7 Rules of Mindful Renovation

featured this month on Hunker by Laura Lambert

image credit: Describe the Fauna via  Hunker

image credit: Describe the Fauna via Hunker

There's mindful eating. Mindful breathing. But mindful renovation? Well yes, of course. The mindfulness revolution absolutely belongs in the home, because home is where we retreat, recharge, and reimagine ourselves. But what is mindful renovation, exactly?

"One of the ways that my teachers describe mindfulness is paying attention to all the details in your life, whether it's making a cup of tea or your environment," says Anjie Cho, an architect and feng shui consultant who practices mindful design and writes about it on her blog, Holistic Spaces. "Mindful renovation is also like that."

Mindful renovation is informed by so many things that Cho has embraced in her own life — feng shui, meditation, Buddhism, as well as architecture and design. It's about slowing down and paying attention to how the space around us makes us feel, and using that quiet intelligence to inform design decisions. It's also about making choices — like using high quality, green materials, or paying your craftsmen well — that have a thoughtful impact on the world around you. And it's as much about the process of renovating as it is the colors, textures, placement, and finishes.

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If you’d like to learn more about feng shui check out the Mindful Design Feng Shui certification program. Laura Morris and I are launching our program in September 2018. We have a free webinar “Five Feng Shui Tools Revealed: Must-Do Business Boosters for Soulpreneurs and Wellness Practitioners” coming up, too! To get on the list about it, sign up at: www.mindfuldesignschool.com.

Mindful Design is a new way to learn feng shui. Our unique training program takes an holistic approach to learning the art of feng shui design. Mindful design is about becoming aware, and attentive, to the energy around you: both inner and outer qi. It is about promoting a better way of living and creating sacred spaces that support, and nourish.


What No One's Telling You About Paint and VOCs

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We've shared plenty of information about paint, from how to choose the perfect color to why you'd want to look for paints with lower VOCs, but here's something not many homeowners are aware of: even paints labeled as "low-VOC" can cause significant damage to your health and the environment. Let's break it down. 

First of all, let's be clear. Opting for lower VOC count in paint is definitely healthier than just grabbing whatever color you like without checking the label. But as with many sustainable and eco-friendly options, lowering VOC levels in paint doesn't necessarily make it completely healthy. Though they do contain fewer volatile organic compounds, paints labeled as low- or zero-VOC do contain VOCs. What's more, the number used to classify these paints as healthier is measured before the addition of pigments and certain additives, which can contain additional VOCs. And some of the dangerous chemicals added to paints aren't considered to be VOCs, so they're not taken into account when determining the safety of the paint. 

Even when the paint you've chosen has the lowest possible levels of VOCs, those compounds will still off-gas into your internal environment. Though this small amount of toxicity may not show up immediately, this is another situation similar to that metaphor we use when talking about the commanding position and clutter. Even if you don't notice, like a stone that has water dripping on it for years, it will eventually begin to affect you in a negative way.  

And, as Joel Hirshberg notes in his article, The Truth About Paintreducing the level of VOCs in paint only does so much for the environment. It is not the most ideal solution. He mentions that when we reduce the use of VOCs, we only slow down the process of contaminating our environment, since our atmosphere can only completely absorb waste if it is healthy and biodegradable. As many of these chemicals are not, even in small amounts, they ultimately return to the atmosphere where they remain forever. 

With this information in mind, most experts agree that seeking out the healthiest possible paint option is worth the effort and cost. In most cases, this option consists of natural paints and finishes. These paints are composed only of natural ingredients, like water, plant oils and natural minerals. In these paints, manufacturers use 100% natural materials for each of the primary components, which would usually be chemicals. For instance, The Real Milk Paint, a popular option, contains casein, hydrated lime and plant-derived fillers, all of which are natural and non-toxic.

