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With the understanding that everything is interconnected,we strive to select build-
ing materials,products,technologies and services that fall under an umbrella of
energy conservation and socially and environmentally responsible manufacturing or
design,and,to the extent possible,bioregionalism (purchasing products or services
as close to home as possible).Although initial costs are often higher this way,we
view our decisions cumulatively and long-term,much as we do our mortgage,which
allows us to defray the economic cost over a longer term.And,as most people do,
we live within financial limitations,moving forward with projects as they become
6 RURAL RENAISSANCE
THE HANNOVER PRINCIPLES:
Green Design Principles for Sustainability
by William McDonough
We’ve used William McDonough’s Hannover Principles for Sustainability to help guide our
projects, Written for the 2000 World’s Fair, the Principles establish design parameters for sus-
tainability, providing an ecology primer for designers and anyone else concerned with the
intelligent use of natural resources. The Hannover Principles are considered a living docu-
ment committed to transformation and growth in the understanding of our interdepend-
ence with nature, in order that they may adapt as our knowledge of the world evolves.
1.Insist on rights of humanity and nature to coexist in a healthy, supportive, diverse and
2.Recognize interdependence. The elements of human design interact with and depend
upon the natural world, with broad and diverse implications at every scale. Expand
design considerations to recognize even distant effects.
3.Respect relationships between spirit and matter. Consider all aspects of human settle-
ment, including community, dwelling, industry and trade, in terms of existing and
evolving connections between spiritual and material consciousness.
4.Accept responsibility for the consequences of design decisions upon human well-being,
the viability of natural systems and their right to coexist.
LIVING BY GREEN DESIGN 7
Our day-to-day operating decisions incorporate the adage:reduce,reuse,recy-
cle.We added two more ofour own — restore and redesign — while also
considering William McDonough’s Hannover Principles (see sidebar,The Hannover
Principles).Reflecting this philosophy,we chose to remodel an existing farmhouse
rather than build a new house.In a similar vein,we’re transforming an old granary
into a greenhouse,rather than burning it down and building a new structure.
Buying the early 20th century farmhouse also helped us reduce our exposure to
problems associated with the chemicals found in the materials often used in today’s
modern homes,such as chipboards,plywood,pesticide-impregnated timbers,vinyl
flooring and plastic finishes.Other than the asbestos shingles around the farm-
house (best left alone),we’ve used our renovations as an opportunity to carefully
remove many ofthe possible health dangers,such as the lead paint that was around
the windows,and most ofthe carpet throughout the house.
5.Create safe objects of long-term value. Do not burden future generations with require-
ments for maintenance of vigilant administration of potential danger due to the careless
creation of products, processes or standards.
6.Eliminate the concept of waste. Evaluate and optimize the full lifecycle of products and
processes, to approach the state of natural systems, in which there is no waste.
7.Rely on natural energy flows. Human designs should, like the living world, derive their
creative forces from perpetual solar income. Incorporate the energy efficiently and
safely for responsible use.
8.Understand the limitations of design. No human creation lasts forever and design does not
solve all problems. Those who create and plan should practice humility in the face of nature.
Treat nature as a model and mentor, not an inconvenience to be evaded or controlled.
9.Seek constant improvement by the sharing of knowledge. Encourage direct and open
communication between colleagues, patrons, manufacturers and users to link long-
term sustainable considerations with ethical responsibility, and reestablish the integral
relationship between natural processes and human activity.
Source: UVA Architecture Publications; © 1992 William McDonough Architects. Used with permission.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),indoor air pol-
lution can sometimes be ten times worse than Los Angeles on a smog alert,no
matter where we live.Around 1915,synthetic chemicals first started to show up;at
present,there are over four million synthetic chemicals on record.It’s not surprising
that pollutants that impact human cells have been shown to accumulate in our bod-
ies.Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemically unstable,and readily turn
into gas or combine with other chemicals which can then be inhaled.According to
the EPA and other sources,doctors are beginning to recognize multiple chemical
sensitivities and environmental illnesses.Allergic reactions are our body’s way to
signal exposure to toxic substances,some ofwhich we used to welcome (remember
“new car smell”?).
Rather than gambling with our lives and those ofour family,friends and bed &
breakfast guests,we’ve opted for safer choices.We wanted to feel vibrant and
healthy,so we are working to make our house as healthy and safe as possible.The
additional expense ofecologically safe products or materials is nothing when com-
pared to spending years in and out ofhospitals later in life from cancer or other
diseases resulting from bioaccumulated toxins or poisons.The following products
or services had a place in our journey toward living more sustainably and by green
design.At times it’s been a challenge to make informed decisions when limited
information and labeling is available,and many ofthe companies offering ecologi-
cally sound alternatives are small-time operators,so perseverance and patience is
Building and Construction Materials
Say “no volatile organic compounds,”or “no VOC,”and the paint store salespeople
will often come back with:“you mean,low VOC.”When shopping for our no-VOC
paint,which we’ve now used throughout our house,we ended up asking for “hospital
paint”to get what we wanted.Most major paint companies carry a no-VOC prod-
uct line,but the names change frequently and sales staffseem to lack knowledge
about this type ofpaint.American Formulating and Manufacturing (AFM) no-VOC
are paint companies that offer ecological options.American Formulating and
Manufacturing (AFM) also offers stains,sealers,cleaners and other safe products
for building and maintenance.
