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Creating a green, healthy home: Shelter for mind, body and soul

By Juanita Teschner
Center for the Environment
You don’t have to sacrifice to live green, says Robyn Griggs Lawrence, editor of Natural Home magazine. In fact, you don’t have to give up anything.
“When we started the magazine almost 10 years ago, there was a misconception among a lot of people that in order to live green you had to go live in a yurt in the woods or build a straw-bale home ó that it was for hippies really,” Lawrence says.
Not so.
“You don’t have to give up anything to live green,” she says. “In fact, you’re going to live better. We started the magazine to show that living green is a beautiful and healthier and better way to live. There’s no sacrifice involved. In fact, there’s a ton of benefits.”Lawrence will talk about “Creating a Green, Healthy Home: Shelter for Mind, Body and Soul” at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Center for the Environment at Catawba College. A 6:30 reception in the center lobby will precede the presentation, which is free and open to the public.
Lawrence has been on the green living path all her adult life. “I have always been a let’s-go-out-and-pick-up-litter kind of person,” she says. But 14 years ago an important event propelled her into high gear: Her son was born. “Suddenly it’s not just you; you realize that you’re leaving the planet to someone else. That’s when I really got serious about it.”At the time she was working for a design magazine in Denver that featured sumptuous 10,000-square-foot homes that the owners might live in for two weeks a year. “It was a beautiful, wonderful magazine, but it was not very conscious of the impact housing was having on the planet,” Lawrence says. “I realized, ‘Oh, my goodness, how we live in our houses and how we build our houses really does make a huge difference.’ ”
That realization fueled her determination to find a way to live out her convictions. That’s when she went to Natural Home. Now what she does is who she is. “I don’t have to disconnect to go to the office,” she says. “It gets to play out in all areas. I feel amazingly blessed.”
The author of “The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty,” Lawrence will talk a bit about ancient design philosophies, like the wabi-sabi approach to life, as well as what she calls “grandmother’s wisdom” during her presentation at the Center for the Environment. “I have found commonalities in all of them,” she says. “It’s almost like religion. There are all different forms, but at their core, there’s a good basic message.”Simplifying, getting rid of clutter and using healthy natural materials are all basic to a healthy home. The wabi-sabi philosophy finds beauty in the imperfect and impermanent. “What intrigued me about it was that it wasn’t a set of rules for people to say, ‘Oh, you must put this here,’ ” Lawrence says. “There was an acceptance of your house the way it is, and your life the way it is, and finding beauty in that.”
This approach holds a reverence for things that stand the test of time. “One of the beauties of that in a throw-away society is getting people to the mentality that just because there’s a crack in that plate, you don’t have to throw it away or that beauty can be found in wood that is weathered and looking old.”
She notes that “there’s an inherent environmentalism in living with what is and not always having to have the new, the perfect, the shiny, the bright.” By using salvaged materials, for example, the home owner reuses something that would otherwise go to the landfill.
Finding beauty in what is also offers a healthier outlook on life. “I spent so many years going to all these absolutely stunning, beautiful homes, and I would come back from those photo shoots and look at my own house and think, ‘Oh, it’s not perfect; it’s not right.’ What wabi-sabi gave me was an ability to appreciate what others are doing but also come home and say, ‘This is my home and I love it.’ ”
One of the great benefits of that approach is that it reduces stress. “Your home is where you should feel that everything is right and all’s well with the world,” Lawrence says. “If you come home and say, ‘Oh, no, I should replace the carpet or I should do this or that,’ then home becomes stressful. You’ve lost that nurturing quality.”Lawrence wants people to go away from her talk feeling OK about their own home. “In a lot of these green workshops, people can walk away feeling more stressed than they did walking in,” she says, “because they say, ‘Oh, my God, my house is toxic. I have to go home and start changing it right away.’ ”
That’s not her aim. “What I want them to do is go away saying, ‘I may want to take one step, and that may be using different cleaning products or replacing the carpet with something that is more healthy.’ I want them to just start the thinking and the process without feeling guilty or scared.”
Bau-biologie ó basically the study of healthy houses ó gets at the heart of the process. Bau-biologie proponents speak of three homes: the body, the house and the planet. “It’s an understanding that what happens in your house affects those other two houses, your body and the planet,” Lawrence says. “They are all connected.
“If you begin to take steps to make your house healthy, your body and your family are going to be healthier and so is the planet. What’s good for my body is good for my house is good for the planet.”

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