There are a number of companies who produce natural paint for healthier environments. This list from eartheasy is a great start, but as always, do your own research before choosing the best paint for your needs. In fact, if you're handy enough, you can even make your own natural paint! What better way to KNOW your indoor air quality is safe?

by Anjie Cho


Bamboo Isn't Just a Fad

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As a licensed and practicing architect, I regularly take continuing education courses to stay up to date and maintain my certification. My most recent course detailed the perks and benefits of using bamboo in remodeling, renovation and building, and it's pretty incredible what using bamboo can do for your holistic space and for the environment. Let's take a look at why bamboo is hopefully here to stay. 

Bamboo is Environmentally Friendly and Sustainable

Using bamboo to build dates back at least 2,000 years in Chinese culture, and there are 1,400 different species of bamboo, all of which can be used differently. It's such an amazing untapped resource that fully engaging in a bamboo-based industry could provide jobs for up to one billion people worldwide, all without providing any unnecessary strain on our environment or ecosystems. 

Unlike the harvesting process of typical trees, harvesting bamboo does not fully release its carbon dioxide supply into the air. This is no small detail, since deforestation is one of the main contributors to global warming through carbon off gassing. Instead, the root structure of bamboo stays alive and holds onto almost 50% of the carbon it sequesters, which can be up to 60% more than fir trees.

Bamboo also releases 35% more oxygen than typical fir trees, helping to give back more to the environment, and since it is harvested more selectively, it doesn't wear out soil, which prevents the need for relocation, a common issue in traditional wood harvesting.  

Bamboo is a rapidly renewing resource, and due to its tight hold on carbon and the fact that it travels via sea and train for much of its journey to us from Asian countries, it's actually a carbon negative product, which means that yes, it is more sustainable in every way than traditional wood. All of this, without even mentioning that relying on bamboo for building can not only avoid the devastating effects deforestation has on some indigenous species, it can actually help us to provide more solid economies for these people while we still have everything we need in building supplies. 

Using Bamboo Adds Nature to Your Space

Recent research shows that using natural wood in indoor environments actually has positive impacts on our health, much like that of spending time out in nature. In fact, using natural wood like bamboo for our building needs can lead to decreased blood pressure, lower levels of stress and increased emotional wellness! Talk about benefits!

What's more, some other studies have shown that physical contact with wood products, as opposed to other materials like aluminum and plastic, actually produces positive physiological responses. We feel safer when we're surrounded by nature, even if it's in our homes and not outdoors. These studies also show that imitation wood doesn't have the same effects. 

It's not difficult to see why choosing bamboo for renovations and other indoor needs is a good move all around. In fact, we'll share even more benefits soon! With plenty of perks and almost no downside (as long as you get quality, properly aged product!), bamboo is potentially an amazing tool to move us forward in sustainable, eco-friendly building and green design. Would you consider using it?

by Anjie Cho


My Favorite Things: 5 Fair Trade Autumn Essentials

Welcome to My Favorite Things! Each month, we highlight products to help you create a holistic lifestyle that inspires and nurtures you, so that you can be happier and feel supported.

October is officially Fair Trade Month, during which we're all encouraged to focus on making purchases that align with fair trade practices around the world. Seeking out fair trade goods is a spectacular way to do our part to ensure that our environment and workers and employees around the world are not exploited in any way. In honor of Fair Trade Month and the new season, we've gathered up our favorite fall essentials that contribute to fair and honest working conditions around the globe!


Organic Cotton Throw

Fall is the time to add warmer layers to your space, and this organic throw is an incredible addition. It's not only 100% organic cotton with eco-friendly, non-toxic dyes, it's sourced ethically in India and produced on Fair Trade farms and mills. 

Throws even come in a reusable storage box, and a portion of proceeds goes to stop human trafficking. If you want to embrace the season in feng shui style, opt for white to symbolize the Metal element and Completion area of the bagua, which are associated with fall. 

Available at: Boll & Branch


Jute Market Bag

As the weather cools, It's time to head to the farmer's market and choose seasonal veggies to nurture your body and spirit. We've talked before about bringing your own bag, and this one is perfect!

