Sustainable interior design prioritizes the health and well-being of people and the planet. It aims to create healthy spaces while minimizing environmental impacts, reducing waste and preserving natural resources. But an upward trend, fast furnituremakes home furnishings less durable.
The wide availability of fashionable and inexpensive home furniture, or “quick furniture”, has negative environmental impacts. In addition to the carbon emissions of any new product, new furniture often contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that pose health risks to consumers. And like fast fashion, fast furniture is often thrown away rather than repaired. According to Environmental Protection Agency, Americans threw away 12.1 million tons of furniture and furnishings in 2018, nearly 600% more than the 2.2 million tons of furniture buried in 1960; today, 80.1% of furniture ends up in landfill.
We can do better. There are ways to improve the sustainability of the interior design of our home, reduce its environmental impact while making it a healthier and more comfortable place to live.
Benefits of Sustainable Interior Design
The sustainable interior design strives to minimize carbon footprint, energy consumption and waste produced during manufacturing. It also promotes healthy and safe indoor environments by using materials and products free of harmful chemicals.
- Reduced carbon footprint and waste: Interior renovations can dramatically increase your home’s carbon footprint. By reusing products and materials rather than buying new ones, you can reduce the carbon footprint of home decor and reduce waste.
- health and wellbeing: Incorporating sustainable design elements such as plants and natural light can improve your mood and help you feel calm.
- Improved indoor air quality: Poor indoor air quality caused by the off-gassing of new materials aggravates allergies and asthma and can have many health effects. But choosing natural, used, or low-emitting materials and products helps improve the air quality in your home.
- Long term value: Quality and durable furniture and furnishings, organic natural materials, and energy-efficient windows and doors can be expensive. But if you look at the long-term value they provide — saving energy and protecting your health — it’s an investment that pays off.
Use natural and sustainable materials
Sustainable furniture and furnishings are manufactured and distributed in a way that minimizes harm to our planet. Environmentally conscious companies try to reduce their carbon emissions, as well as the use of pollutants, non-recyclable materials and unsustainable resources in their products.
THE “What is it made of?” initiative, created by the Sustainable Furnishings Council and other created organizations, encourages companies to create environmentally friendly furniture. You can check out their list of companies that have committed significantly reduce the use of harmful chemicals in their production. The potential health effects of chemicals that some companies use in home furnishings range from cancer to low fertility, liver damage, asthma, and more.
Furniture made from natural materials like wood, bamboo, textiles or natural stone can be more durable, but not always. When buying new furniture, check for these certifications:
- Origin and certification of the wood: When choosing wood, make sure it is harvested legally from well-managed forests, avoiding deforestation. Look for North American woods that are certified, reclaimed, plantation grown, or responsibly harvested. Look for third-party certifiers, such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Or Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) — to identify products made with sustainable practices.
- Textile certification: The textile industry pollutes water with toxic waste through hazardous chemicals used in fiber processing. Whenever possible, choose organic fibers and look for GOTS, Oeko-TexAnd Green-guard certifications to minimize toxic exposure in your home.
Go natural with biophilic design
While most people today spend more time indoors than outdoors, we have a natural tendency to connect with nature. Biophilic designs that incorporate natural elements, plants with natural contours, strive to facilitate a sense of connection with nature by integrating elements of nature into living and working spaces.
The potential benefits of biophilic design include better health, a sense of well-being, and reduced stress and fatigue, among others. People who feel connected to nature are also more likely to feel compelled to preserve our planet’s natural resources, environment and species, which provide the ecosystem services we all depend on.
Here are just a few of the many ways you can incorporate biophilic elements into your home’s interior design.
Indoor plants are an easy way to bring nature into your home. Whenever possible, source your plants from an organic nursery that grows them locally to reduce their carbon footprint. For the longest lasting houseplants, propagate them from cuttings or seedlings from friends and neighbors and use natural or organic fertilizers. You can even make your own potting soil.
Focus on natural tones
Neutral and natural earthy colors can have a positive and soothing effect. Use different earthy tones and colors that complement other natural colors, such as blue, green, or yellow.
Incorporate natural shapes
Right angles and straight lines tend to dominate our built environment, but these shapes are not common in nature. Biophilic design encourages the use of flowing shapes and patterns found in nature, such as the spiral of a seashell, the curves of ocean waves, or the irregular shapes of clouds. Consider curved tubs, soft corners on furniture, and artwork or wallpaper with botanical designs to create a space close to nature.
Improve natural light
An essential part of biophilic design, natural light has a powerful effect on our body. It helps our body make vitamin D, influences our sleep patterns and improves our mood. Even if you don’t have many windows, there are ways to maximize available natural light with reflective surfaces. If you are renovating, consider increasing natural light in your home by adding more windows. Although double or triple pane windows are more expensive than single pane windows, they are more energy efficient. According to Energy saving trustinstalling double-glazed windows could save you up to $300 and 405 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year.
Reuse or reuse
Reusing old items is another way to reduce waste and live more sustainably. For example, instead of buying new furniture when you remodel your home, you can reuse old furniture and give it new life.
It doesn’t have to be complicated – you can add new handles or knobs. Or reupholster old furniture when you’ve had enough of the color. It’s a much more affordable and planet-friendly way to refresh the look of your living space.
Finding a new use for an old item, or repurposing it, is another great way to reduce waste while decorating your home. Try to do something with your hands and make the object you need yourself. You can turn what you already have into beautiful original pieces for free, with just a little effort. It could also fulfill your creative side and be a fun project.
Watch this video on how to turn a vase into a stylish lamp and for inspiration.
Minimalism is also an ecological approach to interior design. Minimalist interior design focuses on using the essentials to create a simple, uncluttered space. Common elements of minimalist design are a monochromatic color palette, natural light, and an open floor plan.
By refusing to buy non-essential items, we reduce the emissions needed to source, manufacture and transport those items. And we reduce waste by not succumbing to advertising and buying products that will soon end up in landfills.
When thinking about buying a new item for your home, ask yourself if you really need it. Be honest: in most cases, you’ll find that you can live without it.
If you keep old items that you no longer need or use, consider finding a way to reuse or recycle them. Alternatively, sell, donate or recycle them.
Enjoy a sustainable living space
Sustainable interior design is a crucial aspect of sustainable living, as it helps to create healthy, efficient and environmentally friendly interior spaces. It can reduce your carbon footprint and lead to long-term cost savings by reducing energy consumption. By reusing materials and products, you can extend the useful life of these items and reduce your waste.
Designing the living space is how we breathe some of our personality into the space and make it a home. If your priorities are green and natural, and at the same time you want to save money, then consider these sustainable design ideas for your living environment.
About the Author
Rohit Mohan is an experienced digital marketer and content marketer with experience working in the interior design industry. He is currently a digital campaign manager at Foyr, a leader in interior design and 3D visualization software which can convert 2D plans into 3D designs into photorealistic renderings in minutes.