Saturday, November 22, 2008

Documenting Strawbale Addition - 9



Time to write another quick update about the strawbale project. We feel the end is nearly in sight, and are still aiming to move in by Christmas. The pine ceiling tongue & groove boards have all been oiled (two coats of Ontario hemp oil) and are beautiful. The oil really brings out the grain in the wood. This week we worked at installing them, and were thankful we had purchased a nailgun (which more than doubly paid for itself compared to if we had rented it).

We experimented with lime washes on the walls, using natural pigments to come up with a wheat colour. There is quite a variation in colour from one wall section to the next, which may have to do with parts of the plaster varying in wetness under the lime wash. We are hopeful this will even out and will give it a few more days to dry/cure. Lime wash goes a long way - you do brush it on like paint, but it is made up to be a very watery consistencty so it doesn't cover the way paint does. It is more like it gets absorbed into the wall and blends or bonds with the plaster. This is why lime washes can help "heal" cracks and repairs later on in subsequent years. We also tried to use a paint roller too, but had limited success as the roller didn't work the wash into the plaster as well as the brushes did.

We've shovelled in more limestone screenings, and are currently tamping them down with an electric packer ("jumping jack"). This is hard physical work, but what step of this project hasn't been? We'll be happy to be able to put our feet up during the winter months and rest, while we dream of spring projects like the outdoor plaster, the living roof, and maybe a new cob solarium addition. We'd like to experiment with more earthen plasters/cob/adobe. A few nights ago we watched the "Garbage Warrior", a documentary about Michael Reynolds, an architect turned extreme eco-builder of "earthships" in Taos, New Mexico. After being inspired about building affordable homes completely out of garbage (tires, bottles, cans) combined with natural materials found on site (clay, sand, earth, stone), we would like to work at continuing to learn about creating buildings that are low impact and self-maintaining. Here's a short synopsis of the film (www.garbagewarrior.com):

The film - Garbage Warrior

What do beer cans, car tires and water bottles have in common? Not much unless you're renegade architect Michael Reynolds, in which case they are tools of choice for producing thermal mass and energy-independent housing. For 30 years New Mexico-based Reynolds and his green disciples have devoted their time to advancing the art of "Earthship Biotecture" by building self-sufficient, off-the-grid communities where design and function converge in eco-harmony. However, these experimental structures that defy state standards create conflict between Reynolds and the authorities, who are backed by big business. Frustrated by antiquated legislation, Reynolds lobbies for the right to create a sustainable living test site. While politicians hum and ha, Mother Nature strikes, leaving communities devastated by tsunamis and hurricanes. Reynolds and his crew seize the opportunity to lend their pioneering skills to those who need it most. Shot over three years and in four countries, Garbage Warrior is a timely portrait of a determined visionary, a hero of the 21st century.

Earthship n. 1. passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials 2. thermal mass construction for temperature stabilization. 3. renewable energy & integrated water systems make the Earthship an off-grid home with little to no utility bills.

Biotecture n. 1. the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. 2. A combination of biology and architecture.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wood (Forest) Kindergarten

I'm currently reading Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from Nature Deficit Disorder, an astute book which talks about how children today are removed from genuine interaction with nature for many reasons: move from rural to urban areas and increasing loss of natural spaces in cities; parent concerns with inherent dangers of natural spaces; liability issues around children playing in natural, uncontrolled areas; increase of technology for play (computers, internet, tv, video games, etc); reduced natural play in school programs (e.g. elimination of recess in some schools); and so on. Throughout the book children in various parts of the US are interviewed regarding their interaction with nature. It becomes obvious that children are losing touch with "free" creative play associated with natural areas - a great loss when knowing that playing outside for prolonged periods has been shown to have a positive impact on children's development, especially manual dexterity, physical coordination, tactile sensitivity, depth perception, as well as strengthened immune system. The interviews also indicate that children are far less aware of their local flora and fauna (compared to their parents generation), yet know more about rainforests in distant places as taught in geography classes. What's more, the teaching on environmental issues such as rainforest depletion tends to take on a pessimistic tone, that has a distancing effect when learned from a textbook rather than experientally celebrating what is vibrant locally. The book advocates for environmental education to also include time outdoors, right here right now, as a way to build children's hope and care for the earth through local knowledge and hands-on relationship with common as well as endangered plants and animals.

