Five ways to dress your nest green

May 19, 2008 at 12:56 p.m. ET

If Thom Filicia's show Dress Your Nest is one of your favorite Style TV programs, whether you live in a nest or a castle, having your home reflect your personality is probably one of your top priorities. And because being green is of utmost importance these days, for you to have even reasonably good (and politically correct) taste, your personality-reflecting home needs to be eco-friendly. Diane MacEachern, author of Big Green Purse: Use your spending power to create a cleaner, greener world, shares the following ways to green your nest (or castle).

An eco-friendly start to your day

If you are like the millions of people who start the day, everyday, with some form of brewed caffeine, your coffee pot should reflect your concern for the environment.

Though you may think a coffee pot isn't exactly home décor, it is a permanent fixture in your kitchen. According to MacEachern, consumers buy more automatic-drip coffeemakers than any other small kitchen appliance, using about $400 million worth of electricity each year - just brewing coffee! She suggests the following appliances to make an eco-friendly, yet high-voltage, cup of coffee:

French press: Bodum Chambord'selegant but inexpensive model contains coffee in a thermal carafe to keep your coffee hot without the need for an electric hot plate.

Chemex manual drip: Visit OurCoffeeBarnfor this stylish hourglass-shaped flask uses recycled paper filters and can make as little as one cup or as many as ten.

One-cup coffeemakers:Check your local houseware stores for efficient little pots that brew your morning start in less than a minute, use less energy, and eliminate the need to make a large pot of coffee that goes mostly unconsumed. One-pot coffeemakers use less energy, water, coffee and, ultimately, money.

Vermont Country Store coffee grinder: If you can't start your day without freshly ground beans, save energy with Vermont Country Store's metal grinder that is mounted on a compact wooden box and requires you to use some elbow grease.

Use VOC-free paint

Volatile organic compounds, better known as VOCs, are released from paints and can cause headaches, muscle aches, and even asthma and other respiratory disorders.

You can colorize your nest without intoxicating your lungs. MacEchern suggests using no- or low-VOC products, such as Pittsburgh's Pure Performance Paints, which not only won the Pennsylvania Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence in 2002, they are also the first paints to receive the Green Seal Class A Certification for meeting environmental standards.

VOC-free paints may be more expensive but you won't have to worry about breathing fumes (which are particularly strong in small spaces) or a risk to your health and the environment.

Fashion your home with eco-friendly furniture

MacEachern suggests, "Unleashing your ingenuity as well as your green spirit when it comes to furnishing your home in an eco-friendly way." The Sustainable Furniture Counciloffers the following tips.

Use existing materials.Be a green shabby chic and fashion your furniture with existing materials like wheel frames, grapevines, and door frames, all of which can be turned into creative table bases.

Use reclaimed lumber.Utilize lumber reclaimed from fencing, flooring, structural supports and paneling. Not only are you recycling lumber, you will probably save some money.

Choose fast-growing wood.Bamboo and mango woods from sustainably managed forests can add a natural feel to your nest as well as reduce overforestation of trees that are less quick to regrow.

Avoid woods that are known to be threatened.Minimize your use of new teak, mahogany, and woods from fragile tropical or subtropical regions, such as the Phillipines, Indonesia, and South America.

Apply water-based finishes.Instead of common varnishes, lacquers and shellacs, which can contain toxic petroleum- or synthetic-based solvents, apply water-based finishes to your woods.

Choose upholstery made from organic cotton. Cover your couches and chairs with durable hemp or fabrics woven from recycled cotton and polyester blends.

"Furnishings made from recycled, organic, or sustainable materials can be more expensive," says MacEachern. "But remember, your purchase now can make a difference in the long run by helping bring the price down; every time any of us chooses a green option, those choices become more affordable for all of us eventually," she adds.

Feel good about putting your feet on this flooring

MacEachern says that there are many eco-friendly and aesthetic flooring options available today.

Carpet with recycled fibers.According to MacEachern, the most earth-friendly carpeting uses recycled fibers, as manufactured by eco-friendly companies like Forbo and Interface. She adds, "You can be even more eco-friendly by installing carpet squares rather than wall-to-wall broadloom. In the event the dog diddles, your child piddles, or soda water just won't remove that stubborn wine stain, you don't have to replace the entire carpet. Just pull off the offensive square and install a new one." Further, green carpeting uses nontoxic glues and low-VOC padding, which is much better for you, your indoor air quality, and for the environment.

Salvaged wood makes great floors.Salvaged wood is being reclaimed from old bars, abandoned factories and warehouses, lake bottoms, and old boats. The old wood is stripped, sanded, and readied for installation in your home. MacEachern suggests looking for flooring as well as furniture made from secondary species, such as sweet gum, madrone, and California oak, which take pressure off the more-endangered trees like mahogany and teak.

Lay down linoleum. Natural linoleum is a durable flooring made from linseed oil, pine resin, wood flour, cork powder, limestone dust, natural pigments and jute. It can be used for flooring but also counters and desktops. It comes in tiles, sheets, and panels that click right into place and require no toxic adhesives. MacEachern recommends using natural linoleum to replace vinyl flooring.

Fabulous eco-friendly fabric

"Consider two factors when you evaluate fabric for furniture or drapes: the cloth itself and how it's been colored." You want your draperies and other fabric-covered décor to be eco-friendly yet fashionable and chic.

Fabric options stretch across the eco-spectrum from rich and elegant to practical and serviceable, depending on your tastes. Cloths to consider are organic silk (without the killing of the worms that spin the silk), organic cotton, recycled polyester, hemp and hemp blends, cotton twills and brushed twills (made without chemical finishes), and linen.

As for coloring, conventional dyeing processes can be environmentally damaging. Cotton is often bleached white with chlorine and hydrogen peroxide, a process that produces dioxin, a carcinogen and potential hormone disrupter. Fabric dyes often include heavy metals and, worse, because cotton resists some dyes, the excess is then discarded, which pollutes the land and bodies of water.

"Low impact or natural dyes help," says MacEachern, "but it would be better to set a standard for growing and dyeing cotton that encourages the safest production possible."

Though its difficult to find organic and hemp fabrics at most retail outlets, you can special order through catalogs and magazines. Visit GreenSage or check out Natural Home Magazinefor organic and recycled fabrics as well as eco-design tips.

Dressing your nest green starts with your eco-conscience and ends with your eco-action. Decorate your home with eco-friendly products and show off your eco-friendly good taste.

For more tips on dressing your nest green, visit MacEachern's website BigGreenPurse and subscribe to her Green Purse Alerts. You can find additional information in her book Big Green Purse: Use your spending power to create a cleaner, greener, world.

Check out these additional eco-friendly articles:

Throw an eco-friendly dinner party

Eco-friendly recipes featuring eco-friendly cheese

Eco-friendly fashion

Eco-friendly fitness

10 ways to green your home and family