Everything you need to know about environmentally sustainable interior design

Going green (i.e. being eco-friendly) has taken center stage in all aspects of the home. Sustainable practices in decor allow homeowners to reduce their ecological footprint while still incorporating the elements of design.

What is environmentally sustainable interior design?

Research published in the International Journal of Sustainable Built Environment explained that environmentally sustainable interior design (ESID) concerns the use of aesthetic principles and strategies that provide benefits on a global scale. In order to make eco-friendly interior design a possibility, homeowners should know how they can achieve it in their own spaces.

Environmentally Sustainable Interior Design

Relax on sustainable furniture

When people typically think “green,” they don’t necessary reflect on their furniture. Rather, they consider installing solar panels, conserving water or reducing their use of electricity. Of course, these are all important factors of a sustainable lifestyle, but other decor elements play a substantial role in creating a healthier planet too.

Green furniture, flooring and rug materials

With today’s home furnishing offerings, you can include eco-friendly design in to virtually every nook and cranny of your home. Beyond just helping the planet by using sustainable and recycled materials, you have access to a wealth of beautiful design opportunities.

When incorporating eco-friendly design into your home, look for furniture, flooring and rugs with these materials:

Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood

Wood furniture requires cutting down trees, so it’s not a sustainable choice upon first use. However, reclaimed wood recycles old material, giving it new life. Wood mantels, rocking chairs and coffee tables are excellent solutions. It also makes an excellent flooring option, especially in a rustic home.

Bamboo

Bamboo

This material is a lot like wood, but it’s a much more sustainable option. Bamboo is more similar to grass than trees. It’s also one of the fastest growing plants in the world, allowing it it be used within four years of planting versus 60-70 years required by most hardwoods.

Recycled Metal

Recycled metal

The sheen of a recycled aluminum chair not only effectively creates industrial design in your home, but this material is also a more sustainable option. Furniture with recycled metal and plastics requires less processing and fewer resources than furnishings made with non-renewable material.

Bio Glass

Bio-glass

You might not want to sit on a chaise made of bio-glass, but it’s an exceptional green alternative for anything from decor items to bathroom sinks. According to This Old House, the material is made entirely of post-consumer recycled glass, which is then heated and compressed to create solid-surfacing slabs.

Cork

Cork

Unlike the initial spongy impression this material elicits, cork floors are actually made to feel like hardwood. They’re an interesting sustainable option because extracting cork doesn’t harm trees. Plus, cork can easily be reused. In fact, some floors made of this material are made entirely of recycled wine stoppers.

Recycled Plastic

Recycled plastic

Indoor and outdoor rugs can be made from recycled plastic – giving new life to non-biodegradable material. A popular form of recycled plastic is high density polyethylene. HDPE is heavy and dense, so furniture is sturdy and durable. Colors are solid throughout the material, so they are highly fade-resistant.

Jute Fibers

Jute fibers

Jute fibers add an earthy tone to the room in more ways than their look. The material is derived from the jute plant, which grow quickly and is thus rapidly renewable. As such, rugs woven with jute fiber are not only durable, but they can also contribute to an eco-friendly home.

Bioethanol

Bioethanol

Fireplaces fueled by bioethanol are eco-friendly options for home design. The Renewable Fuels Association explained that this form of fuel is water soluble, non-toxic and quickly biodegradable. It’s a more environmentally sound option than gasoline because it releases significantly less carbon dioxide into the air.

Environmentally friendly finishes

The paint or varnish that adds a little shine to raw material plays a role in sustainability, too. Overall, you’ll want to find finishes that have reduced levels of volatile organic compounds. An element in many paints, VOCs evaporate at room temperature in an off-gas process that can last for several weeks, according to Green America. As a result, VOCs can cause anything from nausea to kidney damage, and they can pollute the outdoor air, too. Many finishes also contain biocides, fungicides and pigments, which, like VOCs, can harm the environment.

To reduce your ecological footprint, keep these earth-friendly finishes in mind:

  • Non-toxic paint
  • Finishes with “low VOCs”
  • Low-biocide paints
  • Milk paint
  • Water-based paint, stains and sealants
  • Latex paint

Research your manufacturers

Evaluating the sustainability of the production process begins at the manufacturing level. Many of Decor Interiors’ manufacturers are dedicated to producing environmentally conscious products.

Mamagreen

Mamagreen

Mamagreen creates luxurious, high-end outdoor furniture. Its name, reminiscent of Mother Nature, demonstrates the company’s commitment to sustainable manufacturing practices. “Mamagreen has a passion for community and humanity. Building a genuine culture of ‘doing the right thing’ within our corporation is an essential part of who we are. We feel responsible to society as a whole.”

Skagerak

Skagerak

Skagerak is Forest Stewardship Council-certified. The manufacturing company builds durable furniture that focuses on both aesthetics and functionality. “The concepts of quality and sustainability thus form the framework for our Corporate Social Responsibility work,” Skagerak explains on its website. They believe that good design is more than just how a product looks and it’s level of quality – it has to do with the responsible and efficient use of resources.

