In today's troubled economy, more and more home owners are considering remodeling their existing home instead of buying a new one. Remodeling your home can be a great investment, not only because it builds equity in your property, but also because it can give you the opportunity to improve function, increase energy efficiency, and provide everyone in your family with a sense of living in a fresh, new environment.

Up until recently, homeowners choices have been limited to materials that have been manufactured by producers who have been unconcerned with environmental problems or the health impact on the end user of their materials, the homeowner. Fortunately, we are at a time when non toxic and responsibly made materials for the home and office are becoming more and more available. Remodeling your home using green or environmentally responsible materials also uses less raw materials, which significantly reduces the amount of waste that could end up a landfill. Studies continue to demonstrate that toxic chemicals in building materials are linked to asthma, allergies and other health problems.

It only makes sense that when redecorating or remodeling you would choose environmentally friendly materials, because you and your family will benefit from a healthy interior that won’t cause illness or worsen allergies and asthma. All in all, investing money in a green remodel or renovation is money wisely spent.

There are several factors to consider when choosing interior Finishes, which include durability, toxicity, aesthetic, cost, and sustainability. Here are my 7 top picks:

Bamboo flooring is one of the most versatile and attractive flooring options available to consumers who are interested in replacing their existing floor, and are looking for an environmentally responsible choice. Eco Timberbamboo flooring is available in a wide variety of beautiful, natural shades, colors and patterns, and the density of the wood makes it much more durable and resistant to the wear and tear of an active family than comparable oak or maple floors. Eco Timber bamboo floors are manufactured using no formaldehyde or other harmful chemicals that can off-gas once the floor is installed in your home, so it provides your family with a healthy floor that will last a life time.

Because we spend hours inside, what surrounds us has a direct impact on our health. The chemical compounds or VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) found in regular paints remain toxic for a long time, sometime years; they linger in the air and can become lung, skin, eye irritants, and affect indoor air quality. Mythic company spent six years formulating its paint so that it performs as well as any high quality paint.) 'Mythic' offers a high performance quality product without health hazard and is available in any color.

You can add color and texture to your walls without any harmful chemicals by using American Clay, an earth plaster. It is a blend of natural clay, recycled aggregates, and mineral pigments that is mixed with water and applied like a plaster. Once applied, clay emits negative ions that will work as an air filter while also fighting off mold and mildew growth. One of its most unique qualities is that it helps maintain constant humidity levels. It is also easily repairable. 'American Clay' comes in 3 different finishes and 43 colors that will give your walls depth and warmth.

How many hours will we spend sleeping in our lifetime? Would it then matter what our mattresses are made of? Comfort should be expected of a mattress of course, but what about what we breathe in, lying down on it, night after night? Studies and clinical evaluations have reported that prolonged exposure to TDI (toluen discarnate, used in visco- elastic and polyurethane foams ), VOC's (volatile organic compounds, used in glues and adhesives), formaldehyde (used in mattress fabrics), and synthetic chemical fire retardants (to name just a few) can damage the heart, liver, central nervous system, and cause cancer. These toxic components, for the most part, are odorless and cannot be seen. We inhale them however, and they get so deeply absorbed that toxic concentrations are found in newborn infants. Mattresses made with natural latex (from the rubber tree sap) that do not contain insecticide or petroleum derivatives are available, and they are your best alternative.

Window treatments are often overlooked when considering the impact interior finishes has on the overall health and air quality of a room. They can be a source of air pollution because, once again, textiles are often treated with a variety of chemicals, including finishing agents (lacquers and stains), fungicides, and U.V. protectors. Windows with direct light and more extreme temperature changes make the chemical off gassing more probable. It is best to use window treatments that are not only made with sustainable materials, but are also free of chemical additives. 'Earthshade' products are made with materials that are sun-dried and crafted by hand; they are fairly traded, which means the factory they are made in does not use child labor, pays living wages, and has facilities that are safe to work in. Lacquers, stains and UV protectors are not used.

Marmoleum Click one of the few interior finishes certified by the asthma and allergy foundation. It is made from rosin, wood flour,linseed oil, limestone, and pigments. It's natural anti-static and antimicrobial properties repel dust and dirt and stop the proliferation of harmful microorganisms. Marmoleum comes in squares or panels that easily click together in a floating floor without the use of glues or adhesives. Easy installation, low maintenance, fun design.

Carpets tend to have a bad reputations, both for their negative environmental and health impacts. Let’s summarize why this is: • points out: “Once installed, a carpet acts like a filter for anything in the air, trapping particulates and pollutants.Anything carried onto a carpet on shoes or wheels can also become lodged in it. Hydrocarbons from a street or pesticides from a yard can enter the carpet matrix. Outdoors, ultraviolet sunlight eventually breaks down these chemicals, but in the carpet, there is nothing to remove them. Frequent and effective vacuuming can reduce the accumulation of such contaminants, but not even hot-water extraction can eliminate them all.” • Some of the chemicals used in the manufacture of carpet include ethylbenzene, which causes eye irritation, azulene, which causes headaches, 2-utyloctanol-1, which causes nausea, 2methyl-4-tridecene,which is known to aggravate asthma and phthalic esters, which can cause nervous system disorders. These are just a few of many New to the market are carpets made from recycled products, like water bottles. The carpet manufacturer will take them back when you want to replace them again and recycle what they can. Hmmmm. Better. Not the best option though.

Natural wool carpets are the best option for the following reasons:

• Wool is resistant to stains, allergens, dirt and are easily maintained. Wool has a breathable fiber structure that does not promote the growth of bacteria or dust mites. • Wool carpeting has a useful life of 20-25 years before it needs to be replaced. Typical synthetic residential carpets will need to be replaced about every 7 years.

• They will breakdown naturally over time when added to the waste stream. Synthetic carpets could be in the waste stream (landfill) for as long as 10,000 years! Even when synthetic carpets are recycled there is a lot of embodied energy going into the finished product. • Wool carpets are soft and beautiful Remodeling your house is a fantastic opportunity to improve not only the aesthetics and function of your home but to create an environment that promotes health and well-being for you, your family and the environment.

This sponsored content was contributed by:

33 Church St, Saratoga 306-5196

Exhibitor at the Natural Living Show Altamont Fairgrounds, June 2-3 2012

Written By Sophie Castro & Karen Totino