Penny Bonda had a successful career in interior design when she was introduced to the concept of “green” building in 1994. The past president of the American Society of Interior Designers, Bonda admits that her profession often gravitated toward the aesthetic over the eco-friendly.
“Designers are sometimes guilty of creating bad or even dehumanizing design,” Bonda said. “I’ve likely contributed to untold health problems.”
That, however, is more than 13 years in the past. A former Potomac resident, Bonda has since made green design her crusade. She founded environmental commercial design committees for the U.S. Green Building Council, and now edits and writes The Green Zone, a column on green design for Interior Design Magazine’s Web site.
Bonda received the Conservation Award from the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Potomac Hundred Chapter at a ceremony hosted by Christie Martin on Saturday, April 14. “It’s really quite an honor to receive this award and be here with you this morning,” Bonda told the group.
Elaine Jones, a DAR member from Potomac, is also an interior designer. She heard Bonda speak at the National Building Museum and thought the issue of green design was more timely than ever with the increasing national focus on environmental concerns.
BONDA ALSO BELIEVES that the issue of green design is more timely — and more crucial — than ever before. Quoting author Bill McKibben, Bonda said, “[Hurricane] Katrina marks the start of an age in which the physical world has flipped from sure and secure to volatile and unhinged. New Orleans doesn’t look like the America we’ve lived in. But it very much resembles the planet we will inhabit for the rest of our lives.”
“Sustainability is not just a buzzword, it’s a real issue. It’s a concept which we need to embrace right now,” Bonda said. “Sometimes we treat this planet as though we have a spare one in our pocket.”
On Saturday, Bonda stressed the importance of conservation over specifics about green aspects of her career. Although she now lives in Washington, D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, she previously lived in Potomac. She moved into Potomac in 1968, and her children are Winston Churchill High School graduates.
During the time Bonda lived in Potomac, she said, she saw it change from a rural community to a much more developed suburb. Potomac’s growth is reflective of a statistic she mentioned, that building increases at three times the rate of population.
Even in homes that aren’t undergoing renovation any time soon, Bonda said, a homeowner can make environmentally friendly modifications. “It’s easy and yet it’s not,” Bonda said.
Leaving water running while brushing one’s teeth expends nearly twice as much water as a flush of the toilet, Bonda said. Also, if every U.S. household replaced just one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb, Bonda said, it would be the emissions equivalent of taking nearly one million cars off the road. And when asked “Paper or plastic?” while grocery shopping, Bonda said the proper answer is none of the above. Reusable cloth bags are a worthwhile, environmentally friendly third option. As for recycling programs for plastic bags? “It’s a myth,” Bonda said — programs exist, but nowhere near to the extent that most shoppers imagine.
Bonda encouraged those present to consider making some change. “Everyone thinks that we have to have major environmental change,” Bonda said. “No. [It’s] little things that people do.”