Jessica McNaughton: Hi. This is Jessica with Build Green, Live green. Cara Green’s podcast on building materials and sustainability and how you can bring those into your work and to your home. Today, we are talking about biophilic design in the home, and we have another in-house guest, Kristine Hart who handles sales of care green products in Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama.
Kristine Hart: Alabama.
Jessica McNaughton: Alabama. I always get it confused. The AL and the LA state shouldn't be right next to each other. Very confusing. So, welcome Kristine.
Kristine Hart: Hi, Jessica.
Jessica McNaughton: Hi Kristine, with a ‘K’ for everyone curious out there and a ‘Hart’ with no ‘E’.
Kristine Hart: That’s right.
Jessica McNaughton: Kristine with a heart, ‘Hart’ with no ‘E’. So, Kristine. We've talked about biophilic design in the past at Cara Green. Obviously, when you're a sustainable building product company, we talk a lot about green building and people think trees and wood and things like that. But we haven't really talked about biophilic design in this latest context where everyone got shifted to work-from-home and the office became the workspace and we really kind of had to rethink how to make that a usable, livable space. And you have a house full of kids as well so, you understand, what it's like to try and get them focused and efficient and so on. So, can you talk a little bit about biophilic design and what it was when you first started at Cara Green and what it's become now that we've lived through this, this year of the pandemic and we've had all these kids and bodies and husbands and ex-husbands, all in or hopefully not in the same space. How has it been for you?
Kristine Hart: It's been evolving, right? I think that kind of sums up the year and it sums up our spaces. So, converting to being on the road and going out to see my clients and shifting very quickly to a home-office environment and a virtual school program at home was a big deal. And so, I initially started off using my couch for the home office. It was the most comfortable spot in the house, and I had a great view of the backyard. And then my back started hurting and I realized I couldn't really focus and manage the house and manage my work sitting there open to all of the elements in the home. And so, I moved into a space. Fortunately, we already have home office space. It was more of a room that was just used periodically and not really lived in. And so, I've moved into the office and I have adapted it and converted it to suit my needs. Before it looked pretty, it looked nice.
It was lovely. It just was not functional. So, for instance, we have a very traditional floor plan. You walk into the front door and to the right is the office, to the left is the dining room, straight ahead is the living room. So, my desk was facing towards the two front windows which would seem to be an ideal position to sit in. I can see everything going on outside. I've got natural daylight coming in. The plants are thriving. It seems great. But there was a wall that was obstructing my view of the rest of the house. Right? And so, I had to really position and change that spatial orientation so I could feel more grounded and have a better view of what my surroundings were and still take advantage of my natural daylight to the left of me now, which casts these great shadows on the wall. And it's opened up the space so I can see into the living room or the dining room and see the plants and the mirror and the light beam that’s going across the floor.
Jessica McNaughton: Yes.
Jessica McNaughton: So, to sort of back that up a little bit, we didn't really kind of set the stage for what biophilic design is, but for our listeners who may have heard prior podcasts, it really is about either bringing nature into your space or changing the spatial orientation of things so that you are in your most comfortable position or creating natural analogs or things around you that evoke nature without being so direct about being natural. So, maybe a natural woodgrain versus an actual tree in your home. So, what you're talking about Kristine is the nature of the space. So, your positioning feeling safe so that kind of refuge, but also prospect, which is being able to see out in front of you. So, refuge and prospect are two ways that we can orient ourselves in a space that make us feel the most comfortable, and then having that daylighting and then views of nature are also ways to take advantage of biophilic design in the home.
Kristine Hart: Absolutely. So, biophilia basically means; it’s the hypothesis that we humans have that natural tendency and desire to connect with nature. And I think all of us have experienced that throughout this past year, especially since we are in our homes and now, we can't necessarily, or we have not been able to experience as much of nature or even just going for a walk in the city, perhaps that’s where [inaudible 06:06] You haven’t necessarily been able to implement that outside of your home so you're bringing it inside because we all want to feel connected to it. And so biophilic design is just implementing that nature of this space through your plants, through your textiles, through water, or just nature in your space.
