6 Eco-friendly Decorating Ideas to Modernize Your Work Space

May 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Business, Eco-Friendly, Front Page, Slideshow, Tips

Eco-friendly decorating can be both beautiful and functional. Photo: © virtua73 - Fotolia.com

Eco-friendly decorating can be both beautiful and functional. Photo: © virtua73 - Fotolia.com

A clean, organized office can not only change the way people see you, it can also help the environment. These tips will cut your stress, reduce your ecological footprint, and make your office a better place to work.

1. Use a laptop, not a desktop

Size and battery constraints have forced designers to make laptops much leaner and more efficient than traditional desktop computers. A desktop uses eight times the power of an equivalent laptop, and consumes more power when it’s idle than a laptop does when working at full capacity. A laptop saves space and makes your office easier to clean—we’ve all seen  dinosaur desktops caked with dust because they never move—which means they’re probably guzzling power all night as well as during the workday. Laptops are easier to disconnect when they’re not in use.

2. Natural potpourri

Chemical air freshener sprays and plug-ins can be as bad for you as they are for the environment. They’re expensive, they can give your co-workers headaches, and you really don’t want to give your office that pungent, odor-drowning, bathroom-air-freshener smell. To keep your office smelling nice, use cinnamon sticks, citrus fruit peels, homemade potpourri, or organic candles with mellow scents. They’re cheaper, better for you, and classier all-around. Migraine-prone colleagues will thank you.

3. Use a flat-screen LCD monitor

An old CRT monitor is the easiest way to make your office look dull and dated. They crowd your desk space, draw grime with static electricity, and can even cause eyestrain because of the flickering display. Go for a sleek LCD screen—they’re lighter, easier to adjust and clean, and they give your office a much tidier, open feel. Most importantly, they use less than half the energy of a big tube monitor. If you can handle it, also consider switching to a smaller display—it will be easier on your eyes, and a 14-inch display can use up to 50% more power than a 10-inch one.

4. Avoid vampire drain and tangled cords with a single power strip

A hallmark of older computers is the rat’s nest of wires that used to come out the back. Modern machines have only a few, but you can still end up with a tangled sprawl of cables across your desk or underfoot if you’re not careful. They’re unsightly, untidy, and every one of them drains power when it’s plugged in. Organize your cables in a single, organized path to one power strip. That way, when youíre ready to clock out, you can simply shut down the machines and unplug the strip.

5. Go paperless wherever possible

One of the easiest ways to look like you’re on top of things is to avoid a cluttered desk. You can have a labyrinth of folders and sub-folders on your laptop, but keep stray papers off your desk. Communicate by email instead of inter-office memo. Make notes on your word-processor instead of a post-it. Encouraging co-workers to use a file-sharing system like Dropbox can make your operation more responsive and efficient as well as saving paper. When you have to use paper, never throw it in the garbage; get a recycle bin.

6. Buy eco-friendly furnishings

This one will depend a great deal on your taste. If you like a retro look, consider shopping for your office furnishings at a secondhand store (this falls under the “reuse” category of the hallowed “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra). It’s expensive and wasteful to manufacture something new when the furnishings you need are already waiting for you at the thrift store.

If you want a more modern look, there are plenty of eco-friendly options: instead of plastic, buy a glass whiteboard; instead of exotic woods that require rainforest destruction, opt for a desk made of a more common hardwood. Purchase from suppliers who certify their eco-friendly content, and pay attention to the labels.

About The Author

Angela is a staff writer, loving wife, and mother of beautiful twin girls and a standard poodle named Morty. She graduated with her Master of Arts Degree in English from the University of North Carolina. During her time in university, she wrote a number of children’s short stories that focus on a set of curious twin sisters and their dog (go figure).

Angela Taylor

Guest Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)


Torie Halbert – Designing for Eco-Conscious Luxury

Halbert uses reclaimed wood and other repurposed materials to design luxury rooms like this one. Photo: Courtesy To the T. Interiors

Torie Halbert, a finalist on Home & Garden Television’s Design Star and owner of To the T. Interiors, has a favorite tip for redecorating in an eco-friendly way: repurposing. Reusing old furniture and materials is not only environmentally friendly, she says, “It’s also stylish.”

