American Museum of Natural History’s 20th Annual Spring Environmental Lecture and Luncheon: Green Design for the Urban Home

At the American Museum of Natural History’s 20th Annual Spring Environmental Lecture and Luncheon today the focus was on going green in your home.

Museum President Ellen V. Futter welcomed us to the program, revealing how the 125 year old mammoth museum is the most green cultural institution in all of New York City. It has reduced its carbon footprint 20%, while experiencing an influx of over a million additional guests each year.  The cafe has garnered world renown for being one of the most green eating establishments.

Former correspondent for ABC News “20/20”, author and current media commentator Lynn Sherr returned for her eighth year as moderator for the discussion entitled “Green Design for the Urban Home.”  Panel contributors were Rob Watson, Chairman, CEO and Chief Scientist of EcoTech International and the creator of the LEED standard (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), Joshua Wiener, CEO and founder of Silverlinning Interiors Inc, which specializes in environmentally responsible contracting and Robin Wilson, nationally recognized eco-friendly and home healthy interior designer who has appeared on HGTV.

Some projects from Silver Lining Interiors.
They were even responsible for the Manolo Blanhnik boutique
The three spoke for just over an hour, sharing tips, stories and personal experiences on how to make your home green.  Each panelist had their own reason for finding their eco-friendly passions: Watson became a regular at the recycling plant for the extra cash as a kid, Wilson has asthma and Wiener fell into it after becoming concerned with the health of his workers breathing in toxic fumes on job sites.  

Watson shared some staggering factoids with the attendees, like that we spend 90% of our lives indoors and nothing expends more energy than buildings. Building new structures is the most ungreen thing we do as a human race and when you think about the amount of resources that get poured into the process, it makes sense.  Watson created the LEED standard, a diagnostic for new buildings and home renovation projects to make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible.  The building process is where Weenier comes in.  As a builder who specializes in high end Manhattan remodels he has encountered a lot of different requests from a wide range of clients.  He addressed the concerns of many that the more the green a house is, the more green you have to spend.

“Sometimes there are upfront costs,” Weenier said.  For instance, CFL lights cost $2 while LED lights cost $40 but last 8-10 years.  He also suggests looking for Forest friendly wood protected by the Forest Stewardship Council.  Admittedly, FSC wood can be up to 10% more than other wood, but with a little creativity you can beat the budget inflation.  One client of Weenier’s had her heart set on teak wood, but there was no FSC teak wood available at the time of her project, so rather than settling she purchased wood from a rainforest and sent money for eight trees (the amount she took).  She was given the exact GPS location of the wood and checks on their progress, which is an innovative way to reduce one’s carbon footprint.

From the wood to the insulation there are always ways to fine tune your renovation and building to be more environmentally responsible. Robin Wilson has used old blue jeans and other cotton products for insulation. Robin also gave the audience the most to think about when she suggested that our pillows are made up of over 30% of dirt mites! “If you have a pillow older than two years, recycle it.” She also suggests that we use a hypoallergenic pillow cover that we can wash to reduce the amount of nasty critters.

Some completed projects from Robin Wilson Design
Stuffed animals are also prime hot spots for unhealthy germs and to make sure your child’s play things aren’t making them sick, she said to put the toy in a freezer bag, freeze it for 24 hours and then shake the germs away.  “Get your kids in the habit of covering the toilet bowl when they flush,” Wilson said, due to the spray from the toilet bowl.

Setting a green example for your children was a common subject each panelist discussed.  Weenier talked about the solar panels he installed in his country house.  “Each month my kids run to see the electric bill and say, only $4.87? [because of taxes]  It’s nice to see.” Again, those solar panels will take nine years to pay off, but in the long run they will reduce costs and the Weenier family’s carbon footprint.

All of the information that was given was a bit overwhelming, as the panelists conceded.  All suggested when looking to perfect your green design you consult a professional from the beginning and make sure you get your architect and contractor talking from the start! Here is a list of some eco-friendly resources:

Sandra Liotus Lighting for eco-friendly lighting installations

Many a child was not too happy that the luncheon took place in the same room as the giant whale! Attendees helped to raise over $500,000 dollars to aide in the museum’s educational efforts.
The welcomed challenge that faces the design community is how to make these green designs a color everyone can live in.  Now more than ever beautiful home decor accessories and furniture are also eco-friendly and while designers and manufactures scramble to keep up with the high demand we at The Well Appointed House continue to look for the best in eco-friendly home fashions for you, our customers.

Gift bags were provided by Martha Stewart and contained cleaning products from her new eco-friendly line as well as an issue of Body and Soul Magazine.
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