Eco-friendly home interior design is gaining more and more traction as people look to live a more sustainable life and reduce the burden on the planet. It’s a healthy choice. And it makes perfect sense to start with your home and plan it in a way that your dwelling is as environment-friendly as possible.
Below are some tips to incorporate sustainable design into your homes.
1. Use furniture made from wood and other natural material
This is quite clear-cut for us green soldiers who’ve taken a solemn pledge to stay away from plastic. We must buy furniture made from wood or other sustainable natural material.
Understandably there is this school of thought, and rightly so, that cutting trees is bad for the environment. But buying furniture made from durable wood negates the need to buy another for a long time. Wood that comes from walnut, teak or oak trees last a lot longer than most others, generations in fact.
Still, if your conscience is not convinced, try furniture made from rubber wood or beech wood. These trees grow at a faster rate than walnut or teak. You can also go for bamboo, which is strong, eco-friendly and offers a different aesthetic appeal. Because it’s actually grass, bamboo grows quicker than trees and is easily renewable.
Organic materials like marble and stone are also decent options, as are bioglass, jute, cork, recycled metals or plastics.
Look for furniture with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification stamp. This guarantees that the piece is made keeping the principles of sustainability in mind.
Also, when buying wood furniture, don’t compromise on quality. The better ones utilize wood joinery and so there are no dangerous adhesive compounds holding them together.
Another good idea is to buy pieces that serve a dual (or more) purpose, like a couch-cum-bed or desk that turns into a table.
2. Say no to VOC
Volatile organic compounds (VOC) are found in standard paints, adhesives and even candles.
Besides nausea and ringing your head like a bell, these compounds can cause damage to the liver and the nervous system. They become even more potent in enclosed spaces such as a room where the concentration can go up to five times.
So, when buying paint, ensure that it’s green certified. Stores these days have no-VOC or low VOC options. You even get paints made from protein or clay or some other natural substance. But it’s not just paint that’s dangerous.
According to a study, scented candles emit over 100 VOCs, of which a few are extremely toxic. Opt for candles that are made of natural materials like beeswax and essential oils and stay clear of metal wick, which gives off toxins.
Even some wood products contain formaldehyde which carries harmful chemicals. You can check with the store if they have used this chemical.
As for flooring, you may want to stay clear of vinyl as it contains toxic plastic. Instead go for wood, stone, granite or jute-based linoleum which is biodegradable. Some of these options are no doubt expensive but they last long, reduces carbon footprint, and are quite stylish too.
3. Buy upholstery and fabrics made from natural, biodegradable material
More you stay away from synthetic materials, the lesser your contribution to the landfill. Most upholstery contains chemicals like formaldehyde and polyurethane which help prevent fire from starting or slow down the burning process.
The downside is that these chemicals, much like those in paints and adhesives, can do damage, especially to the eyes and lungs.
The solution is to use pillows, upholstery, mattresses, and even rugs and carpets, made from natural materials like wool, jute, cotton, or sisal.
Wool in particular is a wonderful option due to its biodegradable, dust-resistant, fire-resistant and anti-bacterial properties. It also reduces humidity and allergens in the room.
Natural latex that comes from rubber trees is another good alternative as it does not emit VOCs.
4. Plants as home interior decoration and air purifiers
Plants! How can we forget plants, which give us oxygen and reduce carbon dioxide levels? They not only improve the quality of air inside the rooms but are known to increase productivity and wellness.
Moreover, plants and flowers are a tremendous way to brighten up and add color to your eco-friendly home interiors. Hanging plants, for instance, provide a distinct artistic edge to your living space.
The American Lung Association of Minnesota recognizes indoor elements, including VOCs to be threats to our respiratory health. Over 40 million people in America suffer from allergens. However, there are some plants we can use to combat these dangers and promote clean breathing.
Gerbera daisies remove the chemical trichloroethylene that is frequently used in industrial products.
Also, most lilies are effective at combating VOCs. The peace lily, for instance, helps remove formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene.