Torie Halbert, eco-conscious designer. Photo: Courtesy To the T. Interiors

In 2009, the Houston native finished in the top four of HGTV’s Design Star reality show. Halbert has received multiple honors from PRISM, Parade of Homes, Houston’s Best Awards, and was named 2009’s Most Dynamic Woman in Houston. She works as a custom home designer and strives to be environmentally conscious with her designs.

“I like to use elements my clients already have,” Halbert says. “That’s something I’m known for.”

One of her favorite elements to re-use is wood, because of its versatility. She loves to find unique ways to use wooden kitchen cabinets in other parts of the house. Halbert has also reclaimed wood from barns and old buildings to use as flooring in a home re-design.

The acclaimed designer often repurposes chairs and mirrors in her projects. She points out that chairs can be re-upholstered in unique combinations and be a great feature piece in a space.

Halbert typically designs luxury homes, but works with Ashley Furniture once a month to give deserving budget-conscious families a home makeover. Even when designing for clients not on a budget, she still enjoys refinishing and repainting existing pieces.

The elegant flooring design features faux stone (made from crushed aggregate) used on walls up to the ceiling and recycled materials used in medallion on the floor. Photo: Courtesy To the T. Interiors

“Then you’re really customizing something,” she explains. She prefers the uniqueness of pulling together a variety of older items to buying coordinated pieces at a store and simply setting them up. “Plus, everyone likes to save money,” she says.

Halbert was inspired to be eco-friendly because, in her ten years remodeling houses, she’s seen the massive trash bins outside.

“That huge dumpster is going off to the landfill and it pulled on my heart. That was many years ago. You’re just inspired, and you want to do more of that,” she says, referring to reducing the waste produced when remodeling.

The inspiration led her to endorse Nature’s Carpet. Instead of bland designs, the eco-friendly company stays on trend with various patterns. Halbert partnered with Nature’s Carpet for their Houston launch a few months ago. They offer products that are 100 percent biodegradable, made from renewable resources, and are LEED compliant.

Halbert describes her time on Design Star as a “culture shock” — she’s always lived in Texas, and the show is filmed in California. She describes her designs as traditional, old-world, and country. In California, however, the designs are very modern. The experience influenced her to incorporate more color in her remodels.

Her strongest influence comes from Ralph Lauren’s interiors. “I’m very much a Southern designer,” she says. “And his interiors are rustic and lodgy.”

A seasoned designer, Halbert uses her style and expertise to speak to young, future interior designers. She talks to them about easy ways to be eco-friendly, like incorporating bamboo and using paint that does not have volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

As someone who typically designs luxury homes but who is also environmentally conscious, she has a unique perspective on living fabulously while being responsible.

“You can go green and still look polished and high end,” she says.

Brigette Fanning

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Improve Your Living Space with Houseplants

Plants create an inviting atmosphere for indoor spaces any time of year. Photo: Julia Wasson

Decorating a room with plants is a natural choice, as plants provide an almost instantaneous sense of calm and peace. They can transform a room from average to extraordinary in an instant. And, in addition to their aesthetic value, some plants can actually improve a room’s air quality.

Choosing which plants to use takes a bit of planning for best results. But even a single plant can be the foundation for a decorating makeover. It’s hard to go wrong when decorating with plants, but there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. The following tips will help you get started.

Filtering Indoor Air

Some plants are very good at removing harmful toxins from the air. For example, the spider plant, often used as a hanging plant, not only grows like wildfire, but is also good at absorbing harmful air pollutants and releasing beneficial oxygen. Spider plants are particularly hardy and easy for even the novice plant owner to grow.

Mother-in-Law's Tongue filters indoor air, but may enjoy an "outing" during moderate weather. Photo: Julia Wasson

Peace lilies are dark-green, leafy plants that sprout tall, white flowers in the spring. These, too, are great at cleaning the air inside your home. If you don’t see your peace lily flowering, it probably doesn’t have enough natural light to cause it to bloom. Move it to a sunnier area, but avoid strong, direct sunlight, which can burn the leaves.

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue is a helpful filter for formaldehyde and other toxins. With its tall, stiff leaves, it also makes a dramatic accent in a room. This plant does well under most circumstances, and is hard to kill unless you seriously over water it or neglect to water it altogether. During moderate weather, you can use it to decorate an outdoor area such as a porch or deck, but keep it out of strong, direct sunlight.