This sentiment goes well with another article I just read, telling the history of the Wald Kingergarten (or Forest/Wood Kingergarten). It was created in the 1950s in Denmark, by a woman named Ella Flautau who often spent time with her own and neighbours' children in a nearby forest, as a form of daycare which generated great interest among the neighbourhood parents. The parents formed a group and created an initiative to establish the first Wood Kindergarten. Since then, the idea has spread to other Scandinavian countries and beyond.

Wood Kindergartens existed in Germany since the 1960s, but were first officially recognized as a form of daycare in 1993, which allowed for state subsidies to reduce the fees of children attending these Wood Kingergartens. Since then, the Wood Kindergartens have become increasingly popular. As of 2005 there were approximately 450 Wood Kindergartens in Germany, some of which offer a mix of Wood Kindergarten and traditional daycare, spending their mornings in the forest and afternoons inside. The daycare workers and children spend their time outdoors, in a forest, meadow, or on a beach. Another distinctive feature of Wood Kindergartens is the emphasis on play with toys that are fashioned out of objects that can be found in nature, rather than commercial toys. Despite these differences, Wood Kindergartens are meant to fulfill the same basic purpose as other preschools, namely, to care for, stimulate, and educate young children.The Wood Kindergarten aims to counter the lack of connection to nature, as well as the over-protection and lack of risk in everyday life, and the health threats of childhood obesity.

Though we don't have a Wald Kindergarten here, I am determined to take Maya on a walk each day rain or shine, and introduce her to the wild places, parks, gardens, plants and trees here in the city. Perhaps a Forest Group could be formed with other parents who have the same interests in celebrating our natural spaces here in the city with our children.

The author of Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv, is actually coming to speak in Burlington on November 21 at 7 pm. He'll be speaking at the Royal Botanical Gardens (680 Plains Road West) as part of an environmental event - see www.rbg.ca for more details. This event is part of "Back to Nature" a strategic planning initiative being led by RBG that brings youth development and environmental organizations together to look at how to reconnect Ontario's children to nature.


Documenting Strawbale 9: Hemp Oil Wood Finish




We ended up ordering hemp oil wood finish from Homestead House in Toronto. This is actually just a food grade hemp oil, made from "100 mile" hemp grown near Barrie at Hempola Farm. We could have ordered it directly from Hempola, but needed to get it here quickly and shipping from the Toronto store was faster. We are very happy with the results - the hemp oil really brings out the grain of the wood, dries quickly (minimum 12 hours), and is not messy to work with. It's nice to know that it's an all natural product (as opposed to other stains or wood sealants) so if it gets on hands or clothes it's not a concern. I used a cloth to rub the oil into the wood, and put on two coats. They recommend at least two coats for a good sealant, and even upto four coats if it's a high traffic area. Floors or furniture should be reoiled every year or so, but as these are ceiling boards this will be it. The boards will be installed over the next few days.

We finished up all the outdoor work on the house, including sealing up the last parts of the soffit, putting on the final board & baton walls, and cleaning up tools. We just need to use the commercial mixer for prepping earthen floor (a few days of work), but otherwise we are pretty much ready for winter weather now, as the house is cozy and basically all work left is interior. Quite satisfying to be at this stage - it is November.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Simple Life - Article From "Mothering" Magazine

Being a new mama myself, I have started a subscription to "Mothering" (natural family living) magazine. It's a wonderfully inspiring magazine that I look forward to each month - it promotes & educates about themes like natural healthcare, co-sleeping, cloth diapers, baby wearing (slings), breastfeeding, organic local foods, attachment parenting, and natural play for children.


The editorial by Peggy O'Mara is always thought-provoking, and this issue she writes about slowing down and getting back to the basics of life, including various ways to become more self-reliant. She hopes these will skills not lost, but rather ones passed on to our children. Although it's a simple and familiar message, the article still resonated with the goals I have for our family and I thought I'd post it here.

www.mothering.com

Keeping it Simple
Issue 150 - September/October 2008

by Peggy O'Mara, Editor and Publisher

Do you ever wish that life would just slow down? Sometimes we wish this because changing seasons suggest a more contractive mood. Other times, we're dispirited by unsavory events in the public sphere. And often, it's just because we're tired, or temporarily overwhelmed by the demands of our day-to-day lives. And yet, like you, I know that I must find a way to turn even these challenges into opportunities; if I don't, I'll fail to provide a model of optimism and resilience for my children. That's why, in tough times, I tend to fall back on the simple life.

