Green Living Expert Danny Seo Shares Tips for Renters
In Jamison, Pa., perched on the edge of the Allegheny National Forest, Seo has filled his home with energy-efficient applicances, his own branded line of green mattresses, and he drives a hybrid. Not only does he believe in recycling, he's taken this tenet of his life to a greater level -- many of his things are used, vintage items from the Goodwill, flea-markets and other second-hand retailers.
The proof? Seo created a work bag by sewing together antiquated leather belts. His trivets are made of wine cork. And he says his favorite project was reupholstering dining room chairs with an old stash of cashmere sweaters.
Seo advises the J.C. Penney Co. on green products, appears on the circuit of morning television shows, and writes his own blog, so he has plenty of ideas to go around. In our question and answer session, he shared some suggestions on how to become a more eco-friendly renter and how to begin making your own recycled creations.
RS: What's the easiest thing a renter can do to be eco-friendly?
Danny Seo: It seems almost impossible for a renter to make eco-renovations to an apartment, but there are a few things that I believe make sense. Paint is an easy solution and I like to use a zero-VOC paint like Benjamin Moore's Aura paint. It goes on with just one coat and has virtually zero odor; plus when it's time to move, you can repaint over it with Aura paint in white in easy one-coat coverage, too. (Rented Spaces covered other zero-VOC paints in a previous article.)
Your everyday actions matter, too. The kinds of cleaning products you use indoors can have a great impact on the overall indoor air quality. And choosing the right kinds of energy efficient lighting not only saves energy, but removes the need to replace bulbs in light fixtures in high ceilings.
RS: What's the latest green home trend that you are loving?
DS: I'm a little biased, but I think it's the greening of the bedroom. I developed a mattress line with Simmons a few years ago called the Simmons Natural Care by Danny Seo. I figure if you spend one-third of your life in bed, it makes sense to sleep on a green mattress.
Nothing out there was affordable and truly green and comfortable, so I developed one of my own! It's made from natural latex and soy-enhanced foam, but because it's natural it's also inherently hypoallergenic. No dust mites, no mold, no mildew. A green sleep is a great sleep.
RS: And what's the hottest green item under $100?
DS: I'm a little obsessed with these UV light wands sold on JCPenney.com. It uses ultra-violet light to irradiate bacteria and illness causing germs away from bedding, cutting-boards, toilet seats, countertops -- anywhere! It's the same light used in those little boxes to disinfect manicurists' tools ... but now in wand form!
RS: Renters tend to move a lot and in the process, dispose of items, buy boxes and bubble wrap, and re-buy items
that fit their new places. Do you have any advice on how to make a transient lifestyle more earth-friendly?
DS: Boxes are the key thing here. Check out Craigslist when you move to buy someone else's cardboard boxes; you can buy them around 80% off the actual retail cost of buying new ones (and they are usually in pretty good shape anyway). And there are companies that sell reusable plastic shipping boxes -- that means no waste when you're done moving. Plus, those plastic boxes are much sturdier and protect your belongings better. (Again, Rented Spaces has this topic covered - find out more about renting plastic packing crates.)
RS: How did you begin recycling old or vintage pieces into functional household items?
DS: I call it finding your inner "MacGyver." Novice crafters can refinish items with fresh coats of glossy paint or new knobs. Or using a staple gun to cover new fabric on chairs or upholster a tabletop yourself. The key things is to use furniture you already have or buy for next to nothing at a flea market or thrift shop. If you mess up, so what? It was not a huge investment.
RS: What sorts of things have you made?
DS: My favorite project is taking old dining room chairs and reupholstering them with old cashmere sweaters. I just unscrewed the seat cushions, covered it with a sweater, cut off the excess fabric and staple gunned it into place on the bottom. Voila! Cashmere chair!
RS: And where do you find the inspiration for your homemade recycled objects?
DS: All over the place, but mostly in stores, museums, flea markets, magazines and books. My mind is always thinking of new ideas, but I also do list my favorite finds at my daily blog dailydanny.com.
RS: Where do you go to find recycled materials?
DS: GOODWILL! The best place to find all the materials you need to make almost anything for a very reasonable price.
RS: What's the most unusual place where you've picked up a piece or material for one of your creations?
DS: I would say a church. They were throwing out the old church podium into the street and I rescued it, painted it a Ralph Lauren dark gray color and turned it into a TV stand. Sacrilegious Chic?