The Wellness Dilemma and Sustainable, Cruelty-Free Design

This quote pretty much sums up what’s been on my mind of late. What kind of a difference do I want to make for myself, my business, the world? This has partially come about recently because of a cough I’ve had. I would say that overall, I’ve been relatively healthy throughout my life. Typically, I’m able to bounce back quickly after cold & flu, however, these past 5 months have been anything but healthy! Which has me thinking about all of the things around us: what we eat, the clothes we buy, the furniture we sit on, etc. I’m especially focused on how these choices are impacting our lives and, more importantly, our overall health and well-being.

I’ve had a cough since December. It started out as a now-and-then cough but by January it was clear I was sick. I assumed I had a chest cold and it would go away with some rest and self-care. But it persisted. I finally went to the doctor and was diagnosed with Reactive Airway Disease, essentially Asthma.

Over the years, I had noticed that when I visited construction job sites, I would walk in and immediately start coughing. However, my cough inevitably disappeared after leaving the job site, so I didn’t think much of it. But, all of that gunk in my lungs perpetuated into asthma, and I have been on inhalers for the last 4 months. My persistent coughing was, thankfully, temporary but asthma can rear its head at any time.

So, this has me thinking really hard about my lifestyle. What am I eating that’s unhealthy? What am I purchasing – from clothing to personal care and home cleaning products to furniture – that could make me sick? What items am I recommending to my clients that could affect their health?

And it’s not just the illness itself, but all the side effects: our energy and lack thereof, mental clarity and focus, overall stress, etc. What things could I be specifying that could be making us – me, my family, my clients – sick? VOC in paints & stains, carpet, countertops, cabinets, cushioning in seating…you name it, the list goes on.

And this leads to an even bigger ethical question for me from an environmental and animal cruelty-free design…what can I specify and recommend to my clients so that we can feel good, or at least better, about our choices and the impact they have on our lives, our health, our well-being, our planet? How do I want to run my business and show up in the world? If I’m truly an animal lover, can I consciously recommend a hair-on-hide rug or leather sofa? If I want to limit the impact on our environment, what products have the most sustainable and lowest carbon footprint, or at least at the end of its life can be recycled into something new?

I realize these are loaded questions and I certainly won’t answer them in this one blog. However, these past months have got me searching for healthy alternatives and reconsidering how I want to run my business and what I’m willing to take a stand on. I would love to hear from you: how have your choices impacted your health or your life?  What are you doing to make different choices? I read all of your questions and answers and will respond in kind ????

What I know for sure is that I’m probably not going to change everything that I do, purchase or eat, but I can make some changes that will make a difference. To date, I’ve done a couple of things:

  1. I purchased several sets of glass containers with lids to replace all of the Ziploc bags and plastic throw away containers I had been using;
  2. since we are in the middle of a remodel on our master bathroom, I’m looking at specifying healthy alternatives including paint with low VOCs and LED lighting and the glues and plywood used to build the vanity are all sustainable and locally sourced; and
  3. Best of all…we’re installing a steam shower in our master bath – since my husband has allergies and asthma and I now have asthma, a steam shower is a healthy way to clear out our sinuses, rejuvenate our skin, and relax!

So, stay tuned as this is going to be a theme you’ll be hearing more about throughout this year and beyond. In fact, I’ll have an article on the benefits/cost of a steam shower, the benefits of a bidet, plus many more topics.