Traditional buildings and dwellings for thousands of years have incorporated the very essence of the natural home. From timber framed and stone buildings in Europe to mud huts in Africa and the Middle East, the raised or stilted houses in Asia or on the flood plains around the world, to the yurts of Mongolia. All have a long tradition in their specific geographical location to cope with the demands for the protection of the occupants.
There is a natural harmony between the materials used for the building and the occupants. The natural products give off no unwanted chemical pollutants into the air to cause skin irritations or breathing problems, the very design of the dwelling is in complete harmony with its environment, a mud hut would not fare well in a damp and wet climate, the design is to help cope with the regions climate and to offer protection for the occupants relative to the conditions. Thick mud walls with small openings offer cool shading in the heat of the African sun and warmth in the cold nights. There is no wasted energy to either heat or cool the dwelling with boilers or air conditioning.
Admittedly Western life is very different from those of indigenous communities, but the principle of living in harmony with the subtle forces of nature are the same. Technology has its place to, this website was built using a computer and the World Wide Web enables all of us to share a commonality of human existence. We drive cars and watch TV and have a host of objects to entertain us, but there is a growing need for all of us to realise the fragile existence of this beautiful blue planet and for each to play their part.
Modern homes are not in harmony with either the occupants or the environment. They are wasteful and pollute the natural environment, not to mention the space created within them can have serious effects upon our health.
By being in harmony; creating a system that consumes very little, recycling more and treating the resources with economy and gratitude. Our homes become something more, a part of the local ecosystem, a place that supports health and sustainability
The question is; what can I do in my current situation? You might live in a 1 bedroom flat of which you are renting, earning a minimum salary. In this situation it is hard to change any of the features of the property, but you can be more aware of the energy you consume, the amount of water you use and how much you recycle. Understanding the materials that are within your home; are they natural fibres or manmade materials, is your home cluttered, what colour schemes you use, do you have any potted plants, the list could go on. It all depends on the level of commitment and the desire for creating a more harmonious home.
Some Simple Low Cost Ideas
Look at the amount of space you have within your home, are you using the space available to get the maximum effect. Try changing your rooms around, position items of furniture to get the best from the space available.
How cluttered is you home, do you find stuff everywhere and nothing has a place? Try to organise either yourself better so that things get put away or look at your storage options, do you have enough, or do you have too much stuff. A cluttered house is a reflection of the occupant’s mind.
What colour scheme are your rooms, and how much natural light comes in. Living in a darkly coloured room with little natural light does not enhance ones wellbeing and health, treat yourself to a new coat of paint, maybe one that’s eco friendly.
If you live in a congested built up area, in a city for example, you can buy an ioniser, this generates negative ions, which are very good for you, to counter the effects of pollution.
Do you have any potted plants, or a window box? Plants are a great way of bringing nature into a home and if you grow herbs a food source to. Look at where you are going to position the plant, and think of how much space it will eventually grow into, what type of leaves does the plant have, spiky, rounded or fingered leaf? All will have a different effect when in the home. If in doubt do a little research or ask at your local garden store.
Flushing the toilet uses up to 8 litres of water per flush, a simple idea is buying a toilet disinfectant or toilet smell killer and excuse this but, " if its yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down". A funny little rhyme, but the point here is to bring awareness of the amount of water being wasted.
Do you use a bowl for washing up? And do you have a garden? This water can be used on the garden provided you use an eco friendly washing up product, so that it does not pollute the ground water. Or collect the water as the tap runs from cold to hot water, this too can be used on the garden. This is a great way of recycling and saving your water at the same time.
Look at your energy consumption; do you leave lights on when no one is in the room? Do you have the heating on when no one’s there, or have the heating turned up high. Energy efficient light bulbs, do you have any? Do you turn things off at the switch or leave things on standby. If you have a loft or roof space, do you have any insulation and how thick? What temperature is your washing machine normally used on? Is your home draughty around doors and windows? Do you still have single glazed window units? Any wall insulation if you have solid brick walls, or old cavity walls?
What type of washing up and washing machine detergents do you use? Are they biodegradable or eco friendly? These products along with shower gels and hair products contaminate water courses with heavy metals and nitrates.
If you are going to redecorate, use a non toxic paint. Paints give off fumes which we think go after a short while after painting. This however is not quite true, depending upon the type of paint, paint fumes can leech into your environment for years. There is becoming a wider range of paint which are either non VOC or low VOC and the percentage of heavy metals like lead range from 0.3% to 5%. Any reduction we make is significantly healthier for us and our families.
If you are going to buy new furniture, especially with beds and sofas, or a new carpet, be aware that foams in their manufacture use formaldehyde, this has been linked to respiratory conditions and should be avoided. It’s the leeching effect of the formaldehyde in the foam that create harmful pollutants and toxins in the home. Choosing natural fibres might not always be the cheapest option but are a lot healthier, and a lifelong investment.
Smells have an amazing effect on the mind and spirit, scented candles and incense are great ways to create a pleasant atmosphere, as are flowering plants.
Some other ideas
Have an Energy Assessment of the property and look at the various recommendations that the report gives you for improving your energy efficiency. For example loft and wall insulation are key areas of heat loss as well as windows that are not double glazed. The type of boiler you have and the controls for heating play a vital role in conserving energy. Note though, when improving the insulation of a property a common problem of condensation arises and the need for adequate ventilation is a must. An Energy Consultant will give you further advice depending upon your needs and the amount of money you plan to invest.
Rainwater harvesting, solar heating, under floor heating, photovoltaic’s, Combined Heat and Power (CHP) units, micro generation, passive solar collection, passive ventilation and more, are sustainable energy solutions to reduce the level of demand for energy and resources. The systems and their applications are dependent on the size and location of the property and the budget to be invested.
You can employ a feng shui practitioner to understand the natural flow of energies flowing in and around your home. This principle works well with any size of property and has been used for thousands of years by the Chinese to improve one’s health and wealth.
If you thinking about redecorating, have a quick look at the colourt chart below, or if you are drawn to this more, have a consultation with a colour therapist or a good interior designer who is sympathetic to your requirements.