Introducing a new Blog: Seeking (stylish) Suburban Sustainability.

This blog grew out of my desire to walk my talk.  I am an ordinary Mom, with a greater than ordinary desire to minimize the effect that my family has on the environment.  As I try and do the right thing, save energy, and minimize my family’s exposure to chemicals, I have developed different practical solutions.  I get so excited when I discover new ways to do things, but feel that these stories aren't really right for my bog on Sustainable Home.  That is a place where I talk about my green design practice, interior design, green architecture, and furnishings.  But I also wanted to write about trying to be sustainable in day-to-day life. So I have decided to start a sister blog.

Many people quote Gandhi's  "Be the change you wish to see in the world."  Often I think that people interpret this quote to mean that they must be strong enough to make change happen in this world through their own effort and force of will.  This is not the case; the story that this quote came from is about a mother, like me.

She brought her son to Gandhi, who was so revered that people often came to him for advice on many things.  She was worried for her son's health because he was overweight and would not stop eating sweets.  She asked Gandhi to tell her son to stop eating sweets.  Gandhi said to come back in two weeks.  She was surprised but complied.  In two weeks she came back and Gandhi spoke directly to her son, clearly and compellingly asking him to respect himself and his life enough to eat healthy foods and give up sweets and sugar.

"Why did I need to come back?" She asked.

"Well Madam," he answered, "I love sugar, pastries and candy.  Before I could ask your son to give these things up, I had to know that I could do so myself."

I have worked in my professional life to educate people on green building, and it's tremendous potential to save energy while making homes healthier, and saving building owners money.  But I am also a suburban housewife, mother of three, PTA volunteer who loves sewing, painting, hiking and gardening.   I want to be able to do all of the things in my life, but am conscious that every activity has some kind of effect on the environment.  So I am always seeking creative solutions to do things in an eco way.

If I can do it, with all the ordinary problems of getting my kids to school, shopping for groceries, doing lots of laundry, and entertaining: then I know that it is possible.  Before I ask anyone else to change their life, before I tell people that they should be greener, I green my own life. I have found that few of these changes require any sacrifice, and in fact many of them have paid off in increased fun, better health, and a more beautiful life.

Which brings me to another detail.  I love good design!  I am obsessed with glamour, charm and elegance.  I love my job because I can work with beach cottages, formal homes, warm modern kitchens, and funky vintage living rooms.  My clients are a constant source of inspiration.

I am not willing to sacrifice my style to be green.  So this blog is called “Seeking (Stylish) Suburban Sustainability.”

Seeking- because it is a process, there is always more to do, but even the first step makes a difference.

(Stylish) – Because what is the point of life without glamour, style and beauty? I rest my case!

Suburban – because that is where I live, and the suburbs have the reputation for being very un-sustainable.

Sustainability – because we need to figure this one out, or we will all be in deep doo-doo.

Hope the new bog is useful and interesting to you, dear reader. I am pleased as punch to start writing it. Future blog entries at this site will continue to be about green design, furniture and architecture. You will soon be able to click through to S(S)SS at the button above on this site, or go directly there now at: www.mamaisonverte.com/wp ('my green house', in French.)

Teaching- part of the job- Class coming up in April

One of the most difficult things to manage in the design business is delivering unpleasant news to a client.  I think everyone who does this work wants to solve problems and create great results, but sometimes bad news..... happens.  Recently one of my sources of organic towels discontinued a color, while I had an order in for that color, and without emailing me.  Yikes! The only way to handle it is to tell the client the truth, and to provide a solution as part of the message.  I spent a rather intense afternoon on the internet finding organic cotton towels in that exact color, before calling my client!

Being an interior designer with a green specialty means that you are always bringing up unpleasant realities.  The cabinet shop that is cheapest might use a formaldehyde containing wood product,  the mahogany flooring that the client likes might have been poached out of a rainforest, the wallpaper might contain vinyl and encourage mould growth in the walls.  It adds a level of complexity because I have to deliver lifecycle information about the products used in interior design, while still creating the visual, functional and emotional atmosphere a client wants in their home.  I love designing homes, and collaborating with clients, but sometimes I feel like the Grinch when I bring up some yucky environmental effect associated with a product.

I love teaching about green interior design because I get to share all of the information about green products, but without bumming a client out because I am telling them they shouldn't buy something.  Most people will never be in the situation where they are hiring a design professional, but I still want them to know about sustainable design.  I feel especially strongly about environmentally friendly interior design when there are health issues with conventional products.  No one should have formaldehyde in their interior wood products, it is a known airway irritant, mutagen and carcinogen, and is easy to avoid.  But if you don't know the right questions to ask, you might bring this pollutant into you house!

It is great because I can help people who are doing their own design make healthier choices.

Anyhow, this is all to introduce the fact that I am teaching again in April:

Here is the link to look at the class or sign up:
GREEN INTERIOR DESIGN— THE NUTS AND BOLTS
2 wks · Apr 21–28 Wednesday · 7 – 9 p.m. Palo Alto HS Rm 306 · $40
Kirsten Flynn,LEED-GA, CGBP, Allied ASID, kir@sustainablehome.com
Green interior design helps you create a home that reflects your great taste and your care for the planet. This two-night course covers environmental issues associated with most common interior materials and furnishings, and allows you to see and touch building materials that are as gorgeous as they are green. Kirsten Flynn owns the design firm Sustainable Home, teaches on the Peninsula, and recently designed the interiors for a totally solar house featured in the Solar Decathlon.

Copenhagen, do we dare to hope?

Sometimes I do not know why I get so worked up about things, it would be a lot easier on my blood pressure to just live my life, do my design work, and not get involved. But my mind is a lot more like the bumper sticker that says "If you are not outraged, you havn't been paying attention." I cannot change the part of myself that seems compelled to get active.The reality is that we all are going to have to take action to try and mitigate the effects of climate change, the only difference is when. Will change be forced on us after the first wave of climate induced human migration? Or will we wake up and move in a positive direction to shape the best future possible? Some times I do not know the answer. But, as my french teacher said, as I tried to tell her I did not know how to say in French the thing she wanted me to say: "Mais il faut qu'on essayer." It is necessary that one tries. Check out the Hopenhagen web site, they are trying to get folks to register their support for a real climate change agreement at this month's meeting in Copenhagen.