IN CELEBRATION OF EARTH
AN INTERVIEW ON SUSTAINABLE LIVING
In celebration of World Earth Day, taking place April 22, VIGO teamed up with architectural technologist Larissa Swayze. The current collaborator of the blog Of Houses and Trees, Swayze writes about sustainable design and living. After recently featuring on of VIGO’s bathroom faucet’s in a post on How to Design an Eco-Friendly Bathroom, Swayze sat down with VIGO to discuss her approach to living sustainably.
VIGO: Tell us what sustainability means to you.
Larissa Swayze (LS): To me, sustainability means mindfulness. In every choice we make – from purchasing something, to throwing something in the trash, to turning on a light or a faucet – we need to consider how we are impacting the environment. To be sustainable is to be thoughtful. And not just to our planet, but to each other and to future generations.
VIGO: How did you become passionate about sustainable living?
LS: I grew up exploring forests and camping and hiking near lakes, rivers and mountains. Nature and the environment have always been a central part of my life, but it wasn’t until I was older and moved away from home that I began to realize I had to start living differently if I wanted to protect the planet I held so dear.
VIGO: What does it mean to have a sustainable design aesthetic?
LS: Having a sustainable design aesthetic means considering the longevity and environmental impact of every product and material you choose. The great thing about sustainable design these days is that you can find an eco-conscious version of just about everything and you don’t even have to sacrifice style.
VIGO: What are the first three things you look for when designing a sustainable bathroom?
LS: Low-flow faucets and showerheads and a dual flush toilet. Plus vanities, sinks, showers, flooring and light fixtures made from natural or recycled materials. I’m also a huge proponent of buying secondhand or using reclaimed or repurposed items.
VIGO: VIGO produces both bath and kitchen products. What are some priorities to consider for a sustainable kitchen?
LS: Much like with a sustainable bathroom, you should consider products and materials made from natural or recycled materials. You also, of course, should prioritize water conservation by installing a low-flow faucet. Appliances should also be Energy Star rated. It's even better if the appliances are secondhand AND Energy Star rated!
"To be sustainable is to be thoughtful.”
VIGO: Do you have to be an architect or conservation expert in order to effectively design for sustainability in the home?
LS: Of course not! There still seems to be a perception that living and designing sustainably is hard, inconvenient or expensive and it really isn’t. As I already mentioned, being sustainable is about being thoughtful. Everyone has the capacity to think before they make a purchase and to choose items that have less of an environmental impact compared to conventional items.
VIGO: What can you say to people who argue that it’s too hard or expensive to live and design sustainably?
LS: I understand that change is hard, but when it comes to protecting our planet and its resources it is so incredibly worth it. Plus, it’s better to make small changes over time rather than wait until we no longer have a choice and are forced to change abruptly. Furthermore, we’re living in a time where the options for sustainable living are plentiful – and many are also very affordable.
VIGO: In one of your recent blog posts you featured the VIGO Paloma Bathroom Faucet; what did you like about this faucet that led you to highlight its eco-friendly features?
LS: When I was working on my post about eco-friendly bathroom design, I knew I wanted to feature a faucet that was both sustainable and beautiful. I love how the Paloma is modern, yet timeless. And I love even more that it has a flow rate of only 1.2 gallons per minute, which is lower than the 1.5 gallons per minute required to meet WaterSense standards. Plus, it comes in matte black, which is just so stunning.
“A low-low faucet can reduce water use by up to 30%”
VIGO: Which type of faucets tend to be the most responsible for water conservation?
LS: Anything with a low-flow rate, meaning 1.5 gallons per minute or lower. The standard flow rate for faucets is 2.2 gallons per minute, and according to the WaterSense website, a low-flow faucet can reduce water use by 30 percent! That’s a pretty big impact for just one small change. [Additionally], faucets with a combined hot and cold tap/lever waste less water than those with [separate hot and cold handles]. [Two taps means turning on one] and letting it run while fiddling with the other to find the right temperature. That’s another reason why I decided to feature the Paloma, because it has a single tap/lever.
VIGO: On the topic of water conservation, does having a low-flow faucet automatically mean sacrificing water pressure?
LS: No it doesn’t. Faucet manufacturers know that people aren’t going to want a faucet if it has low water pressure. A good quality low-flow faucet is still going to have great pressure. And WaterSense labeled faucets also have a minimum flow rate in order to stop manufacturers who seek certification from compromising performance.
VIGO: How does designing for sustainability impact style?
LS: I think the idea that you can either be sustainable or stylish – not both – is antiquated. In fact, I think many of the companies and brands that care about sustainability are really hitting it out of the park in terms of delivering products that are eco-friendly, stylish – and unique!
VIGO: Why should homeowners care about designing for a sustainable planet?
LS: For so many reasons! On an individual level, eco-friendly products and materials tend to be a healthier choice compared to conventional items that are chemical filled and off-gas, downgrading the air quality in your home. Eco-friendly products and materials can also save a lot of money in the long run. [Low flow] faucets save water, which means a smaller water bill! On a global level, the emissions and waste we produce, coupled with quickly depleting natural resources, means we eventually are going to find ourselves in a dire situation. But instead of letting that knowledge scare us, it should inspire us to wake up every day and do just a little bit better than the day before.
VIGO: Can you give any advice to novices looking to outfit their homes in a more eco-friendly manner?
LS: Start by simply taking a moment to think before you make a purchase for your home. Ask yourself if it’s something you really need or really want. If so, consider the item’s environmental impact. Is it high quality and will last a long time? Was it made with respect toward the planet’s resources? If you aren’t sure, don’t buy it. You can always go home (or click away), think about it and come back if you decide it fits within this criteria. I also like to consider who I’m purchasing an item from, as I prefer to support one of the many brands and companies that put the environment at the forefront. It truly is an exciting time for sustainability!