The simple life is something I learned when, in the 1970s, I went back to the land and became a natural-living pioneer. Our watchword then was self-sufficiency. Now, when life in general feels out of control, I take comfort in the skills I learned, and in the knowledge that I can be self-reliant.

Nature herself is a model of self-reliance, creating myriad ways to fulfill the same function, to ensure that essential processes remain intact. We can learn from nature in our quest for self-sufficiency by looking for more than one way to supply our most basic needs. For example, I like to think of ensuring three sources of healthy and reasonably priced food. I don't want my food to come from far away, because I know that it is primarily the high cost of transporting food that increases its cost. I also know that local food is fresher and tastes better. Therefore, my first choice is my local farmers' market. it's the freshest food I can buy, and most of it comes from within 100 miles. Second, I choose my local food co-op, which has a policy of stocking as much food as it can that is grown or made within 400 miles.

Finally and most important, I grow a garden. This year I moved my garden to a new spot, and created raised beds rimmed with straw bales. I've harvested lettuce, beets, beans, summer squash, cucumbers, radishes, cabbages, and tomatoes—more than I've grown in years. I'm relearning how to eat out of the garden, to plan meals based on what's ripening. it's great to know that I can rely on this garden as needed. I can preserve or freeze. I can make sauerkraut and cucumber pickles. My grandmother always had the tastiest pickles, stored in barrels in her basement, and my Aunt Joy had a cellar room stocked with canned goods, some handmade, some store-bought. Having on hand extra staples such as rice, beans, pasta, salt, potatoes, onions, and garlic is always a good idea.

Having three sources of local foods means I can use them exclusively, or fall back on them as needed. Not only am I modeling resilience, I also have an opportunity to deepen ties within my community and to be outdoors.

In addition to looking for food from local sources, I like to eat foods when they're in season—not only are they then more flavorful, they're not priced at a premium. I also like to plan my meals more efficiently by making five menus for the week, based on what staples and other foods I have in the house. When I do this kind of planning, meals for the remaining two days seem to take care of themselves. it's tempting to plan exotic meals that require a lot of ingredients, but they're not simple by any means, and can be saved for special occasions. In fact, I've found that simple, elegant dishes of fresh, seasonal ingredients are often the most tasty.

When I was a young mom on a tight budget, I used food categories as a guide for my menus. Every week I would create five menus, one based on each of the following categories: Meat, Eggs, Beans, Vegetarian, and Soup. Beans and soup can be made on the weekend, or whenever there's more time. I can stretch my food dollars pretty far by basing menus on these or other simple categories, and on what I already have in my cupboards.

I stretch my food budget also by not buying prepared juices or snacks. I make a sun tea from Wild Berry Zinger that is great iced. This red tea is inspired by one I used to make from dried Jamaica (hibiscus) flowers. Both drinks are great plain, or with lime and/or sweetener. Fruit juices and bubbly water are choices for special occasions, and it's easy to make a quick glass of homemade limeade or lemonade. For snacks, there's popcorn with butter, salt, and special seasonings.

I save money by making my own salad dressings, which I think taste better. Those of you who bake bread can save your family money by doing so, and can even trade your bread for items your friends make. (I'll trade you some salad dressings!) With a few staples in the house, local sources for meat, dairy, and vegetables, and some signature dishes, you can feed your family a healthy diet while still being thrifty. In fact, eating more simply is one of those supposed sacrifices that turns out to be no hardship at all—simple food tastes better and is more satisfying.

it's also more satisfying to have several backups for energy needs. I currently have a forced-air electric heater, and this year my electricity bills increased by 40 percent. Though I participate in a wind-power program through my local electric company, I want to reduce my dependence on electricity. One option is to replace my electric heater with a gas heater, though it could be argued that gas is no more sustainable than electricity. In the long run, however, the photovoltaic cells I hope to install to gather solar power will largely offset these other energy sources. And third, if I had to, I could heat more with wood. Fortunately, I have enough dead-and-down trees on my property to sustainably heat my house.

As with my food choices, I don't think that any of these changes in how I get and use energy would be a real hardship. On the contrary, I understand that not only can photovoltaics provide most of one's power; one can actually sell back to the electric company the excess power they produce at times of peak sunlight—another example of an opportunity inherent in a difficulty.

