5 Easy Ways to Incorporate Sustainable Interior Design Into Your Home
In a world where convenience is prioritized over all else, it’s easy to fall into a lifestyle that’s synonymous with wastefulness. When it comes to interior design, the decisions we make as we build, remodel and decorate our homes can have a longlasting impact on the environment.
This Earth Day, whether you’re building a new home or just want to optimize your current one, think about these 5 simple ways to make your space more environmentally friendly.
Reclaim Second-Hand Furnishings
The upcycling movement keeps worn-out furniture and home finishes from ending up in a landfill. It’s a great way to keep your interior design project costs low while reducing the amount of waste in your community. Plus, these projects can be a rewarding way to spend time; you might even find a new hobby. Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Search for antique furniture or vintage items to bring sustainable character to your space
- Reclaim wood from a demolition project and turn it into new flooring, furniture or decor.
- Refinish tattered furniture from the second-hand store by sanding and staining it or simply painting it.
- Re-upholster a set of outdated dining room chairs to keep the old-world charm while ditching tacky, torn upholstery.
- Build an outdoor fire pit from an old oil drum
Source Surplus Materials
There are plenty of places to find surplus materials to use for your upcycling project. Try second-hand stores like Goodwill or your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Check Nextdoor and Craigslist for free home project materials that are being discarded. If you know of any home demolition or remodeling projects happening nearby, get in touch with the contractor to see if you can browse through their materials that are destined for a landfill.
Purchase eco-friendly materials, like recycled glass and bamboo
There’s an eco-friendly alternative to virtually every material used in home building and remodeling, from caulking and insulation to roofing and siding. Your options for design-friendly, renewable materials are endless.
When you want to use high-quality building materials in your home, you don’t have to sacrifice longevity and durability for sustainability. A recycled glass backsplash can give your kitchen or bathroom a POP of color and class. Also available for countertops, using a recycled material gives glass a second life, keeps waste out of landfills, while still bringing the sparkling quality of marble to your home.
Bamboo and Salvaged Wood
Bamboo can give your home the glamorous look of hardwood floors at a fraction of the environmental impact (and a fraction of the cost). While trees used in hardwood flooring can take up to twenty years to mature, bamboo can be harvested for flooring in just five to six years. Bamboo is just as durable and easy to maintain as traditional hardwood. You might also consider other sustainable flooring alternatives, like cork and salvaged wood planks.
A quick and simple way to refresh your home is to give it a new coat of paint. You can even opt for natural,
eco-friendly paint in your home that contains less volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Traditional paint can break down over time and release pollutants into your home. Next time you plan a painting project, choose Zero-VOC paint from a company like Clare.
Install energy-efficient window tints or thermal-backed curtains
Your windows make your home seem bigger and look brighter, but they can also make your air conditioner work harder. Depending on your budget, there are a few ways to get that energy bill down.
That natural light you love can cost a pretty penny as the sun’s rays heat your home, wasting energy. One option is to replace your windows with a more energy-efficient option. The Building Performance Institute says ENERGY STAR® labeled windows are used most efficiently with the proper orientation.
“A home should have few windows on its east- and west-facing sides, since it’s hard to control heat and light when the sun is low in the sky. North-facing windows also collect little heat, but can let in a lot of light. South-facing windows, however, should have a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) of greater than 0.6 to maximize solar heat gain and light transfer.” – The Building Performance Institute
For a more affordable alternative, consider adding tints to your windows to keep your home cool during the summer. As an added bonus, window tints increase privacy and protect your furniture from UV damage.
Thermal-backed curtains are another cheap option that can lower your utility bills and reduce energy usage. Insulated curtains protect your home from heat loss and overheating. As the BPI mentioned, southern windows typically receive the highest heat intensity on sunny days, so think about buying insulated curtains for those windows first.
Upgrade your appliances, light fixtures or water features
Bring your older home into the modern era without sacrificing charm by upgrading old appliances and fixtures. This may not be the cheapest way to make your home more sustainable, but it’ll reduce the amount of energy you consume (and pay for each month).
When you buy an energy-efficient washer and dryer, for example, you’ll have to buy new materials at an upfront cost, but new appliances will pay for themselves with years of reduced energy bills. ENERGY STAR® is the United States’ government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. According to the program products with this designation are certified to save energy without sacrificing performance.
“Since 1992, ENERGY STAR and its partners helped American families and businesses save more than 4 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity and achieve over 3.5 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas reductions, equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 750 million cars. In 2018 alone, ENERGY STAR and its partners helped Americans avoid $35 billion in energy costs.” – Energy Star
The ENERGY STAR® certification isn’t just found on a dishwasher or refrigerator, light bulbs can also contain the government rating. Just switching out your lightbulbs can save you hundreds of dollars per year. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that LED lightbulbs use at least 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. Some energy companies will even send you free LED lightbulbs for use in your home. Get in touch with your utility company to see if they offer this program.
If you want to reduce your energy or water usage without the expense of replacing older appliances, you have options. Other great energy-saving products are: low-flow showerheads, smart thermostats, and smart power-strips.
Embrace a minimalist lifestyle, and buy local
Tidying up became an art form when Marie Kondo entered our homes and taught us to embrace minimalism. But being a minimalist doesn’t just save you money and help you organize your space; minimalism is synonymous with sustainability.
Minimalism means living with less: Less clutter, less needless purchases and less waste. Under a minimalist lifestyle, you’ll think twice before going to the nearest home goods store and buying a 10th discount throw blanket (that you don’t really love). Minimalism teaches you to buy smarter, which sometimes means buying one pricier item over five cheaper ones.
When you buy just one cheap throw blanket, for example, it’s made overseas, transported by boat, plane and truck to a store in your hometown. That’s a big carbon footprint before the blanket even makes it to your home. You may like the price, but if it’s made from a cheap material in a country with cheap labor, there’s almost certainly a cost to the environment.
You might consider buying just one locally made throw blanket that you love and will last a lifetime. It might be more expensive, but you’re lessening your impact on the environment and supporting a local business.
Vishion’s Favorite Sustainable Space Design
Erika is a writer based in Charlotte, NC. When she’s not educating consumers about personal finance, she loves binge-watching documentaries, tending to her houseplants and ordering too much home decor online. She spends her free time arranging and rearranging her dream space: Cozy and creative with all the modern finishes that make life simpler.