Some people have large houses with many rooms. Some people have studio apartments. Some people live in RVs, yurts, villas, co-ops or even boats. But I'll share a secret with you. Are you listening? We are all living in the same home, planet Earth.
Coming from this perspective, it would make sense to want to fill our living quarters with eco-friendly furnishings and decor. More and more often, people are searching for sustainability. According to furniture and decor company West Elm, "About 85 percent of millennials seek out responsibly sourced product." However, it can be difficult to know what to purchase and from where, or if you should be buying something at all. Here are some tips on decorating your home while considering the planet.
Though purchasing furniture from a big-box store (think Target, Walmart, Ikea) or an online retailer (Amazon, Wayfair) can seem the easiest route, it also puts more money into the hands of corporate entities thousands of miles away. And it takes a great deal of plastic, packaging and fossil fuels to have that side table delivered to your door. Consider supporting local retailers and businesses instead. Homegrown businesses typically reuse materials and work with nearby retailers and suppliers, creating a "green ripple" effect in your neighborhood. This influx of business will support jobs and reduce shipping and packaging. Plus, buying works from local artisans means your home decor will be unique rather than cookie-cutter.
When searching for furniture, aesthetics are important. Luckily, the most beautiful and chic choices are often the most eco-friendly. According to Briana Nix of Decorist, "Furniture designers are getting creative with materials like concrete and bamboo, making pieces that are eye-catching and inspiring while keeping the environment in mind." Bamboo is incredibly fast-growing. It can grow 18 to 47 inches in one day and release 35% more oxygen than a typical forest tree. Though bamboo is a grass rather than a tree, it is extremely durable. It is as strong as mild steel.
Other sustainable options include teak, walnut, eucalyptus, rattan and cane. When purchasing wood furniture, look for pieces made from timber harvested using Forest Stewardship Council guidelines.
*Newer Isn't Always Better
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw out more than 12 million tons of furnishings and furniture each year. Think of all that wood, fiber, metal, carpet and plastic. Instead of adding to the pile, consider giving these pieces a second life.
Look for shops that offer secondhand furnishings and decor such as thrift stores and consignment stores. What's the difference between the two? According to Neil Kokemuller for the Houston Chronicle, "A consignment shop accepts goods from patrons, merchandises them for sale and pays a portion to the contributor." Often, thrift stores are run by nonprofits. "The Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries are among the most recognized national thrift shop chains in the United States," says Kokemuller. "These nonprofits used revenue earned in stores to support shelters, food banks and other programs that support communities."
For people who love online shopping, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Nextdoor and other social networking sites are great places to find furnishings looking for a new home, and in a lower price bracket. By choosing preloved pieces, you're reducing waste while gaining an interesting story of how it came to be in your home.
When in doubt, consider whether you need a new item in the first place. Minimalism is very on trend. Reducing clutter has been shown to reduce stress, and fewer items in your home means less environmental impact and greater appreciation of your personal space and our planet.
A commitment to sustainable home furnishing doesn't have to be hard. Whether you are seeking an all-out redesign or simple home accessories, take advantage of sustainable home products and trends that fulfill your desires and protect our world.