Pratte:                       Once again we keep talking about it, and we keep harping about it. Native plants are used to the environment. They don’t need them.

Marla Esser:                       Well, I actually looked at a type of grass. I had heard of buffalo grass before, and this wasn’t buffalo grass. At least it wasn’t called that. Buffalo grass is a quote unquote domesticated grass, but you only have to mow it about once a month, and this grass that I had seen was the same thing. You only had to mow it about once a month. It’s low water requirement and super deep roots. It would survive without irrigation. You only had to cut it about once a month and it only got to about four to six inches if I remember correct. Maybe six to eight. Not so long that it wouldn’t be acceptable in a neighborhood. You think about all the resources that we spend on the lawn, and that can a whole other topic. Matter of fact, we should do one on landscaping in your yard. I got a lot of good ideas on that one too.

Tony Pratte:                       I’m sure you do.

Marla Esser:                       Now, I just got through reading a couple of really good books about that too. Back to indoor air quality. Pollution comes in many forms. Right?

Tony Pratte:                       Yes, it does.

Marla Esser:                       We want to keep it out. Do you know what one of the biggest forms of hidden pollution and chemicals is in our homes?

Tony Pratte:                       Oh, wow. I’m going to go with flooring.

Marla Esser:                       Flooring’s got a lot in it. Do you know what chemical oftentimes comes in? Formaldehyde.

Tony Pratte:                       Formaldehyde, that’s right.

Marla Esser:                       By the way, it’s that same stuff that we used to preserve our frogs in in biology.

Tony Pratte:                       Yup. Actually, I think they used it a lot in preserving bodies too before visitations in the funerals. A lot of flooring that comes in from other countries, especially heavy on formaldehyde.

Marla Esser:                       Yeah. There’s been a couple of very prominent cases on the news that involved formaldehyde. Formaldehyde can be in your furniture. It’s oftentimes found in constructive wood like plywood, or not plywood, but … I can’t even think of the name I want. Not OSP.

Tony Pratte:                       Press wood.

Marla Esser:                       Press words, yeah. A lot of times press woods that are used in making cabinetry or furniture, flooring, et cetera will bring in formaldehyde. You might have this super, wonderful home that you built to be greener and really been careful about everything you’re bring in there, and then if not paying attention to your furnishings, you inadvertently may bring in unwanted chemicals. It does pay to pay attention. There’s all kinds of ways to approach being green. Some of you might be natural. For instance, choosing natural woods or natural finishes. You might be sustainable. Finding things that are easily regenerated and still have a long life and durability and are safe. You might choose products that according to the Wellness Within Your Walls website, are responsible. Responsible meaning that the chemical composition is known and there’s transparency in it.

Tony Pratte:                       You know exactly what’s going behind the wall.

Marla Esser:                       Right. You know that those chemicals are safe enough. I’m not sure there’s every something is completely safe because even in the natural world, there’s things that aren’t necessarily safe even though they’re natural.

Tony Pratte:                       The way it was phrased, it’s like safe enough. Every chemical has some kind of an affect. It’s just a matter of how bad of an affect.

Marla Esser:                       There’s a trade-off. There’s no way for us to live in a completely unimpactful way.

Tony Pratte:                       Correct, correct.

Marla Esser:                       There’s just no way. I mean, animals impact the world.

Tony Pratte:                       Right.

Marla Esser:                       Plants impact the world, but if we can figure out a way to have less impact, because there’s a lot of us. If we can be healthier and then also have less impact, oh wow, that’s a win-win.

Tony Pratte:                       Right. It’s better for everybody.

Marla Esser:                       Right. Exactly. Hey, so we’re going not take a quick break. We’ll be back to gab some more.

Marla Esser:                       Hey, green gabbing today about indoor air quality. Of course I’ve got a cough, so this is especially appropriate.

Tony Pratte:                       We have our own air quality now.

Marla Esser:                       I know. It’s an especially appropriate topic today. Respiratory illness. I mean, I just have a cold, but respiratory ailments have become truly academic in many cases. More and more research is showing the detrimental affects of our environment, and a lot of our pollution is indoors as we were saying earlier. It’s a lot of different things. It’s pretty simple when you’re remodeling or redecorating or bringing new stuff into your house. You do a little bit of homework. Can make it a lot better.

Tony Pratte:                       That little bit of preparation goes a long way.

Marla Esser:                       It really does. When I painted … Oh my gosh. It’s been … It was back in the old house, so it’s been eight, 10 years. A gentleman that had painted for me several times before, and I had him painting. I said, “Hey, I want you to use this then somewhat new low VOC paint.” VOC for those of you that don’t know, volatile organic compounds. The lower the number of VOCs in the paint, the less icky stuff there is in it.

Tony Pratte:                       The healthier it is to breathe in.

Marla Esser:                       Right. What was so funny, so he paints the entire house with new, air quotes folks, low VOC paint, which he hadn’t used before. Took him a few minutes to adjust because it did go on, go on a little bit differently. Once he got used to it, he said it was good, good coverage, and he was happy with the results, and we were using a big name brand line of low VOC paint. When he finished with the house, he made a comment to me that really made me take note. He said, “You want to know something?” I said, “Yeah, what?” He goes, “That’s is the first time I painted a house that I haven’t had a headache.”

Tony Pratte:                       That’s because his body kept breathing all those fumes in. We all know the paint fumes. It kind of gives you that little bit of a high or whatever, a little lightheadedness. That’s the first time he never experienced that.

Marla Esser:                       Yeah. Not just for your safety in your own home, but for the safety of the people working on your home, these choices make sense.

Tony Pratte:                       That’s a huge one, because how many people goes to Lowe’s or Home Depot or the neighborhood hardware store, pick up paint over a weekend because they want to redo a room?

