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Environmentally Friendly Window Covering Guide

The Curtain Rises on Green Options

The right window treatment can help turn a room from drab to divine. It can also save energy, keep you more comfortable, and even make your home healthier. If that sounds like a lot to ask of a mere shade or shutter, read on to find out just how green today’s window coverings can be.


Top Tips

    • Go for quality. Buy the best quality window-covering products you can afford, especially when it comes to hardware like the traversing mechanisms on draperies and the spring mechanisms on roller shades. Window coverings that hold up over time are less likely to wind up in the trash.
Green Options for Window Coverings
  • Keep heat out. On hot summer days, close window coverings on the east, west, and south-facing windows to keep out the sun’s rays (the north side doesn’t get direct sun). Window treatments with a light-colored backing help reflect the sun’s heat back outside. Some companies sell special solar-control shades designed to block the sun’s rays while letting in some daylight. Other good options include blinds and louvered shutters; you can tilt the slats up or down to direct sunlight back outside.
  • Keep heat in. When the weather turns cold, insulated window coverings can help keep warmth inside and cut down on drafts. A curtain or shade lined with thick insulating fabric will do the trick, as long as it fits snugly within or around the window jambs so air doesn’t circulate around it. Honeycomb shades (also known as cellular shades) can also keep your home warmer: these have double or triple layers of accordion-pleated material that traps air between the layers.
  • Mind your materials. Every material has environmental impacts, but some are easier on the planet than others. If you want to steer clear of petrochemical-based synthetics like polyester, acrylic, or vinyl, you’ll still have loads of options, including curtains made from cotton, wool, silk, linen, and hemp. Choose certified organic textiles when possible; if you can’t find premade organic curtains, you can buy organic fabric and sew the curtains yourself or have someone sew them for you. Other natural-fiber options include shades made from paper, reeds, bamboo and other grasses, and wooden blinds and shutters (choose FSC-certified when possible). Recycled polyester drapery fabric is another green, albeit synthetic, option. Steer clear of polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) window treatments; vinyl has been linked to a number of health and environmental problems.
  • Play it again, Sam. Giving used window treatments a second life is a great way to be green and save a little green, too. Look for used shutters, blinds, curtains, and curtain rods at salvage yards, flea markets, thrift stores, and Internet classifieds sites. But don’t buy older vinyl blinds (see “Other Considerations,” below), and be cautious about old painted shutters that may have lead-based paint.

Other Considerations

  • Exterior shading devices. Interior window coverings can help keep your home cooler in the summer, as noted above. But it’s even more effective to block the sun before it hits the window by shading the outside of the window. Above south-facing windows, an awning or overhang doesn’t need to be very deep to provide good solar control in the summer when the sun is higher in the sky. In the winter, the shallow awning or overhang will allow in the low-angle winter sun, helping warm the home. If you have a passive solar home, it’s particularly important that the overhangs not be so deep that they block daylight or winter sun. West- and east-facing windows are harder to shade with exterior awnings and overhangs because the sun comes in at a low angle; exterior operable shutters may be a better bet for keeping out heat and blocking glare. Shade trees and vines on trellises are another good green option for natural cooling.
  • Lead in vinyl blinds. In 1996, it came to light that overseas manufacturers of non-glossy vinyl blinds (also called Venetian blinds or mini-blinds) were adding lead to the plastic as a stabilizer. Over time, as the mini-blinds were exposed to heat and light, the vinyl would deteriorate and lead dust would form on the surface. Young children were at particular risk of lead poisoning because they would touch the blinds and then put their hands in their mouths. Vinyl blinds made after 1996 are lead-free. If you have vinyl blinds that might predate 1996, consider throwing them away, especially if there are young children in the home. If your town has a household hazardous waste collection facility, put the blinds in a plastic bag and take them there; if not, put them in a plastic bag and discard them in the trash. Don’t put discarded vinyl blinds on the sidewalk where someone else might take them, and don’t buy used vinyl blinds.

Benefits…

…to your health
If you’re looking for fabric window coverings, your best bet may be to shop at a retailer that specializes in green home products. That’s because home-furnishings textiles may be treated with a variety of chemicals to reduce wrinkling, resist stains, or retard flames. Because there are no labeling requirements, it’s very hard to know what chemicals have been used on fabric window coverings. You can try asking the retailer or calling the manufacturer, but be aware that you may not be given an informed answer. Even when shopping at a green retailer, be sure to ask questions if you’re concerned about getting window coverings without added chemicals.

In urban and suburban areas, light pollution from streetlights, lighted signs, passing vehicles, or the neighbor’s porch floodlight can keep people awake at night and may even alter circadian rhythms. Disruptions of human’s circadian clock have been linked to insomnia, depression, cancer, and other health problems. To get a better night’s sleep, consider outfitting bedroom windows with roller blinds, shades, or curtains that have a light-blocking blackout liner.

Window coverings are notorious dust collectors. For better health, choose products that are easy to keep dust-free, especially if there household members have dust allergies or asthma. Plantation-style shutters with wide louvered slats, for example, are easier to dust than floor-to-ceiling velvet curtains. For curtains, choose materials that can be laundered at home instead of having to be dry cleaned.

…to your wallet
Energy-efficient window coverings can lower your heating and cooling costs. Window coverings can also protect furniture, floors, and carpets from damaging ultraviolet rays.