Gerbera Daisy is a flowering plant with large, colorful blooms. According to a research by NASA, it’s highly effective in removing benzene and trichloroethylene (TCE) from indoor air. Both benzene and TCE are common ingredients in many industrial products and can be found in homes.

“Janet Craig” is a variety of Dracaena Deremensis that NASA found to be effective in filtering benzene, TCE, and formaldehyde. Though the name may not be familiar to you, it’s been spotted on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Office. There are many varieties of D. Deremensis, which also make great houseplants.

For a list of houseplants that are exceptionally effective in purifying indoor air, you can download a pdf of the study results for free from NASA.

Arranging Plants in the Room

There are no hard-and-fast rules for decorating with plants, other than to make sure that the plants are healthy and pleasing to the eye. But some general principles will help you create a pleasing look.

A small tree, like this ficus, can be used to soften a grouping of furniture in a room. Photo: Joe Hennager

Find out what each plant needs before you decide where to place it in a room. Does it like a lot of light? Then it might work well in front of a window. But watch for any sign that the sunlight is burning its leaves. Does it prefer shade? Find a corner of the room away from direct sun, but don’t keep it in a dark room for days on end.

Hanging plants are best placed in or near windows where they will receive sunlight during the day. Bright, intense sunlight is too strong for most houseplants, so choose a window that gets morning sun instead.

Create a grouping of potted plants of various sizes in a sunlit corner or in the entryway to the room. Floor plants can also be arranged next to chairs, sofas or televisions. Use caution that the electronics next to plants do not throw off so much heat that they dry out, wilt, and die.

Placing a tall plant or small tree in a grouping provides a focal point. By itself, it can balance out other strong elements or soften a grouping of furniture that has many angles.

Palm trees, ficus, and other tall plants are typically placed in large floor planters. These two plants are good both for filtering the air and for adding height to a plant grouping. Ficus, commonly known as weeping fig, often drops its leaves. If you have a crawling baby or toddler, you might want to wait a few years before bringing a ficus into your home.

Some Are Poisonous

Always make sure that the plants you choose will not pose a potential health risk to children or family pets who live in or frequently visit your home. If you purchase a plant from a nursery, ask them about potential toxicity. Or, search online to find out about plants you get from friends or purchase at a grocery or big-box store.

Geraniums aren't considered toxic for most people. Photo: Joe Hennager

Like the spider plant, English ivy is great for removing toxins from indoor air. But ivy can be poisonous to young children and animals, who tend to chew on anything that comes near them. If you choose to use English ivy in your decorating, make sure that it is in a hanging pot, far out of reach of little hands and curious paws.

Dieffenbachia, or dumb cane, has large, deep-green-and-white patterned leaves. It’s shade tolerant and makes an excellent houseplant, especially as a tall, focal point in a grouping. But it is toxic when chewed, causing swelling of the mouth and other highly unpleasant symptoms. This is a plant that you definitely should avoid if you have small children or pets who might try to eat the leaves or gnaw on the cane.

If you have small children, consider choosing non-poisonous alternatives, such as a flowering geranium, African violet, Swedish ivy, or orchids. But remember, even non-toxic plants may cause an allergic reaction in a given individual.

If you’ve got a question about whether a houseplant is poisonous, check the list provided by the University of Connecticut’s College of Agriculture Home & Garden Education Center.  Or, contact a resource in your own community.

Getting Started

Spider plant "babies" are easy to start in small cups filled with potting soil. Photo: Joe Hennager

Houseplants outgrow their pots over time and need to be repotted or split to maintain their health. Most people are happy to give cuttings or split their root-bound plants for people who will give them a good home.

If you don’t have houseplants yet, ask your friends to keep you in mind as they care for their own houseplants. You can also advertise your desire for houseplants or cuttings on Freecycle.

And if you’re really serious about creating a healthy environment for plants to thrive, do some research. Though many houseplants have become popular partly because they’re hardy and nearly indestructible, you’ll have much better success if you give them the conditions that are best meet their unique needs.

Adding indoor plants to your living space is a wonderful way to filter air and make the room cozy and inviting. Plants add an element to decorating that other accessories simply cannot match. Their life and vibrant green color instantly make people feel at ease and calm. For a truly relaxing and eye-pleasing room, be sure to include the beauty of indoor greenery.

Jessica Ackerman


Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)