Filed under: eco-friendly home
Danny Seo Shows Us the Beauty of Upcycling

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It’s completely fitting that environmental lifestyle expert Danny Seo’s birthday falls on Earth Day! (Happy Birthday, Danny!)

Saving the environment has been important to Danny since he started a teen activist charity at 12 years old. Today, Danny is the author of numerous books and has his own line of eco home product. He is also a regular guest on NBC’s The Today Show.

Danny visited the Honest offices and told us about his love of upcycling and how crafting is a lot less intimidating than people think.

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“A lot of people associate crafting with fine arts, but it’s not the same thing at all,” he says. “Upcycling takes less skill, then say, painting or sewing. And traditionally with crafting you have to spend a lot of money for supplies, but that’s not so with upcycling.”

“What’s great about upcycling is you’re using stuff you would have thrown away anyway, so you’re not wasting money and, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t really matter,” he adds.

The creative process of turning trash into something beautiful is what Danny thrives on.

When Danny was 12 he started Earth 2000, a grass roots organization that sprung from his desire to save the planet. It was a small group of his friends that germinated into a national organization and actually challenged legislation in congress. It lasted seven years and taught him the ethics and savvy he brings to his business today.

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His book Upcycling and Upcycling Celebrations contains tons of clever ideas for turning everyday items into usable, stylish pieces. And the projects are simple—every project in his book is three steps or less.

Danny Seo’s Tips & Tricks

  • You don’t need a lot of tools to be an upcycler. The best thing to invest in is a good pair of sharp scissors. Forget the large pack of 10 for $9 and get the good professional ones. “A good, sharp scissors is the best way to get good results with everything,” he says. A glue gun also comes in handy.
  • He avoids glitter because they’re actually microns of plastic and glass, which can be dangerous with kids if it gets into the air and they breathe it in. He makes a non-toxic glitter using salt and food dye (you can find naturally derived dye at natural grocery stores). Mix the two ingredients together and then spread it on a baking sheet. Bake it for 10 minutes at 350 to dry it out. It’s not as sparkly as glitter, but it’s non-toxic and affordable, Danny says.
  • You don’t have to be boring and beige to be eco-friendly. He tells clients to focus on the big picture and not get caught-up on the small stuff. Invest in an eco-friendly sofa, floors, paint, and appliances before you look for small eco items.
  •  To find furniture, Danny goes to flea markets and antique fairs. He doesn’t buy upholstered things that are vintage because there could be mold, mildew, or unwanted pests inside. He buys solid wood pieces.

Danny Seo’s Top 5 Eco-Friendly Tips

  • Use batteries until they’re totally dead, or switch them to another appliance.
  • Replace bulbs with LED bulbs.
  • Mulching in the garden can be expensive, but you can call your local transportation department. When trees fall, they haul them away and mulch them. You can call and get that mulch for free.
  • If you don’t have the money to swap-out your windows for eco ones, you can pin sheets of bubble wrap on the inside of drapes to insulate your house.
  • Give your old bath towels, sheets, and blankets a good wash and donate them to your local animal shelter because many rescued animals have to sleep on concrete floors and any warmth from the textiles will be put to good use.

Say hello to Danny and wish him a happy birthday on Facebook, Twitter (@dannyjseo), and Instagram (@dannyjseo). And stay up to date on his eco ideas and tips at DannySeo.com.

5 Stylish, Sustainable Design Ideas for Your Home

Your home is an authentic reflection of your style, personality, and family’s needs — which evolve over time. So, it’s not surprising you want to makeover a room you absolutely loved two years ago. It’s no longer functional and, honestly, you’re itching to get your hands on some no-VOC paint.

Because redecorating can be expensive and often doesn’t support sustainable design, we’ve found five stylish, affordable solutions to update your space. And these easy DIY projects can be tackled in a weekend or less, so your home will have a fresh new look in no time flat.

Paint Unexpected Places

1. Paint the Unexpected

Paint can make a splash when it’s not on your walls.  Look up, look down, and all around for nooks and crannies that can be personalized with vibrant colors. Consider painting your stairs with your family motto or a pocket door with chalkboard paint for a reusable artist’s canvas. Like us, you and your guests will smile every time you walk into a space with these surprising details.

Ladder Magazine Rack

2. Flea Market Forms Meet Function

The next time you’re at the flea market or “shopping” in your garage, keep an eye out for weathered or vintage tools that can be given new life inside your home. Here, we transformed an old ladder into a magazine rack. Or use it as a rustic towel rack or throw blanket display.

Fruit as Decor

3. Grocery Store Décor

Nature provides endless design inspiration, so think outside the crate the next time you’re in the produce aisle. A certain fruit’s color or veggie’s shape may grab your attention, a grouping of which will make a great architectural centerpiece. By keeping this arrangement simple and limiting it to the same fruit/color, our kitchen accent has maximum impact.