This jute market bag is hand knotted and stretches to accommodate various market products. They are created by CORR: The Jute Works, a Fair Trade Bangladesh organization that works to help rural women provide for their families and provides beneficial trainings on everyday issues. A portion of funds from craft sales go to helping children attend school as well!

Available at: serrv


Recycled Metal Bells

One of our favorite ways to say hello to fall is through the feng shui cure of circumambulation (here's what that means), and these bells are a great tool! 

Handmade in Moradabad, India as part of a workshop through Noah's Ark, a Fair Trade registered handicraft marketing organization, these recycled bells are perfect for circumambulating to activate clarity and joy in your space for the new season. Since they're metal, they also add the metal element, which is related to autumn! 

Available at: One World Projects


Focus Spray with Essential Oils

Here at Holistic Spaces, we're proud to also use Fair Trade where possible, including our apothecary mists, no. 1 Happy and no. 2 Focus, which are made with Fair Trade essential oils

Autumn is time for grounding ourselves in preparation for winter, and as we near the holiday season, stressors and busyness can make focus difficult. Our Focus spray helps to provide grounding and meditative focus and is safe and eco-friendly! 

Available at: Holistic Spaces


Plant-Based Dry Skin Brush

Skin is our largest organ, and it can get sluggish during the change to cooler weather. Dry brushing can help to give your skin and lymphatic system a refresh to ensure that you're eliminating toxins as needed throughout the autumn and winter.

This brush is made with ethically traded cactus bristles, harvested and manufactured by a group of indigenous Nanhu women called Ya Munts'I Behna. 

Available at: The Body Shop



How to Buy New Light Bulbs Without Guessing

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The days of incandescent lighting are coming to a close, and most of us agree it's for the best. But if you've been buying incandescent bulbs for years (and who hasn't?), replacing these bulbs with CFL or LED options can be a frustrating task. Since the terminology used for labeling new bulbs is somewhat different than that of old bulbs, it can be tough to figure out which one is right for you. We can help decode all that. 

Give Up Watts

In the olden days, watts were essentially the most important detail on a bulb. In order to light your space correctly, you matched your old bulb wattage to new bulb wattage. As it turns out, watts refers to the amount of energy a bulb requires, not the amount of light it gives off. CFL and LED bulbs can give off more light without using as many watts as incandescent bulbs, so when you're checking wattage, go for the lowest number possible. 

Look for Lumens

If you want to know how much light your bulb will give off, check the number of lumens. Lumens represent how much light a bulb produces, regardless of how many watts are required to produce it. Since we're so used to checking bulb wattage, we often ignored this information with incandescent bulbs, but with new, eco-friendly bulbs, it can be the most important! On average, a 60W incandescent bulb produces 800 lumens of light. For brighter spaces, opt for more lumens. And vice versa. 

Mind Appearance

If you're used to shopping for "soft white" or "daylight" bulbs, it can be frustrating to not find those terms on CFL and LED labels. This information is still there, in fact, it's even more detailed! Check your bulb packaging for the term light appearance. This measurement includes the temperature of a bulb in Kelvins. You can find more detail on that system here, but in general, the lower the temperature, the warmer, more yellow your bulb will be. Bulbs with higher temperatures, or cool bulbs, give off light more similar to natural daylight. 

In addition to these important details, you can also find this helpful information on your CFL or LED bulb packaging:

  • Estimated yearly cost - Typically based on average United States energy costs and usage
  • Life - How long your bulb will last, usually based on 3 hours of use per day
  • CRI - Color rendering index - A rating of how accurately colors display under this light

 You can even check to be sure that the bulb you're selecting is dimmable! While it may be a bit of a change to move from incandescent lighting to more eco-friendly options, with a little adjustment and practice, buying a light bulb can be just as easy as it's always been, and maybe even more effective! 

by Anjie Cho