By Tina Vasquez (Los Angeles)
It’s easy to dismiss the new “green” movement as a fad; something that’s become hip and cool, but the road leading here has been long and arduous, especially for those who’ve been there since the beginning. Robyn Griggs Lawrence, editor-in-chief of Natural Home, a magazine that focuses on green design and “living lightly, has been waiting for this kind of environmental embrace during the course of her journalism career.
“I lived in quiet desperation for many years as I covered business in New York as a young journalist. It felt empty and shallow, but I was convinced that people just did what they did to make a living and then lived out their dreams elsewhere,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence, a child of the 1970’s who had always been aware of environmental issues, realized her work and passion didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. “I decided I wanted to make a career out of it about 14 years ago when I moved to Boulder, CO and had my son Stacey. Having kids cemented my already-strong environmentalism in a more personal, selfish way: I want them and my grandkids to have a planet to live on,” Lawrence said. Coupling environmentalism and her love of writing and editing began at a high end Denver-based interior design magazine, where she implemented an environmental column and incorporated other green related content into its pages.
“I tried to make readers more aware of the importance of being green. Still, I was often disgusted with the excess of the homes we featured — mega-mansions eating up virgin mountain land, second homes the owners visited maybe twice a year. As much as I loved many parts of that job, ultimately I couldn’t get past that it was, at its core, irresponsible to promote this kind of living,” Lawrence said. After her stint there, the move to Natural Home felt like the most Natural move to make.
Natural Home Magazine has offered its readers affordable, creative options for going green through interior design since 1999 and rather than focusing on starting over from the floor up like other publications, Natural Home suggests taking baby steps when it comes to making your home more environmentally friendly. “You can’t get caught up in negative thinking like, ‘My house is so ungreen, it’s so toxic,’ that’s counterproductive. I always tell people it’s a process of baby steps. You can do something as simple as purchasing used or antique furniture instead of purchasing new. Also, how many people each year opt to pull up their carpet and install hardwood floors? A carpet is like a sink that catches all of the toxins in your home. Replacing it with something sustainable like cork or bamboo, which is cheaper than hardwood, would be a major step in the right direction,” Lawrence said.
A recent marketing study tested 1,000 products that claimed to be “green” or “sustainable” and out of those 1,000 only one actually fit the guidelines for a green product. Lawrence and the staff at Natural Home intend on focusing a lot of attention on helping consumers weed out the fakes over the next year. “There are surefire products on the market like Energy Star for electronics, which is always reliable. Consumers can also learn about Cradle to Cradle Certification, which is a company that ensures that products were made using environmentally-intelligent design. Though sometimes it’s as simple as doing your homework, asking questions and paying attention to the lifespan of a product and its origination,” Lawrence said. Of course, going green isn’t just about keeping a watchful eye on the products you purchase for your home. It’s also about changing your lifestyle, conserving energy and living smartly.
Lawrence, who lives in a rented townhouse and is limited in terms of the structural changes she can make to her home, lives a very green lifestyle despite her limitations.
“A lot of my family’s green practices pertain to energy efficiency; things like turning off a light when you leave a room, unplugging unused devices- basically anything that keep energy low. I also drive a hybrid car and try to drive as little as possible. In living situations like ours, it’s important to take a stand when it comes to the things you can control. For example, there is someone who does the lawns where I live, but I choose to take responsibility for my own lawn in order to avoid having pesticides used on it,” Lawrence said.
There are many misconceptions about going green and Lawrence and Natural Home have made it their duty to dispel the myths and make the idea of living in a green home more accessible to a broader range of people. “It’s important to understand that going green isn’t a political statement. It’s simply a better, healthier way of life for you and your family. Sure it’s good for the environment, but sometimes the selfish reasons- like that fact that it’s better for your kids- really make it worth doing,” Lawrence said.