Down-to-earth Green – House Proud, The Toronto Sun

Many of us would like to convert to a greener lifestyle, but, frankly, the associated costs sometimes turn us off. When you’re trying to stay within a budget, it’s difficult to justify spending twice as much for a product that’s environmentally friendly. Some people also still think that green living means giving up modern conveniences and coping with endless compromises. 

But if you attended the Green Living Show last month at the Direct Energy Centre, you likely learned that an eco-friendly approach to your home doesn’t have to mean relentless tree hugging. Green products have come a long way, and those who have been at the forefront of going easy on the planet’s resources are finally making inroads with people like me, who are willing to listen as long as we don’t have to give up our blow-dryers or start beating our clothing on rocks. I came away from the show with several terrific ideas, including some surprisingly inexpensive ways to live in a more earth-friendly way.

When you think of “green” companies, Walmart may not be the first retailer that comes to mind, so it was a little surprising to see its ubiquitous sign looming large at the show. The U.S.-based discount department store chain apparently recognizes that consumers now expect more from big corporations. I instinctively stopped at a beautiful chocolate-brown and sky-blue area rug at the Walmart display, and before I knew it, I was kneeling down and feeling its combination of a hardy but touchable weave and cut-pile accents. It bore an EcoLogo, proving its environmental friendliness under Environment Canada’s certification. The rug gained this designation because it’s made of polypropylene — a strong, durable and recyclable synthetic material.

I made several assumptions about the rug while picturing one in my living room. I assumed it was expensive and imported and at a new, higher price point for Walmart. None of that turned out to be true. The rug I fondled and several other eco-friendly indoor and outdoor varieties of area rugs are manufactured in Toronto by Korhani and come in several sizes. A 7-by-10-foot version of my new favourite rug costs a mere $100. When you get tired of it or are ready for a new look, you can contact the company for recycling information. This line of floor coverings need never end up in a landfill.

Scads of artisans and craftspeople are using a green approach in the creation of their furniture and decor items. Among them is Michael Greenwood, whose wares were also on display at the Green Living show. Michael uses salvaged and reclaimed materials to make tables, bowls, lamps and other beautiful pieces. The lamp pictured at right is priced at around $200, comparable to regular lamps in retail stores. Michael also builds tree houses, made to order, as complicated or simple as the client requests, including some that involve several structures joined by rope ladders.

If you’re like me, you want some greenery in your home but don’t exactly have a green thumb. I’ve accidentally killed the most maintenance-free plants you can imagine. But a retailer at the Green Living Show had my dream plants: the air plant only needs to be rinsed or sprayed a couple of times a week and then sits on any surface and thrives. At $3.99 each, I could have filled a room with them. However, I bought only one, and although it’s only been a few weeks, it seems to be doing well. For every green piece of furniture whose price tag is ridiculously out of reach, there’s an artisan or company that’s working on bringing its prices down to earth without making concessions on eco-friendliness. And thanks to shows like Green Living, they’re getting easier to find.