A Sheltered Life Interview with Zem Joaquin of EcoFabulous


To call Zem Joaquin a Jane of all trades is an understatement; the founder of a sustainable style blog, Ecofabulous, is a certified BuildItGreen design consultant, a sought-after eco expert, a contributing editor for House & Garden, Architectural Digest and 7Ã-7 Magazine, and last but not least a mother of two. At any given point her blog features gotta-have products and services for green gals in the know. Today we wrap up our Sheltered Life interview series with Zem and learn, among other things, the energy-sucks that lurk in your laundry room!

Ecofabulous is setting out to prove that sustainability can be sexy. What makes an eco-product sexy in your eyes?

Sexy is sexy, period. I am a designophile. I love beautiful lines and good proportion, complimented by appealing colors. Functionality is a must but if something looks good and works well – yet it makes you sick – how can that be hot?

What was the most surprising thing you learned about sustainable design while compiling posts for Ecofabulous?

I was astonished to learn that so many people have been duped into believing that cork trees are endangered and so few understand the benefits of this rapidly renewable bark. One of the most thrilling things on the ecofabulous horizon is a tour of the Portuguese cork forests this month. We will be documenting the annual harvest and exploring the myriad uses for the extremely versatile, durable, insulating material.

In your opinion, what’s the most important room of the house? And the most over-looked?

Maybe the laundry room. Sixty percent of the carbon footprint of a pair of jeans actually occurs after you purchase it, since the way you care for your clothing not only affects you, but your clothes and the environment as well!

Ideally use a high efficiency, front-loading machine like Electrolux’s (you can do an entire load in 18 minutes) with a concentrated, non-toxic detergent (Method’s new pump requires a 1/4 of the dose of the leading national detergent brand). Cold water loads are less damaging to your clothes, save energy and thus save you moolah! And line drying takes that one step further. If you end up taking your duds for a tumble, you’ll want to ditch plastic dryer sheets that have a combination of beef tallow (lard) and chemicals. There are plenty of biodegradable, more appetizing alternatives. I also suggest skipping chlorinated bleach and opting for peroxide brighteners that won’t yellow your whites or change the ph level of the ocean. After all, cleaning should be clean!

What is your personal favorite flea-market find?

I have a weakness for gorgeous bar carts, so when I found my solid brass ’20s stunner for under a $100 (I’ve seen similar for just shy of a $1,000), I had to pop a cork.

What does “home” mean to you?

A healthy, safe place that my family and friends know they can always go back to for centering.

What’s the simplest tweak you can make to a room that has the biggest impact (other than a can of paint)?

Throw pillows can be an inexpensive way to add drama and glamor to any room. There are numerous stylish and sustainable versions now available. Look for ones with with an organic fabric and a eco-friendly fill, like organic wool or kapok.

What are your five favorite eco resources?

Green With Glamour
Ekla Home
Eco Haus