And then as I was speaking on nature of the space, that spatial orientation, and then, of course, there are natural analogs. And you'll look around your home and you'll start to realize, “Hey, I believe in implementing biophilic design in my home. Look at that I've got a wooden carved mushroom sitting over there in my dining room.” You start to notice these things and you realize maybe you do gravitate more towards that. Maybe that does make you feel calmer and more relaxed.
Jessica McNaughton: So, you just mentioned feeling calmer and more relaxed. And I think that's an important point for the listeners here and. And first, I should point out that we have a cheat sheet on the different ways you can incorporate biophilic design into your space. So, that's available on our website. If you can't find it, just email us at [email protected], and we'll send it to you. But it really is kind of some quick and dirty ways to bring nature into your space. And as Kristine was mentioning, it has been shown, documented, and studies. There is a ton of case studies on it now, but basically, it lowers your stress level.
Your affinity to be with nature is because nature calms you down. It reduces stress. It causes hospital patients to use less medication. So, even just orienting your desk near a window is a simple way to incorporate biophilic design. And, we can throw out some other pretty simple ideas for those of you in the home. Maybe not all the time, but more than, than you used to; What are some ways you can incorporate biophilic design? And as we mentioned, plants are great, open windows natural light, the air coming through a space is really good for biophilic design. Kristine, feel free to throw out some other ideas. I'm kind of recapping the ones you already mentioned. Walk the dog.
Kristine Hart: Those are four easy and quick solutions. I feel biophilic design is not intimidating. It’s not expensive. It's easy. And you can literally go on a walk and pick up a pine cone that you like, or maybe it's a leaf, it's a beautiful fall leaf and you bring
it home and you incorporate it into your design. Maybe you're making a wreath. Maybe you're just putting it on your shelf or our window ledges. Because we have removed all the windows and all of the wood blinds on our back windows so that we have that daylight, we have that open-in view. Upon those ledges, we bring back little treasures. Maybe it's a special seashell from the beach. Maybe it's a special rock or a leaf. And we set them along the ledge. So, there are lots of easy options that you can incorporate with your textiles. I guarantee you that you've got a favorite pillow. Why is it your favorite one on the couch?
And maybe because it's got texture, maybe because it's made out of out of hemp or some natural fibers. It's easy to implement them in that way if you just looked around your house and you started paying close attention, you would find these objects and if not, it's easy to get your hands on parts of nature and bring them in.
Jessica McNaughton: Right. So, with a lot of the products that we carry at Cara Green, we talk about biophilic design because a lot of those products fit in there. So, organoid surfaces, whether it's their natural coffee surfaces or Rose petals or Alpine hay, lavender, and cornflour, they have this. They actually have the sensory aspect to them. So, I keep those right next to my desk just because I can smell them and I love that natural smell. And then Paper stone is another great one, which has a warmth to it and texture. And Lap-o-tech has these textures.
So, we've got these great materials, which is why we talk about biophilic design. But why we talk about it to our listeners in bringing it into the home is because it's a really stressful place right now. Not just for us and you, but also the kids. My kids get 20 minutes of PE, I think once a week. And what is that really? They're standing in front of a computer with headphones on doing jumping jacks. Someone's going to get hurt. So, to actually get them outside and reset, I have to do that continuously. Just go outside and take a walk and it refreshes them, it really does it reboots them.
Kristine Hart: [inaudible 11:10]
Jessica McNaughton: So, the most direct, positive impact biophilic design has on my life right now is when I send those kids out to get that reset and they come back in and it worked and I see it in real life.
Kristine Hart: Yes, you're absolutely right. We've all witnessed it and we’ve all maybe even experienced it ourselves. Kids come back from being outside. They are refreshed. You can see the blood flowing in their cheeks better. You can just see life in them. And in such difficult times and in non-difficult times, it's important to have that aspect outside of your home as well as inside of your home.
Jessica McNaughton: One of the things I also did which I never thought I would really do, but it had been so rainy here and I know it was similar where you are in Georgia, but it was literally like two weeks of rain, which is not that common here. And I was just so missing the sunlight and I started looking into it and I ended up
getting one of those sad lights. It's SAD. It doesn't make you sad. It's ‘Seasonal. something depression.’ But mean, when I lived in Vermont and there was so little… Teal who's our marketing girl lives there now, so she knows what I'm talking about.
But Vermont was just so cold and there was no sunshine for so long. I can see people getting more of that there. But I have this little sad light. It's just this orb that sits next to my desk and it emulates that light and stimulates you the same way that natural light would when the sun isn't out. So, that's an easy thing that you can do as well. And when my kids are getting really antsy, I'd take my SAD light and I plug it in next to them and I make them sit next to that. But that's an easy way to kind of replace the sun when it's not out.
Kristine Hart: Absolutely. I heard about this when I lived in Wisconsin. I definitely have to get some of those and replace some of these led lights that the kids have too, with those SAD lights because you really have this dark space with this neon writing and it's, it can be concerning.
Jessica McNaughton: And that's at a personal level and your own emotional wellbeing for working from home. I find myself more efficient maybe, but I also find that I can kind of get distracted with more task-oriented stuff than project-based stuff. But it is shown that incorporating these things does make you more productive.
Kristine Hart: Oh, absolutely. Yes, 100%. I would agree. I have found myself to be more dialed in on task-type projects or projects, but also, I've had to adjust the office space to set up little mini photoshoots. And I wouldn't necessarily be able to do that if I didn't have the space or have moved things around to create that space, but the lighting that comes in as well helps in that productivity because I'm able to get a better shot with that that natural lighting coming in. So yes, it definitely has a big effect on your productivity. Some studies show office spaces where the employee was sitting in a cubicle versus the employee that was sitting facing the window. The employee that was facing the window generated more work, was more efficient, was happier, didn't miss work as often as the employee in the cubicle. So, again tying in that mental wellness and the productivity; the overall wholeness and wellness of biophilia has maximum benefits for sure.
Jessica McNaughton: So, I think in summary and to wrap it up for our listeners, biophilic design in commercial spaces and the architectural world is, is becoming a lot more common. The nice thing about it is it's not an ‘all-or-nothing’ thing. You can get a couple of succulents on a window sill or an herb garden. There's a lot of different ways that you can bring biophilic design into your home. And you're going to get those same advantages that the architecture world knows are positive for owners. And that could be productivity, well-being, emotional health, stress levels. All of those things that at the end of the day are impacting human health. And we don't just want human health in the commercial world, we want it in our homes.
So, get a plant, turn your desk towards the window, open some shades, go out for a walk when you can, send the kids out for a walk when you can. Take the dog out, get a fish. If you do not have a green thumb and I am the poster child for killing plants, you can get photos of animals, aquatic life, just having those sounds in the background. All of those things don't have to be a direct implementation of nature but they can imply nature or evoke nature. Those two have that same calming effect.
Kristine Hart: Yes, absolutely. You don't have a waterfall in your house. Yes, I don't either, but I have Spotify on my computer and I can listen to natural sounds. I can listen to the rain forest if I want just as a backdrop just to again, provide that soothing element, for sure.
Jessica McNaughton: Yes, absolutely. So, I appreciate you walking us through that and I appreciate you taking those steps to talk about your own home, your own family, and what you've done to incorporate biophilic design. And I'm excited to kind of see all the work we do at Cara Green to try to bring these great products to people, find their way into the home. So, it's not just about our construction folks and these commercial spaces, but it's about the home now, too. And it's about individuals. So, I'm excited to kind of bring biophilic design full circle.
Kristine Hart: Yes. Me too. Thanks, Jessica.
Jessica McNaughton: Thanks, Kristine. This is Jessica with Build Green, Live Green.