Marla Esser:                       Well, here’s the better part. Some lines of paint are no longer available in a quote unquote high VOC formulation. They just come one way. That makes so much more sense. Why have two or three or more manufacturing lines? Just do it one way, and do it the better way. Kudos to any of manufacturers of paint of other products that have just elected to do it the better way, and not give people an option of doing it in a way that could be harmful. Honestly, you got to think as more and more of this research becomes available, we need to trust manufacturers. If they’re not doing the things that are safer and healthier for us, then it’s hard to trust them.

Tony Pratte:                       Yeah. It’s just like when we found out about the appliances. Appliance manufacturers did the same way. You know what? This is the best way to do it. It’s the healthiest. It’s the best use of resources. Do it one way. Don’t have two different lines.

Marla Esser:                       What else can we make selections? Our paints, our finishes, like our stains, glues, caulk, sealants.

Tony Pratte:                       No VOC glues and caulks and everything. You have the balance between hardwood floor and rugs.

Marla Esser:                       Well, also even with hardwood floors-

Tony Pratte:                       Carpets.

Marla Esser:                       … years ago when it wasn’t as good as it is now, I did a water based urethane instead of a polyurethane. At that point in time, this was over 10 years ago. It took, I don’t remember, quite a few coats of water based urethane to get it even close to being as durable as polyurethane. Now, that’s different. Now everyone … I haven’t redone a floor in a while, but everyone I’ve spoken to said the water based urethanes are really good now.

Tony Pratte:                       Right. It took them a little time. I learned this when I was still in the cabinetry industry. We had made the switch early on between doing oil based polyurethane and water based because once the water based got even as far as everything, it as a no-brainer to make the switch because of the health benefits.

Marla Esser:                       So many more health benefits. When somebody tells you, “Hey, you have to keep your windows open for 24 hours or more,” you know there’s something really nasty going on with the chemical off-gassing of that product. Certain spray foam insulations even. You can’t be in the house for a while, [crosstalk] which is why a lot of times-

Tony Pratte:                       Ventilators.

Marla Esser:                       Right. That’s why a lot of times they’re not used for retrofit applications. They’re only used. Now, there are safe or safer spray foam applications, and spray foam still makes a lot of sense from an energy efficiency standpoint, again a trade-off, but if you’re going to have people in that house, you want to make sure you’re adhering to those recommendations so that everybody is safe.

Tony Pratte:                       Plus, if you’re doing it in a new construction situation, you still have … Well, the garage door’s not on yet.

Marla Esser:                       Nobody’s [crosstalk].

Tony Pratte:                       The front door is there. Nobody’s living in the house. It’s not as big a deal for it to off-gas and not affect anybody, versus somebody living in a house and having the floors done and it off-gas through the house.

Marla Esser:                       You may choose very different decisions if you’re living in a house while it’s being redone simply because you do have to live with it, and you may want to make … That was why I chose water based urethane years ago, because we were in the house when the floors were being redone. We just didn’t need to add that complication to our lives at that point in time.

Tony Pratte:                       Sometimes you just got to go with the easiest decision.

Marla Esser:                       Absolutely. You started down the flooring, which was carpet path, and I kind of cut you off. Continue on that.

Tony Pratte:                       Well, you have to make a decision of, do I want the hardwood floors? Do I want carpet? If I go hardwood floors, I can go maybe something that’s pre-stained or doesn’t need a stain and it’s already ready to go. I can get it from a sustainable forest. There’s a lot of things that go into where I can go hardwood route and make that a very sustainable product.

Marla Esser:                       Or tile.

Tony Pratte:                       Tile as well. Absolutely.

Marla Esser:                       There’s actually even a growing number of sheet products that are vinyl-like that are made of recycled materials and actually carry a green certification. Can’t remember if it’s Green Seal or … I think it is Green Seal. There’s-

Tony Pratte:                       Green Seal or Green Guard.

Marla Esser:                       Green Guard is the low VOC one, but case in point, there are some really well priced, affordable options-

Tony Pratte:                       Oh, absolutely.

Marla Esser:                       … that are taking different ways of being green. That’s just the point, is there’s not one way to be green. This is why your priorities are so important. Back to hard flooring finishes versus carpet, oftentimes is recommended when there’s any respiratory or allergies or asthma in the family or in the people living there, because they’re a lot easier to keep those irritants down.

Tony Pratte:                       Right.

Marla Esser:                       They tend to get trapped in carpet. Even if you do choose carpet or rugs, you have natural options. You have recycled options. You have low VOC options.

Tony Pratte:                       Make sure the glue they use in the carpets now are no VOC glues.

Marla Esser:                       Or tack-down.

Tony Pratte:                       Or tack-down. That’s right.

Marla Esser:                       It is a lot of things to think about, but this is why if you work with a builder or a green consultant or both that understands how to help you make these choices, that these selections really do make a difference. They can still work with an interior designer or a decorator to make sure they all look fabulous, and it kind of comes back to one of my mottoes, which is look good and perform well.

Tony Pratte:                       Absolutely.

Marla Esser:                       You totally can do that. You can still contribute positively to the indoor air quality so that the people living in that house have a great experience.

Tony Pratte:                       Well, even say if you’re working with an interior designer, a lot of these things now, interior designers understand. They learned about it from the minute they’re in school.

Marla Esser:                       More and more. Yeah. More and more of them are getting [crosstalk].

Tony Pratte:                       They’re conscious about these choices.

Marla Esser:                       Tony, who knew that we could talk so long on indoor air quality and during my hackathon. Thank you for … My cough is getting better, thank goodness. You know, here in the green home coach, we just like to share this information with you so you have a shot at making your home better. Check it out on Thanks for joining us on the Green Gab, and have a blessed day. We’ll see you next week.