Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Help Your Clients Make Environmentally Friendly Decisions

By Lynn Wyndham Morris, Allied ASID
Director of Communication for ASID
As a member of a profession that directly impacts the built environment, designers serve as ecological stewards to guide clients on simple ways to incorporate sustainability into their lives.   With dwindling natural resources, overburdened landfills, a growing population, and energy and toxicity concerns, it's imperative that everyone do their part to help.  Here are five quick ways to jump-start someone after you’ve helped with their interior update, a remodel or even replacing lighting in their home. The benefits to everyone will be long-term.

1) Lights off is OK.  Many clients have children who forget to turn lights off when they leave a room.  Most people leave their closet lights on all the time. When you’re busy with family events and tasks, an unforgotten light can drain energy and produce heat; not a good idea in a small closet.  The answer is as simple as installing a vacancy or occupancy sensor.  For closets, children’s rooms, and shared baths, a vacancy sensor can be installed right at the light switch. They can be adjusted to turn lights off 5-15 minutes after the room is unoccupied, and a homeowner can be taught to easily make adjustments.  For a kitchen remodel, recommending occupancy sensors for clients is ideal. The options are as inexpensive as a big box store item for $30 or part of an automated system. Paint a picture for your client; they enter the kitchen – often from the garage – with a load of groceries or dry-cleaning in their arms.  Voila, the lights go on so they don’t trip on the toys left on the floor, or smack into the edge of a cabinet. Priceless.

2) Check the thermostat. After completing interior paint projects and remodels, check the position and condition of the client’s thermostat. Deciding whether to paint the housing, relocate it, or update it, is a common practice. With a little bit of knowledge, you can assist your client with both energy efficiency and aesthetics.  Programmable thermostats will save them money right away. It’s a quick step (depending upon the season) for a quick lesson in use.  Rather than heating their home to a toasty 72 degrees in the winter, tell them to wear their beautiful sweaters and turn it down to a cozy 68 degrees. Statistics show that they can save even more - up to 15% of their bill - by turning it down another 5-10 degrees during sleep. An automatic thermostat can be programmed so there is no need for them to adjust the thermostat manually. For those people who are in the habit of heating their home to 72 degrees, let them know that they can acclimate to a lower temperature by lowering the thermostat one degree per day. When they come in from the cold, 68 will feel toasty and warm.

3) Insulate.  Many clients don’t think of insulation even during a remodel. However, whether they try to keep their home cool or warm, eliminating the loss around windows and doors is key to energy savings. Advise them to check the seal around windows and doors that are not being replaced, since they’re likely the largest points of air exchange.  For every receptacle and switch, especially when specifying new ones, have the electrician check for air leaks; most exterior walls have leaky boxes and there are inexpensive gaskets at hardware stores that fix them quickly and inexpensively.  Pipes are easy to insulate when the walls are open. Recommend that clients add foam covers to their hot water pipes in the kitchen and bath, especially if the ‘run’ from their heater to the faucet is long. Why heat the walls in summer and lose heat as the water travels in winter?  If a client does not want to switch to a tank-less water heater – you can investigate the cost-benefit and savings easily - how about recommending a blanket on the hot water heater? It will keep the water hot longer, and save money on re-heating. If a large project is underway, including exterior updates, also address leaking air from chimneys, vents, and attics. A small investment in insulation does add savings to heating and cooling a home for the long-term.

4)  Use energy efficient lamping. Whenever you specify a light fixture, provide the lamping; it’s a small cost to absorb and can put clients on the right path for the future.  Whether you select compact fluorescent (CF) or light emitting diode (LED)m lamping becomes a professional decision that clients will be happy to have you make. Most people aren’t certain of the differences, how to select them, or what wattage to purchase.  You will find that many clients stock incandescent bulbs fearful that they will ‘run out’, yet they don’t realize the benefits of other light sources.  Since incandescent lamping is being phased out, this small gesture will help them with other fixtures in their home as those bulbs burn out. With the new bulb already in the fixture, you can advise clients that they will be saving money on energy as well as bulb replacement costs.  Since CFF and LED offer better lighting, dimmability, recycling ability, and energy savings, what's not to love?  Many municipal energy companies offer instant rebates to purchase energy efficient lamping, so the costs to replace bulbs will be low.

5)  Compost?  Indeed. Creating a compost pile for yard clippings is easy when clients have the space.  Many people know that the resulting mixture provides fabulous fertilizer for flower pots and gardens. For outdoors, there are many companies that sell ready-to-use compost bins, or you can make a  pile in a corner of a yard.    But what if they don’t have a yard or even a balcony?  Fear not. For indoors, composting is now easy, small scale and attractive.  Small ceramic composters that look great and take up little space, can sit on a countertop.  When used with a compost starter they won’t attract fruit flies, produce an odor, or grow mold. If you have cabinet space, a 4-5 gallon bucket from a hardware store works well. Houseplants will love it, start an herb garden with it, add to your outdoor planters, and the ecological benefits are many!

Lynn Morris is the principal designer for A Touch of Tradition Home & Garden Shop, a full service design studio & furnishings, lighting & accessory shop. From fabrics, window coverings, ready-made and custom furnishings, to fabulous lighting and accessories, TOT-HOME offers something for every style of decor. Lynn creates stylish interiors with enduring appeal and loves to incorporate classic, sustainable and luxurious details. Please visit her at: