Author Robert Swan was quoted as saying, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” That’s frightening to me, but it’s scarier when I consider that sentiment with my children and future generations in mind. As I think about Swan’s statement, I get more motivated to make a positive impact on our planet by incorporating sustainable design into all of my projects. At the same time, I realize new designers and home enthusiasts may be unfamiliar with the small steps they can take to be more eco-friendly. If you’ve been equally curious and intimidated about what many are referring to as “going green” as it relates to interior design, I’m here to help! Here are some sustainable design tips to help you beautify your home AND be more mindful of our quickly-depleting natural resources.
There’s so much to learn in this ever-changing landscape of sustainable design and home decor. One of the best things you can do is to educate yourself on what sustainability means in this industry. A great resource you can use, in my opinion, is the Sustainable Furnishings Council website. SFC’s mission is “to help companies reduce their environmental footprint, and to help consumers find healthier products and design services.” And, as luck would have it, right now you are reading the blog of an official SFC Ambassador!
I made it a point early in my career as an interior designer to discover what it means to incorporate sustainable design into home decor. I promise once you begin your journey to minimizing waste and using resources responsibly, you’ll get hooked on the creative ways you can reduce your carbon footprint, both in the aesthetic of your home and in the world.
Be Picky with Your Products
When it comes to the way things are made, you may not be able to control how environmentally conscious manufacturers are with respect to their products. Choosing whether to purchase their offerings or not, however, IS within your control. As a mindful consumer looking to incorporate sustainable design, you have the right to be picky about what you buy for your home. So make it your business to let manufacturers know your priorities!
Some people believe what you don’t know won’t hurt you. That’s not true when it comes to your home decor. Not only do many home products contain carcinogenic chemicals, but some of them are also even bioaccumulative. Perhaps you’ve heard them referred to as “forever chemicals.” That’s because these substances get absorbed but not excreted. These chemicals can be found in paint finishes, mattresses, rugs and fabrics, upholstered furniture, doorknobs, wallpaper and flooring. Get an understanding of what these unsafe chemicals are. Then, ask intentional questions when you shop at your local manufacturers and decor stores. They should be able to tell you if their suppliers use these chemicals in their products so that you can make more informed decisions.
Reduce and Reuse Resources
Here’s an easy way to begin focusing on sustainable design in your home: don’t buy anything! Well, not at first. Chances are you have a treasure trove of items already in your home that can transform your space. Consider shopping your own stash before you go out and purchase MORE furniture or decor. Recycling furniture or resources can help alleviate waste if done mindfully. Besides, if you’re like many of my clients, you likely have a room or two in your home that needs a refresh. Maybe that gorgeous credenza would look better in the dining room instead of the entryway? I encourage clients to play “musical furniture” all the time when house boredom sets in. Turns out, this is just as helpful for the planet as it is for the visual appeal of your space!
Please know that I aim to practice what I preach. Case in point, I designed a restaurant in LA where, instead of buying a new table, I created one from reclaimed wood and embellished it with a brass border. It had so much character, and it became a stunning focal point in the space. You don’t have to be a seasoned designer or environmentalist to achieve a similar result. It’s easier than you think to find businesses that source materials locally. Many of them only sell reclaimed materials. Consider checking out those options before you buy.
Seek Out Local Thrift Shops
Another easy way to incorporate sustainable design is to shop at antique shops or thrift stores. Doing so can help keep some cash in your pockets, which is always good. But, it can also help save gently loved home decor from filling up landfills unnecessarily. Simply making the choice to reuse home decor can positively impact the environment. You’re probably already infusing sustainable design in your home and not even realizing it!
There’s so much more you can do, but these are some initial ideas to get your creative juices flowing in the right direction. Remember, we only have one Earth to live on. Taking care of it isn’t just important, it’s vital! We are acting on our planet moment by moment with almost every decision we make. While we may never be perfect with our attempts, we can definitely aim to make progress. Lasting, significant, positive change is what we’re after. Don’t be intimidated by sustainable design. If you’re still unsure about what you can do specifically in your home, I’m here to help! Schedule an appointment with me, and let’s take a look at your space together and make a plan to design sustainably in your home.