Your home’s decor is a reflection of who you are. The furnishings, artworks, objets d’art, and other items you use to decorate your home showcase your personality and interests. They can bring life and energy to what might otherwise be a drab and utilitarian space, and conversation pieces can really liven up a party.
But whether you’re moving into your first place, upgrading to a new place, or just looking to replace your college futon with your first real couch, you’re probably concerned about how to decorate your home sustainably. Sustainable home decor is good for the planet, but it can also make your home safer and healthier — and it doesn’t have to come with a high price tag. Here are five simple ways to consider the environment when decorating your home.
The most sustainable — and, likely, cheapest — way to decorate your home is to upcycle things you already have lying around. Reusing and repurposing things you already own keeps them out of the landfill and reduces waste. Reupholster a well-loved piece of your own or a well-built hand-me-down, and give it new life. Use Ikea hacks to turn your old flatpack furniture into striking, original pieces. Browse the web for ideas, and remember — you can make a lamp from just about anything.
Buying local is more sustainable because it reduces the need for shipping and the increased emissions that come with it. Plus, it supports your local economy and puts food in the mouths of a local family’s children. Hand-crafted items also tend to last longer than mass-produced ones, and though it might mean a larger upfront investment, buying fewer, higher-quality pieces is both more cost-effective in the long run and more sustainable, because they last so much longer. Plus, buying from local craftspeople gives you the chance to own something beautiful and, if not unique, at least uncommon.
Could buying an organic cotton or latex mattress improve your health? It could, especially if you have allergies or asthma. Conventional mattresses are made with synthetic materials that off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which have been proven to harm health.
It’s not just the synthetic materials in conventional mattresses you have to worry about. Conventionally produced cotton is one of the most pesticide-intensive crops, accounting for 16 percent of the world’s pesticide use, even though it only requires 2.5 percent of the world’s cultivated land. Many of the pesticides used to grow cotton have been found to be toxic to humans. Organic mattresses and upholstered furniture significantly reduce your exposure to toxins, and pieces made with reclaimed or sustainably harvested wood and non-toxic stains, paints, and varnishes protect your health and the environment.
Every time you buy an item secondhand, you’re basically eliminating the need to manufacture and ship that item all over again — so it’s much more sustainable. And it can be fun to go to thrift shops, scour garage sales, and poke around in flea markets for your next new-to-you piece. Other places to look for great furniture and home decor elements include architectural salvage stores, Habitat for Humanity Restores, and local online marketplaces. Your patience can often be rewarded with a sturdy, well-made piece, and maybe with some surprises along the way.
Whether you’re moving into your first place, or a bigger place, or just want to take your home decor up a notch, the prospect of redecorating an entire home can be overwhelming. That’s why people hire interior designers! But if you’re doing it on your own, break it down into manageable portions. Take it one room at a time. Doing this can also help you manage the costs of decorating your home. Give yourself a budget for each room, and, if you’re short on cash or time, keep things minimal at first. You can always add more later if you want.
You should decorate your home in a way that shows off your personality and values — including your commitment to minimizing your carbon footprint. Sustainable home furnishings aren’t just better for the environment, they’re better for you and your family — and sourcing sustainable pieces often yields gems and conversation pieces that will last for decades, even generations, to come.