Robin Wilson Touts Benefits of Eco-Healthy Lifestyle

Green designer adds Kennedys to list of clients

What guidelines do you use to design homes?

I have the four principles, sustainable, recyclable, renewable and non toxic. [Try to] abide by those four principles when you are doing design work or when you are just buying products for your private home.

What are some of the unique design elements that you incorporated in the Kennedy home?

[We added], Eco by Cosentino paper countertops. We love granite, but granite is a finite resource. How many mountain tops are we going to blow up? How many mines are we going to build? We’re throwing away paper every day…but if they could repurpose it the landfills [would] start to go down, because now there is a use for that recycled paper.

All of the mattresses in the Kennedy House are Somnium mattresses. It comes with a hypoallergenic cover and it doesn’t have any of those fire retardants or really bad chemicals that are in mattresses. In some mattresses, there is something called Boric acid. Boric acid kills roaches. You are sleeping next to a pesticide.

We included multigenerational design elements like an access ramp and a curb-less shower. Sen. Edward Kennedy was one of the big sponsors for American’s with disabilities act. He also had a son who was disabled. With a curb-less shower you can just wheel your wheelchair in, take the hand wan, and rinse yourself off. These elements are useful when you are 65 or 70 and you’ve broken your hip or maybe have another health issue.

In the book you talk a lot about off-gassing. Can you explain what that is?

Think about the smell that comes from a shower curtain, a new car, [or paint]. Any chemicals from man-made products [release volatile organic compounds]. They can potentially hurt your family and your children and create chemical sensitivities that contribute to trigger points for asthma and allergies.

What are some incentives to help people start greening their homes and offices?

The incentives for going green aren’t always about saving Mother Earth, but saving money and saving your own ecosystem. It’s [about] your quality of life, your health. It’s going to help your pocketbook. [You can] save more money on your electric bill and your water bill. Right now the government is offering a $3,000 tax credit if you do a renovation that is energy efficient between 2009 and 2010.

Here are five things Wilson says people should avoid to reduce asthma, allergies, chemical sensitivities, and create a healthier environment.

Volatile organic compounds: Many paints contain VOCs, which can create chemical sensitivities. Paint your walls with low or no VOC paint to reduce off-gas. Wilson recommends Aura or Natura paint by Benjamin Moore, which retail for about $55 a gallon.

Formaldehyde: Steer clear of cheaper furniture because it is probably glued together with formaldehyde-based glues, which off-gas. High concentrations of formaldehyde emissions may trigger attacks in people with asthma, and cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, fatigue, and cancer.

Mold: It can cause dermatitis, hay fever, and can produce toxic substances, which depending on the strain may cause liver and nervous system damage or cancer. Mold can grow on any organic substance where oxygen and moisture is present. Once you get it; it is hard to get rid of. Avoid mold infestation by controlling the humidity in your home.

Vinyl shower curtains: These contain vinyl chloride, which also produce off-gases. At high levels and high temperatures it may cause dizziness, headaches, liver damage and/or cancer. Instead, try a nylon shower curtain, which can be mildew and mold resistant.

Unwashed pillows and bedding: Unwashed pillows, sheets, and comforters can store the carcasses of dust mites, bed bugs, and other insects that can trigger asthma attacks and allergic reactions.

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