As we become more aware of climate change and the impact we are having on our eco-system, we are becoming more conscious about sustainability. This awareness has transitioned into the choices we make when decorating and furnishing our homes. Find out how to make your home more sustainable.

What is sustainable design?

Sustainable design aims to eradicate negative environmental effects through eco-friendly design and environmentally conscious practices. The intent is to improve your carbon footprint by reducing energy consumption, minimising waste and eliminating the need for non-renewable resources and materials.

Image courtesy: Alyssa Strohmann

Energy efficient design

One major contributor to climate change is energy consumption. Ensuring the efficiency of a home can help reduce the amount of energy wasted, most of which is through the heating and lighting of a home.  

Installing high quality windows will greatly improve insulation and prevent wasted energy. Carpets and rugs are brilliant thermal insulators and can retain as much as 10% of a room’s heat. Curtains are also a great way to retain heat as well as keeping a room cool during warmer seasons.

Lighting can be made more efficient by something as simple as the colour of the room. Choosing light colours will reflect light, reducing the need for artificial lighting. Another way to increase light efficiency is to change to a different bulb. LED bulbs use 90% less energy than traditional bulbs, while CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) use 60-80% less energy.

Low environmental impact

The manufacturing process, transportation, materials and renewability of a product all have an impact on the environment. Researching the product before purchase allows the consumer to make an informed decision and review the impact the product has on the environment. There are many tools and tables which help consumers compare and evaluate a product’s environmental impact in distinct phases of their life cycle.

Photo courtesy: turley.co.uk

Use eco-friendly materials

It is important to pick materials and products with the lowest environmental impact. Natural materials are a good choice as they contain less harmful chemicals and are easier to safely dispose of or reuse. Choosing renewable materials, such as fast-growing bamboo, have a lower impact on the environment and will not become depleted over time. Other eco-friendly materials include:

  • Reclaimed, recycled or sustainable wood
  • Cork
  • Hemp
  • Recycled metal
  • Bio-glass
  • Recycled plastic
  • Recycled rubber
  • Natural fibres, such as jute and wool

The extraction of the material is also important and should be completed in an environmentally responsible way. Many products include labelling or certification that provide information about the products’ origin and help you identify eco-friendly products. One example is an FSC label on wood products. This label ensures that the wood used in the product was harvested sustainably.

Image courtesy: Jakob Owens

Choose products for longevity

We live in a ‘throw-away’ culture, where products may only last or be used for a few years before being disposed of. Choosing pieces of furniture, home accessories and other furnishings for their longevity, reduces the need to throw them away after a short amount of time. In turn, this will reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, our oceans and other parts of the natural world.

Image courtesy: Tom Fisk

Upcycle

Another great way to reduce the amount of waste we create is by upcycling second-hand products. This works especially well with furniture. By selecting a piece of furniture from a charity shop or vintage fair, it can be revamped to any style or colour. This type of DIY reduces waste and creates a unique piece of furniture that cannot be found anywhere else. It’s a win-win.

Image courtesy: Mitchell Henderson

Design with health in mind

With people spending more time indoors, it is important to create a healthy environment. Improve the quality of air by providing adequate ventilation and by avoiding products that use harmful chemicals. Furniture and other products that have been treated with such, can release dangerous toxins into the air and cause indoor air pollution.

Plants are a great way to improve the air quality by acting as a natural air filter. Carpets also work as an air filter by trapping dirt, dust and pollutants until they are vacuumed up.

Natural light is extremely beneficial for our health and will also reduce the need for artificial light.

Being surrounded by elements from nature and biophilic design has a positive effect on are physical and mental health.

Image courtesy: Wendy Wei

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