There was a television commercial out recently that really caught my eye. The premise was about a young gal decorating her empty apartment. Each time she tossed something into the recycle bin a decorating product popped into the picture. In the commercial, recycled plastic containers turned into new carpeting, aluminum into CDs and so on. I’m all about recycling decorating items or donating them for others to use but I never realized just how many decorating items are now made from recycled products or are earth friendly. This brought me to the conclusion that, even in decorating our homes, we can be kinder to the Earth. When possible, choose more earth-friendly products.
Fast-growing bamboo is a product that can be used in items such as cutting boards, furniture and flooring. Because it replenishes itself more rapidly than trees, it is much more earth friendly than slow-growth forests. Bamboo accents, window treatments and furniture can also be very beautiful choices for the home.
This renewable resource is made from the bark of a tree and is hypoallergenic, sound absorbing and durable. Consider cork flooring if new flooring is in your future. Cork reforests itself every six years so it’s a friendly choice for the environment.
Choosing cotton or wool for bedding, table linens and window treatments is good for the environment because synthetic fabrics use more toxins to produce than natural fabrics. Cotton growers do use pesticides so it’s an even better choice to go natural and organic at the same time. There are many businesses that offer alternative bedding and linens so do some research before you buy.
Top and bottom freezer/refrigerator units: These units tend to be more energy efficient than side-by-side models because they don’t allow as much cold air to escape when being opened.
Convection ovens: This type of oven uses a fan to drive heat rapidly from source to food so it cooks it 25 per cent faster than a conventional oven. A convection microwave has similar energy-saving benefits.
There are so many advances in appliances that it’s always a good idea to research the model you desire before you buy. Read the energy consumption rating labels and ask questions.
The best way to help the environment is to find furniture that already exists. Great places to find things like table and chair sets are flea markets, want ads, garage sales and antique shops. If you purchase less “new” items then fewer items need to be manufactured which is good for the earth and the landfill. Refinishing or refurbishing older pieces is great for the pocketbook as well. Use eco-friendly products to finish and maintain your piece. You may have a piece of furniture in your possession that could be transformed into what you’re looking for so think before you buy new. An unused dining room table might turn into that large, upholstered ottoman you’ve been dying to have if you cut the legs down and upholster it yourself.
If you have to buy new furniture then purchase items made from sustainable materials like bamboo, beechwood or reclaimed materials.
Today, there are increasing numbers of high-quality paint manufacturers who are coming out with non-VOC or low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints in a gorgeous variety of colours. Look for the Greenseal label or SCS, (Scientific Certification Seal) on products you intend to buy.
We all know about using energy-efficient lighting so keep this in mind when purchasing lamps, fixtures and bulbs.
If you must replace your carpeting consider using modular carpet tiles instead of traditional wall to wall. These stylish squares use non-toxic dyes and are easy to install. One square of carpeting can be simply replaced if there is a stain to contend with.
Again, natural fibres are a good option. Also think about woven wicker, bamboo and natural grass blinds to go along with your fabric choices. Anything that can be reused, refitted or shared will take a little less toll on the Earth.
ACCESSORIES: BIODEGRADABLE IS BEST
Try to purchase accessories that are made from natural products that will biodegrade if and when they end up in the landfill. Recycle items when possible and reuse and share your accessories. Look for items made from recycled materials and just try to buy less “stuff.”
Choose artwork made from natural materials like driftwood, scrap wood, woven natural products and so on. You’ll be supporting local artisans and choosing more earth-friendly accessories and artwork for your home.
Think about the Earth when you think about decorating your home. After all, the Earth is everyone’s home.
Connie Oliver is an interior designer from Winnipeg, Manitoba