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Keeping the Peace

Keeping the Peace

Shhh! In a world full of noise, it’s time to mute our household goods for our own wellbeing. MICHELLE OGUNDEHIN looks at how the Quiet Mark initiative is leading the way.

by MICHELLE OGUNDEHIN  |  Harrods Home Magazine, Spring/Summer, 2024


Above: 'Keeping the Peace' title page photo | Harrods Home Magazine, Spring/Summer, 2024


THE GENTLE PATTER OF RAIN while you sit cosy inside, or rustling leaves and birdsong heard on a walk: all sounds that restore us. We don’t even think of them as noise. Sadly, most people’s everyday soundtrack is more likely to include the incessant beep of notifications, the rumble of traffic, washing machines going mad on the spin cycle and the constant background buzz of televisions. This is the sort of persistent noise that can be poison for our wellbeing.

While air pollution is frequently discussed, noise pollution is often overlooked despite being linked to all manner of concerns, including heightened stress, elevated blood pressure, depression, anxiety and cardiovascular disease. Some studies have even shown that exposure to significant traffic noise at home can raise your risk of a heart attack by 23 per cent.

Clearly, we need to address the increasing cacophony of everyday noise that pollutes our environments, and while we can’t change the timbre of the outside world, there is a lot we can do in our homes – thanks to an initiative called Quiet Mark. This is an independent global certification programme that identifies the quietest products in multiple categories, from commercial building products to consumer household goods (think everything from air purifiers, dishwashers and food processors to coffee machines and hairdryers).

Despite being a relatively new initiative, founded by Poppy Szkiler in 2012, the roots of Quiet Mark draw upon quite the heritage. Szkiler’s grandfather, John Connell OBE, set up the Noise Abatement Society in 1959, to “improve and protect the aural environment to benefit all life forms”. Instrumental in bringing the injurious effects of noise pollution to the attention of both industry and government, the society prompted many inventive solutions, from rubber dustbin lids to reducing night flights over London. Today, Szkiler’s m other, Gloria Elliott OBE, heads up the society.

Szkiler admits, “My 1970s music box played I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony) on a loop, so perhaps that seeded a destiny into the world of sound measurement.” But it wasn’t until she turned 30 that “a deep desire to seek purpose meant I offered to help my mother start a trading arm to the charity. I had no clue at the time it was going to become this unusual career journey.”

It was tough at first, trying to convince people that the idea of quiet mattered. But, says Szkiler, “since the pandemic, there has been an epoch shift. Now, there is more inclination to face truths on health matters and take action. During the lockdowns, retailers working in partnership with Quiet Mark reported more than 10,000 searches a month for appliances that included the term ‘quiet’, with washing machines and kettles being the most likely devices to be searched.” And that was probably not surprising; as Szkiler points out, “A new awareness of noise became front of mind when noise intrusions interfered with Zoom calls and work concentration, and there was a need for the comfort that a peaceful environment brings.”

And that’s the key. While action, energy and vibrancy are essential for living well, they can only be truly appreciated when we experience their absence – given quiet and a chance to switch off. We need to be as intentional with what we hear as what we see, touch, smell and taste. After all, our ears are always on, even when we are asleep. Happily, if we choose quieter technology and home appliances, we’re one step closer to creating a serene environment and rebalancing the backdrop to daily life. “People find healing in quietness,” reflects Szkiler. “It’s a safe place to hear the still, small voice of calm in these times of unprecedented change.”


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Read the original article in the Spring/Summer 2024 print issue of Harrods Home Magazine 


Above: Harrods Spring Summer Magazine cover photo