I can also look for opportunities in the area of transportation. Recently, someone apologized to me for having only one car. But one car is enough. It may be inconvenient at times, but it's not a tragedy. I own a ten-year-old SUV because I need a four-wheel-drive car on my mountain road, and don't want to invest in a new car until there are better choices in terms of efficiency and a smaller carbon footprint. I usually limit my driving to four days a week, and drive fewer than 20 miles on the days I go into town. Nevertheless, this is an area that needs solutions. Because I live rurally, carpooling is challenging and public transportation is unavailable.

That's changing, though—by the end of the year, a light-rail commuter line will be running between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. And, of course, using the bicycle more is an opportunity to get in shape and save energy at the same time. we're going to get a few bikes for the office so that Mothering staff can ride them around town for lunch or errands. And for those of you who own horses: they may be the ultimate self-sufficient mode of transportation, as long as you can get hay.

Keeping farm animals is another way to be more self-sufficient. Here are some others:

  • Planting a vegetable garden
  • Canning tomatoes and peaches
  • Freezing strawberries and green beans
  • Pickling cucumbers
  • Growing an herb garden
  • Learning to identify mushrooms
  • Buying grass-fed meat in bulk with your friends
  • Starting your own neighborhood food co-op to buy bulk staples together
  • Heating with wood
  • Making your own clothes
  • Knitting a scarf
  • Installing a solar hot-water heater

All of these things are opportunities to become more self-reliant, and as we become more self-reliant, we feel more confident of our place in the world.

It is this sort of confidence that we want to give our children: to model for them problem-solving that is practical and powerful. To continue building the world we know our children will need, we can only start right here, right now, with our own lives. Teaching our children by example to turn challenges into opportunities by keeping things simple is an important lesson about what really matters, and about the essential nourishment of simple, everyday life.

Love,



Saturday, November 01, 2008

Everyday Oatmeal Bread


Quick post - just made another batch of our favourite bread, the "everyday oatmeal bread" from Simply in Season which I try to make each Saturday. This bread rises beautifully, can be ready in about 3 hours, and works well with many variations (seeds, nuts, grains, etc). This bread is delicious with a hearty soup or thinly sliced and toasted with tomatoes. I made it with 12-grain cereal instead of oatmeal today, for added texture of flax, millet and other seeds. Didn't bake it in the cob oven, but will do so soon again.

Everyday Oatmeal Bread
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup rolled oats (or whole oats, or 12-grain cereal, etc)
Combine and let stand 30 min.

3/4 cup molasses (or maple syrup)
3 Tbsp butter or oil
2 tsp salt
Stir into oatmeal.


2 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbsp active traditional yeast
Mix in a large bowl until dissolved. Add oatmeal mixture.

6 cups bread or all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour

Work in flour to make a medium-soft somewhat sticky dough. Knead 8-10 minutes until smooth. Place in greased bowl and let rise until doubled about 1 hour. Keep covered with damp cloth while rising. Then punch down. Divide into two, and shape into loaves. Embellish tops of loaves with seeds (sesame, sunflower, hemp, etc) if desired. Place in greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise again, about 45 min. Bake in preheated oven at 350 F for about 35-40 min, until sounds hollow when tapped. Makes two large loaves.

Documenting Strawbale 8: Natural Paints & Finishes






It's hard to believe, but we're at the point of deciding on paints and finishes for the strawbale addition! The outer walls of the strawbale have been wrapped with ty-par construction paper for the winter, and we'll finish the outside plasters in the spring when the weather is hopeful again. There are still the soffits and fascia to close up, making sure we keep all possible entrances for rain or critters impassable. So, now it's basically just the last stages of the interior building to be completed (final wall coat, window trims, floor, hook up electricity and last step of plumbing).

The top plaster coat is going on the walls today, and will hopefully be near completion by the end of the weekend or early next week. We've mixed a small portion of sand and finely chopped up hemp fibres into the lime coat to act as a binder. We read that other fibres such as animal hair, flax, and so on can also be used. Straw is too coarse for this coat. The top coat can also be tinted with natural pigments, or covered with a coloured lime wash afterwards.

