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I’ve always thought that instead of constantly buying into new trends, we should invest in how a space feels to be in. But more and more, I’ve been thinking about sustainability and being more mindful of my home decor and design approach. One of the tenets of Scandinavian design that appeals to me is creating a home that stands the test of time – curating a space with a connection to nature, using natural, honest materials that appeal to the senses, and considered well-crafted objects built to last.
Thinking about the home’s eco-footprint as a whole, but paying attention to all the little details that together build up to make a more significant difference. I know I could do better; sometimes, I’ve been seduced by a quick, easy fix or the latest thing. But the pieces made with quality and craftsmanship have stayed with me through different homes and changes in decor. Things like my classic Anglepoise lamp, an old, much-loved Ebay chair, a rustic wooden chopping board, and a favorite handmade mug, for instance.
We’ve started to make a few other little changes in our home – using less plastic, buying locally, shopping at the farmers market, and transitioning to a mainly plant-based diet. We have a way to go, but small, simple steps are a start – you don’t need to feel guilty if you’re not the world’s best eco-warrior and aren’t doing everything perfectly. Every little bit of help.
So rather than tell you some of the more obvious ways to go greener – we all know to recycle more and use less water – here are six simple ways to create a more sustainable home, focusing on decorating and design.
Choose eco-friendly paint
Creating a sustainable home starts with foundations – the very walls of your home. You might have noticed when decorating how strong many paints smell; some are so spicy you need to open the window to avoid getting a headache. Conventional colors contain a toxic mix of chemicals, solvents, formaldehyde, and high levels of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that harm our health and release pollutants into the environment.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find completely natural paints; trace VOC levels are often a result of the manufacturing processes, and some synthetic chemicals are needed to keep the color fresh and usable.
Greener alternatives are water-based and contain low to zero VOC content; they use natural binders such as clay and seed oils, plant dyes, and mineral and earth pigments to add color and hue. Small, independent, UK-based brand Earthborn was the first UK company to hold The EU Ecolabel for Indoor Paints and Varnishes. With over 72 colors to choose from, they create eco-friendly paints formulated without oils, acrylic, and vinyl. Their hero product, Claypaint, is a clay-based emulsion that’s breathable, fast drying, and has no nasty odors. At the same time, their Ecopro range is designed especially for the trade, offering an environmentally friendly, economical alternative to commercial and business paints. Breathable paint is ideal for period properties as it allows moisture to flow easily through the surface, reducing condensation, mold, and mildew.
Other brands which boast low to minimal VOC content paints include my favorites, Farrow & Ball and Little Greene. Produced in Dorset, Farrow & Ball’s paints are water-based and low odor, while their wallpaper is handcrafted from paper from responsible sources. Manchester-based Little Greene’s oil-based paints have been reformulated using sustainable vegetable oils, and the pigments used to print their wallpaper are entirely non-toxic. It’s not just about the paint, though – 50% of Farrow & Ball’s packaging uses recycled materials, and 95% of the waste they create producing their colors and papers is also recyclable. Little Greene’s paint tins are made using over 50% recycled steel and can be recycled again.
Invest in furniture built to last
You can use all the sustainable materials and FSC-certified wood you like, but if you’re constantly throwing away furniture and buying new ones, that’s not all that green. The amount of flat-pack furniture I see discarded on the streets around me is sometimes staggering. One of the simplest ways to become more sustainable is to carefully consider what you buy and invest in furniture built to last – designs that won’t fall apart after a few months, vital, durable, well-built pieces, and well-crafted. Now I want to know where the things I buy are made, how they are made, and what from. I also want to know I’m supporting a company that is about the environment and the places where they source their materials.
Their products not only have a timeless expression that endures but is also made to live on for generations because of how they’re crafted and their materials. Danish design company Skagerak, for example, which was part of Skandium’s Eco Townhouse during the London Design Festival, crafts long-lasting furniture and accessories with a modern, Nordic touch. They support responsible wood sourcing and forest management to ensure that no more trees are felled than the forest can reproduce.
Purchasing from a company that has good values also appeals. Rare for a design company, Skagerak are a certified B Corp – or benefit corporation – meaning their company meets the highest standards for social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Currently, just over 2,000 B Corps from 50 countries are working together. For Skagerak, that means uniting in one goal and creating design under responsible conditions, not harming people or the planet.
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