Friday, May 16, 2008

HOME SHOW: Green can be 'Better' - Eco-friendly lifestyle, products visit Las Vegas

Living green doesn’t mean having to sacrifice style in your home. Just ask interior designer Libby Langdon.

Langdon, host of “Small Space Big Style” on HGTV, learned all about green design as she created environmentally friendly living environments for the Living Green Tour and Exhibit.

“I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to work on anything with green design or green materials,” she said. “I had no idea that there are so many products and things that you can use which are at the same time be eco-friendly.”
The Living Green Tour and Exhibit was designed to promote resourcefulness, energy efficiency and everyday environmental practices to help consumers save money, live healthier and conserve natural resources.
Presented by Better Homes and Gardens magazine and Green Works, a new line of natural cleaners made from plant-based ingredients, the tour is being offered in conjunction with the Home & Outdoor Living Show Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Cashman Center.
“Our consumers are passionate about home and keenly interested in everyday practices for living green,” said Gayle Butler, editor-in-chief of Better Homes and Gardens. “This exhibit extends our green coverage beyond our magazine pages and Web site, offering consumers a hands-on opportunity to learn realistic steps to save money, save energy and minimize their impact on the environment.”
In addition to visiting Las Vegas, the tour has scheduled 14 other stops throughout the nation.
The 2,500-square-foot exhibit showcases green ideas for three functional rooms in the home: the kitchen/utility room, the living room and the bathroom. Each is filled with green products, materials and appliances.
“You can make it look like a regular home. That’s one of the things I’m excited about,” Langdon said. “I don’t think most people will look at this exhibit and see green design. I think that’s the smart way to do it. They will just see a beautiful space and then realize that the products are eco-friendly.”
Among the green products Langdon used are countertops from a company called EnviroGlas that grinds up bottles, old toilets and bathtubs to make a stone-like surface, mosaic tiles made of out old car windshields and PlyBoo, a sturdy plywood made from bamboo.
She also used Energy Star appliances, soy-based cushions and organic fabrics.
Langdon said she strived to make the exhibit entertaining as well as informative.
“I didn’t want to be preachy, telling people what they should do. I wanted it to be more interactive. Rather than just tons of picture frames and placards around with green tips, I incorporated the green tips in the actual exhibit. For example, in the kitchen I used a dish towel instead of paper towels and had that tip embroidered on the towel itself.
“As you go through the exhibit, it’s almost like a scavenger hunt. You never know where the next green tip will be. It makes it fun and makes people want to stay in the exhibit and learn,” Langdon said.
Traveling along with the exhibit as host is Steven Whittle, a green living expert.
“I give talks about once an hour on a vast range of subjects, whether it is a general lifestyle topic such as about how to be green today, tomorrow and in the future, or specific such as energy conservation, lighting, what everyone can do without spending money or conducting an energy audit in the home,” he said.
Whittle said tour organizers have tried to create a “Where’s Waldo” approach to green living, allowing visitors to take away as much or as little information as they are comfortable with. For some, a quick visit might be just enough to prompt them to switch from paper towels to a linen dish towel.
“Maybe they’ve never really thought about how many paper towels they go through in a year,” he said.
Among his duties as host are to initiate conversations with exhibit visitors and to answer questions.
“As host, I liked to play a game called ‘Stump Steven.’ The topic of green is so broad, I thought I knew it all going into this. I realize that I don’t. At each stop, I’m learning more,” he said. “Everyone sends the really hard questions to me.
“I try to be a jack of all trades for the everyman on the subject of green, but my biggest strength is knowing when I’m not the expert on something and pledging to get someone who is the expert.”
He said he also likes to offer tips and suggestions that make living green easier. For example, Whittle said he tells visitors that they can reduce electricity use by making sure all of the windows, doors and air ducts are tightly sealed, installing a programmable thermostat and taking advantage of natural sunlight.
In Las Vegas, homeowners also can save electricity if they add a little humidity to the air.
“The air temperature can be a little high with a bit of moisture in it. Maybe it can be 78 (degrees Fahrenheit) versus 72 (degrees Fahrenheit),” he said.
“You also could do stuff like switching from more traditional chemical cleaners to stuff like Green Works, which is natural and biodegradable.”
Green Works, a new product by Clorox made out of ingredients such as coconut and lemon oil, is one of the tour’s presenting sponsors, as is Pella Windows and Doors.