While the top coat is drying we will start on the ceiling. We are covering the insulation/vapour barrier with tongue & groove pine boards, the same kind of boards with which we have built the window boxes. This wood should be stained or painted to seal it. We are experimenting with a hemp oil finish as sealant - it's available from either Hempola (directly), or through Homestead House in Toronto (they also do mail order). Homestead House also sells a variety of milk paints and no-VOC paints, as well as other finishes. Friends of ours just painted a basement floor with the milk paint, and finished it with a thin coat of hemp oil. They were very happy with the products and the service at Homestead House and recommended them. Homestead House website is: www.homesteadhouse.ca

As mentioned, we will finish our pine boards and earthen floor with hemp oil. However, the questions are what to colour the lime wash, if at all; and how to paint the drywall in the new bathroom and laundry area (in the board & baton portion of the addition). Does milk paint cover drywall? There are mixed reviews on this so we need to do a little experimenting. When we've come this far with mixing our own earthen plasters for the walls and floor, it would seem wrong to simply go and purchase a ready-made milk paint. I found some recipes for homemade milk paint (also known as casein paint) and will try them out, adding some natural pigment powders that I sourced at a papermaking supply store in town. We have a red (made from bloodstone), a green (made from clay), and a yellow (made from ochre). We could get really adventurous by making our own pigments with clay from here, or food items like vegetables, berries, dried crushed plants, tea or spices, crushed bricks, or coal, but then it would be difficult to keep the colour consistent.

Why use natural paints? We all know that conventional paints and woodstain emit toxins that are dangerous to our health, especially on the interior of a building in which we will be living (and breathing)! Exposure to VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) in paint can trigger asthma attacks, eye irritation and respiratory problems, nausea and dizziness among other symptoms. Prolonged exposure has been linked to kidney and liver disease and even cancer.

The old method of milk paints was used by pioneers, with basic ingredients like milk and flour. Originally it was made from organic raw materials: curdled milk, lime and a pigment. Homemade paints should be used soon after mixing. They can be refrigerated, but binding ability may diminish. As it's hard to make a consistent colour over and over, make enough of a batch of paint to use reasonable in one session. If using lime, wear gloves and goggles. Crumpled oil-soaked cloths can spontaneously combust, so they shouldbe washed before disposing.


Tips on what kind of paint to use on various surfaces:
Interior surfaces: flour, casein or oil paint
Exterior surfaces: oil, flour in mild climates, casein in extremely mild non-humid climates
Bare wood: oil, flour, casein
Stone: flour, casein
Bare drywall: casein, flour (but not over joint compound)
Wallpaper: flour, casein
Earthen plaster: flour, casein
Gypsum plaster: flour
Masonry (cement, lime, unglazed brick, unpainted earth): flour, casein, oil
Painted surfaces, or sanded: flour, casein
Surfaces that require frequent cleaning: oil

Flour Paint
1 cup flour
5 1/2 cups cold water
1 cup finely screened clay or other filler
1/2 cup additional filler (mica, etc)

Boil 1 1/2 cups water while you mix the flour and 2 cups water with a whisk. Once all lumps have been removed add combined water and flour to boiling water. Reduce heat to low. When it begins to thicken remove from heat and slowly stir in remaining 2 cups water. Combine the clay and powdered filler in a separate bowl. Add to the water/flour mix. Stir until desired consistency is achieved. Makes 1 1/2 cups paint.

Milk Paint
1 cups organic powdered nonfat milk
1 cup water
powdered paint pigment or dye (for colour)

Milk milk powder and water. Add natural paint pigments to colour if desired. Too much pigment will lessen the durability of the paint. This piant formula should dry to a glossy finish. After the paint has dried 3-4 hours you may top coat with varnish, oil finish, Pure Tung Oil, laquer, or beeswax. Try in inconspicuous area first, the colour may change.

Casein Paint
Made from quark has a soft, matt, chalky white finish and is commonly used on interior walls. Quark, will be in the cheese aisle at the supermarket.

This will make enough colorwash to cover approximately 4 square metres (43 square feet).

Start by "slaking" the pigment. To do this put some pigment in a bowl and mix enough cold water to make a smooth runny paste and leave to stand overnight. Some pigments do not mix easily with water so try a little alcohol (organic vodka) instead.

Put the quark into a bowl then stir in the slaked pigment. Add enough to make a usable colorwash. Stir regularly during use, as the pigment will tend to settle out.

This wash needs to be applied quickly to walls (milk goes sour). Once this paint is dry, any smell disappears (you may like to add some of your favorite essential oils to the mix). Apply to a clean wall, which has two base coats of white eco-emulsion. Use a wide paintbrush or large bath sponge and apply the wash with sweeping strokes. Allow the first layer to dry thoroughly before applying the next. Further layers will deepen the color.