Faux Wallpaper

4. Fab Faux Wallpaper

Love the look of wallpaper but hate that it feels so permanent? Then create a chic tone-on-tone accent wall using two varieties of no-VOC paint in the same color. Simply use matte or eggshell finish as your base coat before applying the complementary glossy or metallic version in your fave pattern. Honest’s polka dot wall was created using a handmade stencil, but you could easily recreate it freehand.

Designer Mirror on a Dime

5. Designer Looks on a Dime

Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the savviest of them all? You will be when you transform an outdated or inexpensive frame into a modern must-have. By painting an ornate or traditional mirror in current colors (think neon, mixed metals, or matte black), you’ll create an eye-catching piece straight from the pages of a magazine. But only you’ll know that this accessory didn’t break the bank. Our bonus tip? Hang your upcycled beauty in a small room that you want to visually enlarge. We hung this mirror as a focal point in a narrow lounge to reflect light and give the illusion of space.

Want more? Liven up your space with these design and DIY ideas for a healthy home. And share you creative, budget, and eco-friendly décor ideas here, too.

Making a House an Eco-Friendly Home

I’m excited to share my home renovation with you. It’s been a crazy time for my family because renovations are never easy, fast, or fun. And with two little kids and a company to run, it might not have been the best-timed idea. (Ha!) But, now, with all that in the past, I’m stoked to be here, sitting back, chilling in the yard.

Instead of building up or out, we chose to keep the mid-century house small and manageable because we wanted more outdoor living than indoor space. We do live in California, after all! When building this house, I sought to make everything as eco-friendly as possible, but of course when budget is a concern it wasn’t always feasible. So, I did the best I could to find affordable “green” options. I was surprised to learn that there were many great alternatives when it came to landscape, tile, and kitchen cabinets.

Eco-Friendly Refurbished Concrete Floors

To stay true to our budget, I chose more common eco-friendly products instead of large labels that read “sustainable.” We also made it priority to shop local and work with craftsman from the community. For example, when it came to flooring, we were torn. Flooring is expensive and rarely eco-friendly, unless you spend half your entire house budget on it. We could have gone with flooring materials that claimed they were “eco-friendly,” but instead we got rid of the 40-year-old linoleum floors and re-surfaced the concrete underneath. Not only is this the cheapest way to go, but it’s the most eco-friendly because we used no extra material and didn’t use any glues.

Use Non-Toxic, No-VOC Paints to Refurbish a Door

We also have a 40-year-old front door. Originally, we planned to get a new door because this one was pretty darn rickety. But we decided it was worth restoring and not getting rid of. So, we got new hardware and painted it BLUE! (And we used all non-toxic, VOC free paints.)

Sometimes eco-friendly choices are about using what you already have or using things that last a long time. Like the original owner that had not made a single change to the home since he purchased it 40 years ago (now THAT is what I see as true sustainability), we tried to keep as much of the home as we could without fully becoming one of the Brady Bunch.

I did splurge, however, on a few eco-friendly items that were very important to me. Like my kids’ bunk beds and their mattresses. I’m sure if you’ve looked into buying an organic mattress, you know what I’m talking about. The sticker shock is almost a joke, but because children spend a lot of time sleeping I didn’t want them to rest their heads on an off-gassing or chemically laden product. Similarly, we purchased their beds from a really special eco-friendly children’s furniture line. Not only are the construction and materials sustainable, but we know the beds are of a long-lasting quality—we owned a crib by the same brand that both my boys slept in and it’s now in somebody else’s home (thanks Craigslist!) being used yet again in perfect condition. That’s a great product.

Another non-negotiable design feature was the boys’ bathroom. I wanted the entire thing to be tiled. As if you were walking into one big shower when you entered the door. Tile is very expensive, but I found honed marble tiles (a natural stone that will last for years) on sale for $7 per square foot and that was a total steal.

Our kitchen was something we couldn’t restore! It had to be torn out. We went with a European kitchen cabinetry from Poggenphol. It’s the same kitchen they used in the first ever LEED certified home in California. Even cooler was that it was extremely affordable.

As far as landscaping, I had one major request: Everything planted must either require little to no water or be edible! So we have avocado, meyer lemon, apple, fig, lime and plum trees. Along with a small herb garden. (A larger garden will be done later and documented on my blog Pure Mamas, so stay tuned for that.) This not only reduces our carbon footprint, but also teaches my kids about caring for the environment and healthy eating.

Due to foundation cracking and other problems, we were forced to remove a very beautiful old tree on the side yard. So, instead of discarding it, we upcycled it and turned it into a kids table and chairs. We are also using the rest of it to create a natural obstacle course for our kids.

That’s about it! It’s a relief to be done, but creating a healthy, eco-friendly home (and finding affordable sustainable options) was well worth it. Thanks for reading and hope you like it!

– Juli 

Guest Contributor Juli Novotny = Food lover. Green chef. Health advocate. Business owner. Mother. Blogger. Modern minimalist. When she’s not running her health food company Kookie Karma or enjoying the beach with her two little boys, Juli blogs and takes beautiful photographs about healthy family living at PURE Mamas.