8 RURAL RENAISSANCE
Bathroom fixtures have yet to go green,but closing the recycling loop has never been
more beautiful,stylish and functional with floor tiles made from almost 60 percent
recycled automobile windshield glass and other post-consumer waste glass.Our
tiles in our guest bathrooms and our first floor bath are made by Terra-Green
nearly any floor covering store.Terra-Green offers Terra Traffic tiles for flooring and
Terra Classic tiles for walls.Eco Friendly Flooring
offers many sustainable flooring products,including recycled glass tiles,linoleum,
reclaimed and Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood,bamboo and cork.
Wood Floor Sealers (Poly-BP)
For our renovated kitchen floor and the main floor and hallway at the Inn
Serendipity Woods cabin,we selected AFM Safecoat Durostain,a no-VOC stain
and sealer,and followed it with AFM’s Lock-In Wood Sealer.For a beautiful,
LIVING BY GREEN DESIGN 9
often found in the
durable finish,we added the application oftwo coats ofgloss and one coat ofsatin
(best to mask scratches) Safecoat Polyureseal BP to protect the stained wood.
There are many options for safer,healthier homes,from non-toxic caulks to
insulation made from shredded newspaper or roofshingles made from recycled
materials.Even Gypsum wallboard,the mainstay ofhome improvement,is available
in a type made from 18 percent recycled gypsum and 100 percent recycled paper
The options are constantly changing,which can make locating a manufacturer
more difficult.Complicating this further is the fact that contractors tend to be creatures
ofhabit and use materials or products that they’ve grown accustomed to using and trust.
Co-op America’s Green Pages
healthier and greener alternatives,as are Gaiam Real Goods
In the Home
For around the house maintenance,cleaning,and laundry,we choose among an
increasing array ofnon-toxic and environmentally safe cleaners and detergents,100
percent recycled toilet paper and natural unbleached cotton linens,as well as fabrics
made with organically grown fiber.Seventh Generation (www.seventhgeneration.com)
offers a wide range ofthese household products that we’ve been using for years.
In the spirit ofreusing furnishings,we used Citristrip
citrus-based,non-toxic furniture refinisher,on the cabin property’s ash dining room
table and chairs,as well as on our antique lawyer’s bookcase on the farm.
Independently operated stores specializing in ecology-safe products,as well as larger
commercial enterprises (such as Whole Foods Market,Wild Oats,or Trader Joe’s),
offer a wide selection ofcleaning brands,often in more economical concentrated
forms,that are chlorine and phosphate-free,unscented,biodegradable,and non-ani-
mal tested.Our oak coffee table came from Smith & Hawken,among the first to
support Forest Stewardship Council-certified (FSC) sustainable wood use
10 RURAL RENAISSANCE
LIVING BY GREEN DESIGN 11
SOURCES AND RESOURCES
Co-op America's Green Pages
The number of green businesses bringing socially and environmentally
responsible goods and services to the marketplace is growing rapidly. Find
wonderful products, values and savings - everything you need to put your
economic power to work for change.
Features everything from an on-line green building professionals direc-
tory to their sustainable building sourcebook, this website is a great place
to search for green building resources and contractors.
Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability, Harper
Angela Hobbs, The Sick House Survival Guide: Simple Steps to Healthier Homes,
New Society Publishers, 2003.
Editors of E: The Environmental Magazine, Green Living: An E Magazine
Planetary Resource Guide, Plume, In Press.
John Schaeffer, Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook: The Complete Guide to
Renewable Energy Technologies and Sustainable Living, Real Goods, 2001.
Daniel D. Chiras, The Natural House: A Complete Guide to Healthy, Energy-effi-
cient Environmental Homes, Chelsea Green, 2000.
David Pearson,The New Natural House Book: Creating a Healthy, Harmonious
and Ecologically Sound Home, Fireside, 1998.
Nell Newman, with Joseph D'Agnese, The Newman's Own Guide to a Good
Life: Simple Measures that Benefit You and the Place You Live, Villard, 2003.
William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the
Way We Make Things, North Point Press, 2002.
A non-profit research powerhouse, offering information and practical
resources to assist in the transition to a more environmentally sustainable
and socially just society.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?