Milk Paint with Lime

1 gallon non-fat organic milk
2 ½ oz Type S lime (available at hardware stores) Builders Lime also called Hydrated Lime (do not use Quick Lime).
2 ½ cups water
pigment
6 cups chalk (or other filler)

Leave the milk in a warm place for a few days to curdle, then pour through a cheesecloth-lined colander to separate. 2 cups of curds should be the result.

Mix curds and lime in a blender. Add a bit of water if the mix isn’t blending well and strain to remove lumps.

Add water immediately. Dampen and crush pigment and add to mix until desired consistency is achieved.

Stir in chalk or other filler. Makes 1 quart

Oil Paint

Oil paint is great for exterior surfaces and the oil painted surfaces can be regularly cleaned without damage to the paint. Oil paint takes a very long time to dry, in fact some never completely dry – this is the property that gives oil paint its elasticity which helps it move with surfaces as they naturally swell and shrink with the temperatures.

Organic raw linseed oil and a natural solvent such as citrus thinner are the typical ingredients for natural oil paints.
If you intend to paint bare wood and want to cover the grain of the wood, prime the wood prior to painting. This will help seal the wood against moisture and will create a better bond with the paint. Oil glaze can be used over flour or milk paints to increase their resistance to water and makes a nice stain with or without added color.

Oil Glaze
1 teaspoon natural pigment
1 teaspoon powdered chalk
2 tablespoons powdered chalk
1 cup raw linseed oil
2/3 cup natural solvent
Dissolve pigment and powdered chalk in ½ cup of linseed oil. Stir in remaining ½ cup of linseed oil.Add solvent and remaining 2 tablespoons powdered chalk. Whisk to remove all lumps. Makes two cups.

Oil Paint
Different pigments will absorb different amounts of oil, so exact recipes are difficult.
Pour 3 tablespoons linseed oil into a bowl and add pigment a little at a time until you achieve a dough consistency. Add more linseed oil until the mixture just begins to flow. Add solvent until the desired consistency is achieved. Strain to remove lumps.

Oil Paint Primer
Apply a thin coat along the wood grain. Remove excess with a cloth. Apply a second coat after first is completely dry, estimate 48 hours between coats.
1 pint raw linseed oil
1 pint natural solvent

Staining Wood with Tea and Vinegar

Tannins are naturally present in woods like oak, but pale woods like pine can be darkened by having tannins added to them in the form of strong black tea. Iron acetate (made with vinegar), when applied to wood, reacts with tannins to produce a rich dark color.

For tannins you'll need: 500ml of water and 25g Indian tea leaves.Boil the water and add it to the tea leaves. Allow the tea to steep for an hour or two, then strain into a bowl. Apply the mixture to the wood with a medium paintbrush or lint-free cloth; allow to dry. You'll find pale woods will be colored by this alone; if not then apply the iron acetate.

For iron acetate you'll need: a large wad of fine wire wool and malt vinegar. Place the wire wool in a jam jar and cover it with the malt vinegar. Screw the lid on and leave overnight. The next day, strain the mixture through a colander or sieve lined with muslin or cheesecloth to remove all the wire wool. Apply the iron acetate solution to the wood with a medium paintbrush or lint-free cloth. The wood will darken for up to half an hour. Allow to dry thoroughly before lightly sanding.

Clean Coatings of the Future

Chemicals used in conventional paints and coatings leach into the environment and can cause air pollution as they dry. However, nanotechnology could be the answer. Sally Ramsey, founder and vice president of new product development at US-based nanotech company Ecology Coatings, says new, paint-like coatings are the future. Made up of tiny particles with innovative characteristics, they're sprayed on and cured (or dried) using ultra-violet light, removing the need for a solvent.The result is a coating with no polluting characteristics. Nanotechnology can deliver other benefits such as scratch resistance, waterproofing or anti-mold capability - all without adding toxic chemicals.

Resources:
The Natural Paint Decorator, by Lynn Edwards and Julia Lawless, published by Kyle Cathie. The Natural Paint Book bridges the information gap, offering an in-depth explanation of the differences between conventional and eco-friendly paints. Illustrated throughout with full-color photographs, the book provides complete instructions on how to make all-natural paints and finishes at home, using readily available ingredients such as clay, gelatin, linseed oil, and artist pigments.