What is Off-gassing?
As a blizzard swept Northeast America (apparently the worst since 1978), a number of disasters occurred, including loss of life and property. As those experiencing power outages shiver inside their homes in sub-zero temperatures, I wonder if window treatments make the difference manufacturers claim they do. Much of the Boston area that was blanketed in snow was inundated with floods from a breached sea wall. Amazing how we’re still no match to Mother Nature’s fury. Homes were coated in ice. An elderly gent fading away while shoveling snow……News channels reported that many residents who rode out the storm relied on fireplaces to keep warm during the power failure.
So, are we still using heaters full throttle? Forgotten all about sustainability? Going green? Reducing our carbon footprints? Are we following some of the basic tenets of green living? Like turning down our thermostats a few notches and wearing sweater while indoors; using glazed double-pane glass for our windows to reduce the convection of heat; using cellular shades teamed with motorized controls? No? But Why?
Let’s just look at what ‘sustainability’ really is – it is ensuring that processes and products are capable of being continued or maintained with the least amount of impact on the environment. There are some simple procedures I’m sure everybody follows, like segregating garbage and using air conditioning and heating systems as little as possible to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals they let off into the atmosphere as by-products. Or using soaps and detergents that have a minimum detrimental impact on humans and the environment. I keep harping on ‘minimal’ and ‘lowest’ as though even these miniscule amounts are harmful! That’s because there are certain standards manufacturers have to adhere to in order to be certified as an environment friendly product.
And what do we mean by ‘environment-friendly’? Products or systems are said to follow ‘sustainable manufacturing procedures’ when they restrict the release of pollutants and carbon dioxide emissions, which in turn means that the production of waste is reduced, and the principles of water conservation are followed, thereby conserving energy – this is a cyclic process in which you can’t have one without the other. So, the needs of the current generation are met without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. This calls for manufacturers’ use of ‘responsible’ materials that are, (1) sourced from renewable bases (e.g., In the manufacture of their wooden shutters and blinds, Norman uses wood from self-regenerating hardwood Phoenix trees that regenerate from the stump. These forests are maintained by loggers in association with Norman Window Fashions), (2) low-emitting, and (3) can be recycled. The adherence to these practices wins manufacturers the valued GreenGuard Certification for indoor air quality, granted by the independent and non-profit organization, GreenGuard Environmental Institute (GEI). GEI continually tests the said products to ensure that high-quality standards are maintained.
And what do we mean by ‘indoor air quality’? How many people actually realize that indoor air is 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air? This is a statistic that has been released by the GEI. Add up the number of hours spent sleeping, the hours spent at school, the hours spent in an office – that’s a lot of hours spent indoors (90% of our time), isn’t it? Makes me wish for simpler times when windows were more often left open than closed! It really is a paradox that the place we consider the safest, our home, is actually the most polluted! The main culprits that are responsible for high levels of indoor air pollution are plastics, furnishings, and building products that release volatile organic chemicals (VOC’s) under standard temperature and pressure. Also known as ‘off-gassing’. That smell you get after a house is newly painted or the smell of the interiors o a brand new car. Yes, it’s actually toxic fumes! This results in the manifestation of human symptoms like allergies, breathing problems, skin irritation, etc. Mould, as a result of dampness in the air, and dust also contribute to poor indoor air quality. Add to this non-ventilated rooms (indoors that are sealed off from the unconditioned outdoor air), and boy oh boy, we are in serious trouble indeed!
The only solution in sight is to keep pollutants out from the first instance! To do this, one must select products that are GreenGuard certified for low emissions. Let’s start with our doors and windows.
The use of ‘Energy efficient’ window shading (energy lost is minimal) makes perfect sense when one lives in extremely cold climates, like the conditions being experienced in New England, New York, and New Jersey. The use of less energy means savings, but in the long run, it also means saving the environment – remember that every time energy is used, pollutants are released into the atmosphere. So, in the interests of reducing your carbon footprint, lessen the use of energy. Products like the Symphony cellular shades, Odyssey Insulating Blinds, Shangri-la Sheer Horizontal Shades, Vinyl shades by Crown, Faux Wood Blinds from Graber, Wooden Blinds and Shutters from Norman are only some of the window treatments that will help keep your indoor air quality pure, so that your interiors remain the safe haven you want it to be.