💧 If you think deeply about green interior design and traditional interior design you come to the conclusion that the difference between the two disciplines is connected to consumerism. Under older models of economics only natural resources such as timber, oil, food etc. that we used had a commercial value and ‘nature’ had no value in itself. Pollution was only a negative on the balance sheet if it led to a fine or other legal punishment. This is the way interior design thinks. It is a branch of consumerism. People spend money to redecorate their houses and the only costs are those involving labor, design and materials.
The new philosophy of environmentalism questions the premise of traditional consumerism – nature is not cost neutral. Clean air, trees, biodiversity etc. have an inherent value. The new thinking has already gained currency in the notion of off-setting. Now pollution and carbon emission are no longer cost neutral. Instead they can be assigned a value. In order to emit carbon a company must buy emission quotas from someone else. The right to pollute becomes a commodity. This might sound wrong, but the principle of giving a healthy environment a monetary value is clearly an effective and pragmatic approach to re-adjusting people’s (and companies) values.
And this idea is also the underlying premise of green interior design. Energy efficiency, water conservation and indoor air quality are important because nature and natural resources have a value in themselves. Energy efficiency reduces carbon emissions and stops climate change. Water conservation is important to main biodiversity. Wood and other natural materials are precious because they are limited.
💦 It is with this new thinking in mind that we should approach cost analysis. The cost of a cup of coffee is not merely the price you pay at Starbucks but the real cost to the environment. This can be measured by using the notion of embedded value. Embedded value takes into account all the resources that were needed to make the product. Mining, loss of habitat, use of water, species extinction, carbon emission are all factors to consider and to assign a value to.
One area where embedded value has gained recognition is in water conservation. The embedded value of a cup of coffee is 246 pints (140 liters) according to the Centre for Sustainable Development at Cambridge University. The embedded value for a pint of beer is 130 pints (74 liters). It takes a lot of water to irrigate coffee and barley crops. Neither of these crops is essential to human life. They are luxury commodities. If you drink 5 cups of coffee a day you are consuming 1,230 pints of water. Perhaps Starbucks should be charging a lot more and that extra money should be going to water husbanding projects (not the bank accounts of Starbuck’s shareholders).
👍 Green interior design is very much about water conservation. Two products that help to greatly reduce water use in a home are low flow shower heads and low flow faucets. These two products use air-intake ports to combine water with air so water pressure is maintained while water flow is greatly reduced. The Oxygenics TriSpa Showerhead has a flow of 2.5 gallons per minute (compared to the normal of 5 gallons a minute) and a 0.5 GPM Low Flow Dual-Thread Faucet Aerator which saves 77% more water than a standard 2.2 gallons per minute aerator reduces water flow to just 0.5 GPM.
🌍 These are big savings for the environment. And what is good for the environment is good for you because everyone belongs to and relies on the environment; and because both these devices save you money on water and water heating costs.
The sooner we abandon the old ethos of consumerism and profit and adopt the new ethos of embedded and real value – the value of natural resources like clean air, potable water and healthy soil – the better our lives are going to become. Having a beautiful interior with views out on a desolate and toxic landscape is like investing in real estate in hell.