Building a greener Ojai
EcoLogic Life offers free lecture Aug. 13 on green alternatives
by Linda Harmon
Ojai Valley News, August 9, 2009
The natural building movement is booming and no longer delegated to the fringe. Even big-box stores like Lowe’s are touting low VOC paints and recycled items from countertops to floor tiles. With all that in mind, Cynthia Grier, owner of EcoLogic Life, 109 S. Montgomery St., is staying ahead of the curve, offering presentations and workshops about using environmentally responsible products. Grier is offering a free lecture Aug. 13 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., to educate the public about some greener alternatives to traditional stucco, cement, paints and finishes.
According to Grier, lime and clay plasters are already an established alternative in Europe and are quickly becoming a popular and sustainable “green” alternative to interior and exterior finish plasters here in the United States. Grier will present Carolyn Marie and Jack Stephens, from Wild Earth Village Builders, who will give the educational workshop about environmentally safe and healthy options for remodels, renovations and new building projects. Grier says the natural plasters can protect walls from wind, rain and fire while providing beautiful, durable and non-toxic finishes that recall the Old World traditions popular from Tuscany to Tokyo. Grier wants to help others discover the ancient methods continued today in modern Europe and Asia and now in Ojai.
“Clay plaster is primarily an interior finish,” said Grier, “while lime is both an interior and exterior finish. Limestone comes from the earth. It is transformed into plaster finishes, applied on walls and turns back into limestone — clay from our own soils can be transformed into finishes with beautiful colors and rich, sensuous textures.” Grier says it isn’t as complicated as people think. “Lime and clay plasters can be even be sculpted or carved,” said Grier. “Earthen plasters are easy and fun to work with, easy to clean up, simple to repair and are completely recyclable too!”
A quick trip to the internet can back up Grier’s claims with hundreds of entries for information on natural plaster, including web sites with simple how-to videos. There are even recipes for natural plaster made from assorted combinations of sand, clay, water, manure and wheat paste, and videos showing you how to mix them without expensive, energy draining equipment.
Grier says the World Health Organization reported that 30 percent of all U.S. homes contained toxins at levels sufficient to create environmental illness. “Natural plasters are completely non-toxic,” said Grier. On the other hand, she added, “Concrete production is responsible for 8 percent of the human contribution to greenhouse gas emissions with each pound of concrete produced adding 1 pound of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere.” It is no wonder that consumers are interested. Grier quotes a startling figure. “If you use lime plaster instead of traditional Portland cement, you will save between 5,000 and 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per house.” Grier’s rough estimate of the material costs incurred using natural plasters for a 9-by-18 foot room at around $300, complete with sealer. “Clay and lime plaster prices are comparable,” said Grier, who stresses that the figure will vary depending on the type of plaster applied. “It is a very durable material, although if a child on a bicycle rides into it, it’s going to crack. But then, so would drywall.”
The Thursday evening presentation will be followed by an Aug. 15 hands-on plaster and finish workshop in Meiners Oaks to be given by Marie and Stephens. Grier will help to supply materials for the workshop. “The follow-up will be held to give people a chance to learn how to make and apply these finishes for their own projects,” said Grier. If you are interested in attending the workshop and getting your hands dirty, or just want more information on natural building products contact Grier at 272-8098. You can also stop in the shop Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or Sunday from noon to 3 p.m., or go to ecologiclife.com or nbnetwork.org.