Another is aloe vera, which should be kept in the kitchen area as it helps clear formaldehyde and benzene which are emitted by paint.
Other plants include areca palm (indoor air toxins), bamboo palm (benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene), dwarf date palm (xylene), elephant ear philodendron (formaldehyde), lady palm (carcinogenic toxins), and rubber plant (formaldehyde).
Low maintenance plants
If your home is not conducive to indoor plants then opt for cacti. They are durable, far easier to maintain and offer the same benefits. Below are other low-maintenance plants.
The rubber plant’s shiny leaves make it ideal for the living room. The plant does well in bedrooms and kitchens too, as it requires very little light.
Boston ferns last long and do well even in moderate light
The exotic dracaena is another plant that requires very little maintenance and can be kept in small or big pots.
And then there are indoor herb gardens, a terrific way to live a green, sustainable and healthy life. To know more, check out this article on how to grow and maintain herb gardens.
However, not all plants are safe to keep around the house. So, choose plants that are not poisonous especially if there are children and pets around. This post will guide you on some of the poisonous plants to avoid.
5. Upcycle, upcycle, upcycle
“Reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.”
That is how the Oxford Dictionary explains the term “upcycle.”
There are many ways to upcycle that are being discovered every day. It’s fun, this upcycling business, because you are not bound by rules.
Unused bottles can be painted and plants grown in them, or a broken saucer can be converted into a pretty soap holder.
If you have old furniture lying around the house, repair or reuse the piece. If it happens to be made from a sturdy tree like oak, you’re in luck. Such furniture last forever and you can paint them to give them a different look or indulge in a creative DIY project of your own.
Even materials lying around in nature, like driftwood or branch can be brought inside and give your eco-friendly home interiors a rustic vibe.
And don’t forget the value of food waste. Leftover scraps can be turned into very valuable compost that you can use in your garden. If you don’t have room for composting in your garden, you can opt for an indoor compost bin made of stainless steel.
Buying antiques is another great way to contribute to the environment. This bypasses the need to buy new furniture and, at the same time, adds to the beauty of your home. Antique pieces have history and soul and are quintessentially green as they were made from old growth forests. If you are serious about going green, mixing modern with historical decor will do your rooms no harm.
Try thrift or vintage stores. You will be surprised at the richness of second-hand artifacts. Gumtree and eBay has a host of great bargains if you wish to spruce up your eco-friendly home interiors with some classic vintage décor. You have the option of keeping them as is or upcycle using your imagination. The possibilities are endless. What’s more, when you buy these antiques, you are taking them out of the landfill. You can also give your surplus furniture away online or to friends and family.
7. Importance of layout for your eco-friendly home
An uncomplicated outlook to architecture does not equate to bland living. Quite the contrary, in fact. Sustainable rooms provide a different aesthetic to today’s tried-and-tested, regularly pretty but not always inspiring architecture. Here, less is indeed more. Eco-friendly home interiors often succeed in highlighting the best items in the space, besides checking other important boxes such as carbon footprint and a healthy lifestyle.
The layout of the house also determines how much you contribute to the environment. Break the walls down, literally. For instance, an open plan with minimal but necessary furniture makes the living space less claustrophobic, bigger and arguably better to live in.
Proper use or the illusion of space negates the need to buy a bigger house, which consequently limits your carbon footprint. An unused garage can be converted to a recreational room and that big empty corner of the house that is rarely used given new life.
8. The light factor
We spend four-fifths of our time inside our homes and half of our electrical consumption takes place indoors in residential dwellings and commercial structures.
The solution to this is straightforward – design houses that let in natural light which is known to enhance your mood; skylights are good options. Also, open the windows and let the air come in once in a while, even in winters.
And paint your walls in natural accent colors. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have rooms where you spend most of your daytime hours, facing the south; typically, south-facing rooms receive more sunlight.
As for artificial lighting, stay away from incandescent bulbs. Effective sustainable, energy-efficient alternatives are LED and halogen bulbs. They come in a wide range of colors to match your eco-friendly home décor.