Skargaarden

Skargaarden

With roots in a small town on the Baltic coast, Skargaarden produces indoor and outdoor furniture built to withstand anything the harsh Swedish weather can throw its way. The sustainable materials and processes Skargaarden implements make its furniture an excellent eco-friendly option that you’ll be able to use for years. Its ingenious solutions elevate simplicity to the sublime.

EcoSmart Fire

EcoSmart Fire

This line of fireplaces is fueled by clean-burning, eco-friendly bio-ethanol. Ethanol is a renewable energy source, and it’s completely composed of biological processes. As such, you’ll only experience clean emissions, making these furnishings ideal as both indoor and outdoor fireplaces They are also smokeless and odorless, so you don’t need a chimney or have to worry about the smell.

LED Light Bulb

Let’s talk lighting

As an interior designer knows, the look of a home isn’t just created with the furniture (though it plays a substantial role). The mood of a space also involves the all aspects of the house, including lighting. As such, you can also apply green design to the light sources in your home.

Pick the right bulbs

More and more homeowners are switching out their light sources for LED light bulbs. That’s because these bulbs hold a bright future for our planet. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LED light bulbs use at least 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, and last 25 times longer.

The best part? Just because you change the bulb doesn’t mean you have to change the lighting source. That means, you can still keep your elegant, antique chandelier that perfectly adds to your directoire design. On the other hand, your coastal-themed lake house can still be brightened with seaside lanterns, just in a more eco-friendly way.

Open the windows

Whether you pull back the curtains completely or simply opt for lightweight and sheer cotton options, you can easily use the sun as your lighting source. Depending on where you live, you’ll see about 12 hours of light a day. Those are opportune moments to capitalize on this natural element, save electricity and get a healthy dose of vitamin D.

Is it really green?

Just as you should maintain a healthy level of skepticism when food says “all natural,” you should also think twice about trusting a furniture label that says “green.” Becoming an expert in ESID means you’ll have the tools to determine whether an element of interior design is really a sustainable option.

Know the facts

When looking for green choices, know what materials and finishes make eco-friendly furniture options. Use the above information as your guide. For example, if you see a glass work of art, you’ll know it’s a green choice if it’s made of recycled materials.

Look for certifications

Many home-design materials and products can become certified by organizations dedicated to sustainability.

FSC

Forest Stewardship Council

When wood furniture is FSC-certified, the products come from “responsibly managed forests” and thus provide benefits for the environment.

Energy Star

Energy Star

This government-backed certification applies to electronics, appliances, light bulbs and other electricity-powered products. Its label ensures a product is energy efficient and saves you money without compromising performance.

OEKO

OEKO-TEX

Certification is determined by OEKO-TEX Standard 100, which is an independent testing and certification system for textile raw materials. The requirements to meet this certification exceed those of national legislation.

Greenguard

Greenguard

Products certified by Greenguard meet rigorous standards for low emissions of volatile compounds into indoor air.

Achieve environmentally sustainable interior design in your home

By paying careful attention to the materials, finishes, production processes and certification of items in your home, you’ll be able to furnish your living space with eco-friendly options. Remember, you can maintain a sustainable home while still utilizing the principles of design.

Go green with rustic design

You can easily incorporate eco-friendly strategies into rustic homes, including those that carry subcategories of this umbrella design, like shabby chic or cottage. Take reclaimed wood, for example. A beautiful flooring option that coincides with these themes, reclaimed wood recycles a non-renewable resources: trees. Instead of contributing to the depleting forests, you’ll use the fruits they’ve already yielded.

Spaces characteristic of rustic elements are also typically furnished with items that hold a rich history, namely pieces from flea markets. By introducing a coffee table into your home that once served as the centerpiece in someone else’s living room, you’ll sidestep a potentially harmful manufacturing process necessary for new products. Plus, your room will be equipped with a one-of-a-kind item that adds to the eclectic air of your rustic home.

Scandinavian Interior Design

Save the planet with Scandinavian style

Scandinavian design is marked by a minimalist mentality and focuses on the rawness of earthy, organic materials. By adhering the the open space and bare-essentials mindset of Scandinavian design, you can limit the amount of items in your home that use non-renewable resources. For example, create an effective Scandinavian design with a small area rug made of eco-friendly jute fibers instead of a floor-length carpet comprised of thoroughly processed synthetic materials.

Additionally, fireplaces often serve as the focal point in Scandinavian design. This natural heat source reduces your use of electricity during the chilly winter months. What’s more, you can make your fireplace doubly beneficial by opting for one that uses bioethanol. Bioethanol fireplaces, such as those made by EcoSmart Fire, burn clean and thus limit the amount of carbon released into the air.

Creating a sustainable home requires attention to detail and knowledge of eco-friendly practices. Build upon your understanding of green to reduce the ecological footprint of your house.

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