Green window treatments promote health and energy efficiency

April 24, 2012

By now, you know all about the virtues of energy-efficient windows. Combinations of coatings, gas fills and snug frames can spell energy savings and increased home value. At the same time, employing energy-smart window treatments (shades, drapes, screens and shutters) can complete your upgrade to green solutions for heating and cooling efficiency. But if you want to go green all the way, consider using sustainable treatments that protect your loved ones from the off-gassing of toxic materials into your home.

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The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) "Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study" found that indoor air quality can be up to five times as poor as outdoor air due to long-term release of chemicals used in paints, flooring, building materials and furnishings. The EPA warns of the use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in many products for the home. Because of VOCs used in your window treatments, you may be exposing your family to what the EPA calls "high pollutant levels, and elevated concentrations" that persist long after manufacture.

Green and sustainable window treatments

You may have noticed -- and ignored -- odors coming from wood products in the home, especially when they're consistently exposed to heat or sun. Livestrong.com, an organization dedicated to prevention or treatment for cancer, reports that a large number of blinds and shutters are made from slow-growing wood sources that can be bombarded with chemical fertilizers and processes using toxic formaldehyde binders. You're better off, the organization says, to use shutters or blinds made from fast-growing, sustainable bamboo or recycled paper.

The Sierra Club has also weighed in on the topic in its "Environmentally Friendly Window Covering Guide". The eco-centric organization recommends you avoid curtains and drapes made from "petrochemical-based synthetics like polyester, acrylic, or vinyl" in favor of products created out of "cotton, wool, silk, linen, and hemp". You should also avoid non-glossy vinyl window blinds produced prior to 1996. It has been found that some of these products contain lead.

Window accessories today include recycled materials or innovative use of materials. For example, the SheerWeave company produces 100-percent-recyclable window fabrics out of core yarn harvested from post-industrial waste. Manufacturers say it is lead- and PVC-free, washable, resistant to mold and it provides solar heat control and UV blocking qualities.

Ask your window installation contractor about pairing up non-VOC window treatments with replacement windows to create a green solution for your home that saves energy and fosters good indoor air quality.

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