Thursday, June 24, 2010

Zem Joaquin Creates Sustainable, Family-Friendly Home for Dwell on Design

Zem Joaquin's eco-friendly sustainable show house from last year's Dwell on Design event.

Dwell on Design, the expansive annual design event, is headed to the LA Convention Center June 25-27, and Ecofabulous founder and mom of two Zem Joaquin is returning with another sustainable home, which will be auctioned off courtesy of eBay.

Joaquin, a California designer who champions eco-friendly materials, created this year's one-bedroom show house from 90% recycled materials, including wood from old barns and a brewery.

"It's giving new life to something that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill," she said, "but instead is turning into a beautiful home for someone."

Not only that, but Joaquin (pictured left) stresses that it's important for her to use local materials, which eBay has helped out with via their classifieds section. She bought her materials mainly from two sellers, one from Texas (where the house is being constructed) and one from Los Angeles.

When she discusses wanting to maintain a healthy home and a more sustainable lifestyle, much of the influence for that comes from her children, ages 7 and 9. In fact, Joaquin attributes the radical changes in her approach to traditional cleaning products -- basically, dumping them for nontoxic cleaners -- to helping her kids overcome asthma.

"They were at the hospital a lot of times," she said. "I'm a working mother. It was hard to be at the hospital all the time. Not to mention how expensive it was, and how hard it was on them."

It was after being told that her kids should take long-term steroids that Joaquin said, "Absolutely not. I will find another way."

"Then it hit me suddenly that it was all the toxins that they were being exposed to -- that I was exposing them to," she added. "I had all these cleaners. I wasn't conscious of it, because I was so busy -- so busy trying to keep everything clean. And really, I was exposing them to really unhealthy products."

And now, she said, she got rid of everything toxic and started over, being as VOC-free as possible. "It's my biggest victory. That's why I started Ecofabulous, because I had to share this information."

Fast-forward to this year's Dwell on Design event, and Joaquin is excited about what will be included in the show house -- particularly a herringbone floor constructed of reclaimed materials.

"It's interesting what you can do with 400 square feet," she added, referring to the size of the home.

"It's like a cocoon. It's got organic Coyuchi sheets, lots of amazing art, Brizo faucets with one-touch technology," which she said is great for kids who might forget to shut it all the way.

There's also an induction cook top from Electrolux that is built it into the kitchen island. Even when it's on, it's cool to the touch. Definitely nice for those active kiddos.

Also, if the winning bid is more than the actual cost of the house, those proceeds will benefit Global Green, a nonprofit organization that fosters sustainable living.

Partnering with eBay makes a lot of sense for someone who is looking to reuse materials.

As Joaquin said, "The greenest thing is often something that already exists."

Tips for Toxin-Free Living:

1. Cleaning supplies: "It can be as simple as cleaning with baking soda, which is an unbelievable sanitizer," says Joaquin. "Baking soda and white vinegar will basically clean anything. But my site is called Ecofabulous, so I still like all those trappings." She also recommends Method products, which she says are inexpensive and easy to find.

2. Organic mattress: "Kids spend so much of their life in a bed. They sleep a lot more than us, and that is the last place they should be exposed to harmful chemicals." Go for the formaldehyde-free options.

3. Personal care products: "Things you put on your kids' skin and what you wash their hair with -- any type of hair care and personal care, you want to make sure it's one of the healthy ones." Joaquin suggests checking (where she is a board member) to find recommended products. "Make sure that what you put on your kids' skin is something you'd want them to eat, something that has nutrients."

4. Avoid phthalates in children's toys: "It's that plasticizer that makes toys soft. All of those PVC toys are totally toxic," says Joaquin. She recommends

Pictured left is the Green Toys Recycled Plastic Recycling Truck from World of Good by eBay.

Photos courtesy of Ecofabulous and eBay.

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