…to the Earth
Energy-efficient window coverings reduce your emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases. If you choose durable products, you’ll also reduce the resources needed to cover your windows over the lifetime of your home.


Common Mistakes

  • Piling on the layers. Swags, valances, cornices, and multiple layers of draperies and shades may give your room a certain je ne sais quoi, but all those products take their toll on the environment, not to mention your wallet. When it comes to the environmental impacts of consumer products, less is often more.
  • Letting pull cords dangle. Make sure that looped pull cords on shades, blinds or drapes aren’t within reach of young children or pets—they can get entangled in them and strangle. Avoid products that have looped pull cords, or keep the pull cord well out of reach.

Getting Started

You can buy the greenest window treatments in the world, but in the long run it’s your behavior that matters most. Close window coverings on hot summer days and cold winter nights to save energy.


Related Products and Services


19 Responses to “Environmentally Friendly Window Covering Guide”

  1. Sheryl Says:

    I’m sold on all the kinds of efficient window treatments you mention above but don’t know where to start to find vendors. Can you suggest a directory? Thanks

  2. Skip this for a greener baby nursery : Tree Hugging Family - Family Life On The Green Side Says:

    [...] to look for coverings made with non-toxic finishes and low impact inks as well. Read more about eco-friendly window coverings. Filed Under: Eco BabyTagged: Eco Baby, green baby nursery, green kid, green-baby, non toxic [...]

  3. Silvia Says:

    I am always excited to visit this blog in the evenings.Please churning hold the contents. It is very entertaining.,

  4. Ross Says:

    Sheryl, may I suggest http://www.dwconline.com/ as a directory for finding vendors. Most vendors these days offer green solutions since most fabrics that companies use come from one of three major sources. Ask for greenguard fabrics when shopping, and there should be a logo for greenguard on most sales material. If you’re looking to install yourself, or want installation in Northern California, you can contact us at http://www.advancedshading.com

  5. Shutters Have Personality and Functionality | Comfort Cell Says:

    [...] Exterior window shutters, no matter what style, model or material you choose, are better at keeping the heat out than interior mini-blinds can , they work great for protecting your windows when a severe storm blows through and adds to the [...]

  6. Twila Says:

    I am looking for indoor shutters for the bathroom, so they must stand up to humidity. Also, kid friendly (strong and washable). We want white. Any ideas where I can find some?

  7. Sarah Says:

    We love our white shutters in the bathroom.
    park avenue windows and blinds in phoenix has a great selection and can be ordered online.
    http://www.buywoodshutters.com

  8. Ruth Anne Faust Says:

    You’ve not provided any resources…

  9. Chicago Says:

    I thought this article was great! But I have been looking around for a couple months now and it is IMPOSSIBLE to find anywhere that meets all of the above requirements. The closest I have found so far is an online store with organic hemp curtains, but then again the lining is made of 70% acrylic! I appreciate any help. I am going to http://www.dwconline.com/ online next (thanks for the link above)

  10. Create My Scene, Inc. Says:

    Very interesting post! Another option for window treatments are Window Scenes. Window Scenes are custom images printed directly onto a static cling which is applied directly to the windows. It helps create great views for homeowners, while cutting down UV rays and helping lower heating/cooling costs. You can find more at http://www.createmyscene.com.

  11. Bjolley Says:

    I purchased my Window Coverings from http://www.blindschalet.com. They have green products that not only protect the environment but look good as well. Great article on why we should choose green window coverings.

  12. wd Says:

    Windows offer a HUGE opportunity for energy savings. The comment on (functional) shutters is on the money. One must go outside the window to have the greatest impact. About 70-90% of the heat load on air conditioning comes through the windows in the form of infrared gain, depending on climate and location. Consider solar screens. Also, there’s a patent pending product with possible application to residential and commercial applications that will meet or exceed solar screen performance, offers a different appearance and view, and has the possibility of a 2-4 year payout. (Prototype payout has been 5-7 years.)

  13. Eight Indoor Spring Maintenance Tips for Your Santa Cruz Home Says:

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  14. Eight Indoor Spring Maintenance Tips for Your Tulsa Area Home | Jackieshields's Blog Says:

    [...] environmentally-friendly window treatments: Save on utility bills by adding blinds to windows that face south and west. Open windows when the [...]

  15. Eight Indoor Spring Maintenance Tips for Your Tulsa Home Says:

    [...] http://www.sierraclubgreenhome.com/go-green/windows-skylights-and-doors/window-coverings/ [...]

  16. Austin Shutters Says:

    These are excellent ideas. As energy costs rise, homeowners can save money — and help the environment — by having energy-efficient window treatments installed. Keeping the sun out in the summer and retaining solar energy in the winter can really help with fuel bills. Well engineered blinds, shutters and shades can control the amount of light and heat entering the windows, while enhancing the decor of your home.

  17. Sarah Moore Says:

    Thanks for sharing the information regarding window coverings. This can help people be provided with the things they have to especially with window treatments! Hope to hear some more! You can visit our site http://www.modern-window-treatments.com

  18. Eight Indoor Spring Maintenance Tips for Your Home Says:

    [...] http://www.sierraclubgreenhome.com/go-green/windows-skylights-and-doors/window-coverings/ [...]

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