Install light dimmers. These are versatile devices that enable you to adjust the brightness of the light output depending on your activity and bring down the electricity bill.
9. Solar panels, geothermal heating and windows
Solar panels use free energy from the sun to run your electrical appliances. They are so popular that they are used as roof tiles, which allows sustainable design to be incorporated into the existing structure.
These panels are being increasingly sold at subsidized prices to encourage people to use them. In fact, some homes produce so much energy that it’s not surprising to see them garner profits by selling off the excess power.
It’s not just the sun that offers us these wonderful opportunities. We can even harness geothermal energy – the power of the earth – to warm and cool our homes.
Windows coatings, UV films and thermal curtains
The window is an important structure, which is responsible for making your house hotter in summers and colder in winters. This can be controlled by lining them with special coatings that reflect heat during the hotter days and retain the insulation when temperatures dip. You can also use clear UV film on windows, which has a similar effect besides guarding furniture and floor pieces against sun damage.
Another option to regulate heat and sunlight to reduce energy bills is a thermal insulated or blackout curtain, which is an insular lining within the curtain.
10. Replace old with eco-friendly appliances and household products
Below are alternative appliances and household products that reduce maintenance, electricity bills and are environment friendly.
- Top–down refrigerator units
- Eco-kettles which boils quicker and generally looks more elegant than normal kettles
- Convection oven; cooking time is 25 percent faster than conventional ovens
- Cutlery made from bamboo and other natural materials
- Scrubbers made from natural materials
- Low-flow showerheads to save water
- Stainless steel dustbins
11. Natural homemade cleaning products
Homemade cleaning products are cheaper and free of dangerous chemicals. Commercial products, on the other hand, may contain ingredients that wastewater treatment plants cannot remove, which makes them dangerous to the environment, especially aquatic life.
Also, homemade cleaning products offer you a chance to channel your creativity through DIY projects. With just Sal Suds and distilled water you can fashion an all-purpose household cleaner. Replace Sal Suds with vinegar, lemon juice, and essential oils and you have a cleaner for hard water stains. For the aroma bit, choose natural diffusers over synthetic fragrances which can be harmful to health.
This detailed article offers more information on how to make cleaning products with chemical-free materials for your eco-friendly home.
12. Bioethanol fireplaces
Bioethanol fireplaces are stylish, environment friendly and hassle-free.
The fuel is made through fermentation of vegetable matter. All you have to do is to pour the fuel into the burner and light it. Bioethanol fireplaces produce no smoke or soot, making the chimney or flue redundant and ridding the headache of cleaning up the ashes.
And assembly and installation requires no professional help, for most models.
13. Shop from the good guys
Buy from eco-friendly stores. Their products are either recycled or made from sustainable materials. Additionally, endorse smaller ventures. You can actually request them for plastic-free packaging and there is a chance that they may acquiesce; bigger, more established stores are not so accommodating.
You can also try buying from local stores and circumvent the emissions issues that arise from transporting goods. Plus, it’s always good to research who you are buying from, if only to ensure that their practices align with your thinking.
Things to keep in mind when buying for your eco-friendly home
When purchasing any furniture or appliance, see that it is approved by agencies like Energy Star, FSC, Global Organic Textile Standard, and WaterSense, among others. Their seal of approval guarantees an eco-friendly product.
Moreover, ensure that the products are/have:
- Necessary at the time
- Made from recycled material
- Eco-friendly packaging
- Low environmental impact (This can be tricky; for example, cotton is biodegradable but needs vast amount of water to produce.)
- Reusable and recyclable
When you design your home using energy-efficient and low maintenance options, you contribute a great deal to the environment. You bring down the stifling demands on natural resources and reduce carbon footprint. Besides, your personal health will improve with the better quality of air you breathe, and your mental and physical state will see a positive change. And the best part is, you don’t have to compromise much – you will have everything you need in your home.
Eco-friendly home design is the way forward.
Is your home or office space designed in an eco-friendly way? Do you know of any organizations that produce sustainable home products? Share with us in the comments below.