Decorating your home is an exciting venture, whether you have a creative streak or not. It’s a chance to showcase your personality and unique aesthetic. But, more than that, it’s also an opportunity to help protect the environment. How so? The answer is sustainable interior design.
There’s a vast array of decor and design/architectural principles you can implement in your home that not only appear attractive and pleasant to the eye, but also benefit the planet! Sustainable interior design is the perfect way to create your dream home while doing your part for the environment. From faucets and light fixtures to windows and walls, there are almost countless means of making your home gorgeous and green. Let’s take a look.
What is sustainable interior design?
In essence, sustainable interior design is an environmentally-conscious architectural and design style that focuses on using materials and construction methods that lessen a building’s impact on the environment. Sustainable interior design and sustainable architecture are also centered on improving the health and wellbeing of the people who live, work or play in a green building through its eco-friendly design.
Although sustainable design and green design may seem synonymous, they’re not entirely the same. Green design is all about reducing harm in the present and near future. By contrast, sustainable design looks at long-term consequences. As the name suggests, this design style uses elements that will continue to minimize negative impact on the environment for years, decades or even centuries to come.
It’s not just about building a structure — it’s also about building a future for the earth’s inhabitants. In a little while, we’ll take a closer look at the core principles underlying sustainable design and how to incorporate them when designing your home’s interior. But before we get to that, let’s discuss why sustainable interior design is so important.
The importance of sustainable design
We all know that sustainable practices are critical to the planet’s wellbeing. From using public transport to buying environmentally friendly cleaning products, there are so many important ways we can reduce our impact on the environment. The best place to start as normal, everyday people is with the buildings we create and use. Utilizing sustainable interior design is vital for two main reasons: keeping the environment and us healthy.
The environment’s health
Sustainable design helps preserve our natural habitat by reducing our carbon footprint. Never heard that term? Don’t worry! In a nutshell, it’s the amount of greenhouse gasses we produce. These include carbon dioxide and methane that trap heat in the atmosphere and increase temperatures across the world. Keeping the global climate stable is essential for preventing natural disasters and allowing us to grow the food we all need to survive.
Unfortunately, so much of our garbage ends up in the wilderness and the oceans, which can have terrible consequences for wildlife and the quality of our natural resources like soil and water. Sustainable design also helps reduce the amount of waste we produce, which is key to preventing pollution.
Sustainable design keeps us healthy, too! It helps improve indoor air quality. The right materials prevent potentially dangerous toxins and dust particles from floating around the air and making us sick. By purchasing sustainable interior design decor and products, we can also reduce the noise in our living environment, which is all-important for psychological wellbeing. By using as much natural light as possible (more on this in a bit), we can reduce stress and increase productivity, too. This is especially helpful for those of us who work from home!
How to design with sustainability in mind
So, how do you go about actually implementing sustainable interior design? It’s helpful to start with the “five Rs of sustainability,” which are the basic principles that underlie how to live sustainably:
- Refuse: Say “no” to environmentally unfriendly products by buying only those that are recyclable and ethically produced.
- Reduce: Use the minimum amount of required materials and resources to minimize your impact on the environment.
- Reuse: Avoid single-use products (especially plastics) by using metal or wooden alternatives wherever possible.
- Recycle: This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Make an effort to dispose of your trash responsibly by using recycling bins.
- Repurpose: Utilize your purchases in different ways once they’ve served their original purpose.
The following concepts underpin the main pillars of sustainable interior design:
Because most of the world’s electricity is still generated by burning coal, energy is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. Sustainable interior design aims to reduce energy consumption.
Using energy conserving lighting is a key pillar of sustainable design.
Our natural resources are limited, and sustainable design seeks to make a little go a long way. It focuses on using the smallest amount of materials to insulate, build and decorate a building.
Making the most of the space you have goes hand in hand with energy efficiency and waste reduction. This is achieved by consciously and cleverly choosing materials and pieces (particularly furniture) that ensure a little goes a long way.
Although 70% of our planet is covered by water, less than 2% of it is safe to consume. Sustainable design works to decrease the amount of water we use to preserve this precious resource.
As we mentioned earlier, sustainable design also promotes healthy living by making smart choices about temperature regulation, ventilation and products when designing an interior.
Sustainable design is focused on using extremely durable high quality materials that last longer. In this way, you lessen your need to toss out old items and buy new ones, which supports waste reduction.
Natural stone is minimally harmful to the environment and can last centuries.
Eco-friendly materials and products
Picking materials and products that are recycled or recyclable and have a low environmental impact is the easiest way to achieve sustainability when designing your interior.
Sustainable design examples
Now that you’re familiar with why sustainability is so crucial and what it aims to achieve, how can you accomplish sustainable interior design in your own home? Here are a few tips and tricks:
To make your home more energy efficient:
- Maximize the amount of natural light in your home by installing glass sliding doors and even skylights.
- Opt for compact fluorescent light bulbs, LEDs and halogens when you do need to use electricity to light a room.
- Utilize renewable energy sources like solar power if possible.
- Paint your walls light colors to help decrease the need for artificial lighting.
- Use lined draperies, carpets and blinds to improve insulation and thermal comfort, thereby reducing the amount of energy needed to heat and cool your home.
- Arrange your furniture in heat and energy-saving configurations by opening up spaces around air vents to improve circulation.
- Install smart thermostats that heat up or cool down a room based on outside temperatures so you don’t have to do it manually. Some include sensors that switch off heating or cooling entirely when people aren’t in the room.
Utilize as much natural light as possible to reduce the need for electricity.
To reduce waste:
- Choose linen, furniture and other decorative items made from recycled waste or materials that can be recycled when they’ve reached the end of their lifespan.
- Pick products made from materials that are good for the environment. These include:
- Responsibly produced or reclaimed wood.
- Sustainably made natural fabrics like cotton, leather and wool.
- Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint.
- Recycled plastic, steel and glass.
- Natural stone.
- Purchase adjustable and mobile furniture and modular flooring that can be reassembled and easily moved as necessary. This eliminates the need to buy new pieces.
- Buy products with easy-to-clean surfaces as they require fewer cleaning products (detergents are often harmful to the environment).
- Install water-conserving toilets and taps.
To conserve water, consider environmentally friendly fittings such as taps and shower heads.
To buy responsibly
- Select wooden pieces that are made from quickly renewable plants such as bamboo or those that have an FSC label on them.
- Look for locally-produced products. Items produced internationally require long-distance shipping which pollutes the environment.
- Shop at antique and secondhand stores. Not only are many of these items rare and charming, but they also minimize the need to produce new goods. Plus, you know they’ll last a long time!
This driftwood table is a great example of using responsibly sourced wood.
As you can see, following sustainable interior design guidelines is actually really simple. All it requires is a tiny bit of care and consideration! If you’d like to make your home more environmentally sustainable but aren’t sure where to start, you’re in luck! Erika Lee of Decorating Den Interiors is here to help.
After you get in touch with Erika, she’ll schedule a meeting either at your home or over the phone, whichever you prefer. As you chat, she’ll get a sense of your design vision and your home’s current setup. Then, she’ll begin planning to make your dreams of sustainability (with some flair, of course) a reality.
Ready to go green? Contact us today and decorate BEAUTIFULLY with Erika Lee!