What you didn't know about “Green Washing”


somedays, you just feel like kermit the frog


Vegan, vegetarian, paleo, keto, you name it… it’s hard to ignore how our food quality, food sources, and the way they are labeled for consumers have been major topics of discussion in our news media, social feeds, and day to day life.

But have you taken the time to think about the furnishings, materials and surfaces that surround us everyday? What is green washing? How do you know if a chair, table, sofa or mattress is ‘green’? What does being ‘green’ mean for you, your family and your pets?

We admit, some of this is out of our wheelhouse, so we are taking the time to interview Lenora DeMars of 9ten Design and ask her our questions about being ‘green’ in the interior design industry, how to spot it, and what we can do about it as homeowners.

Why do you focus on green design?

Growing up I had severe asthma the environment inside and outside directly affected my breathing and the quality of life.  Knowing this I knew I could control the air quality in my own home.  

As an interior designer I also wanted to provide healthier alternatives and educate my clients on the options that are out there.  My goal is to provide a good, better, best option.  With the intention of providing my clients the differences for each option.        

What are the main chemicals we have to be leery of?

To start, we have VOC’s and SVOC’s.

VOC’s are Volatile Organic Compounds...

“Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.

VOCs are sometimes categorized by the ease they will be emitted. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) categorizes indoor organic pollutants as:

  • Very volatile organic compounds (VVOCs)

  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

  • Semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs)” - epa.gov

The difference between the two is one will diminish over time but SVOC’s do not diminish and will adhere to particles in the air and on surfaces.  Some of these SVOC’s are Biocides, Antimicrobial finishes, Pesticides, Flame Retardants, and Plasticizers.

As designers, we are hyper aware of the types of materials we put in our client’s homes, especially for our Savvy Giving by Design projects.

What surfaces do you recommend for children facing a medical crisis or immunocompromised?

I would recommend hard surfaces that are easy to clean such as tile or Linoleum.  

Another suggestion is to invest into a non-toxic mattress and pillows such as a latex instead of the standard petroleum foam mattresses or synthetic polyester filled pillows.

*This is why we love our SGBD Sponsor, Revolution Fabrics!

So, what is “green washing” anyway?

This is where the consumer can get really confused.  As a practicing wellness interior designer products can be unclear for myself.  Something that is called natural is not necessarily natural.  There can be a very small percentage of something that is non toxic but the remainder of the materials can be very toxic.  This gives the manufacturer the permission to call something natural.  

Additional Resources on Green Washing:

So how can a homeowner check if a product is ‘green’?

Do your research!  It takes digging and going down multiple rabbit holes to discover what is ok to use.  Thankfully there are 3rd party certifications that do testings to test for harmful off gassing chemicals.  

Here’s a list of organizations and initiatives dedicated to marking safe products:

The Savvy Interiors Team takes the quality of our products very seriously. Even being in the industry for 15+ years, we are still learning, improving and educating ourselves and our clients about what products are safest for our homes. We believe that all homeowners deserve to know how, where and with what materials their furnishings are made, and we hope that this blog starts to bring to light some concerns that many of us don’t this about.

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