As I always say, simple steps to sustainability are the ones that make the most difference. You do not have to do everything, but you should do something. If you can pick one thing to work on, such as using eco friendly paints in your next room project, changing from plastic in your personal care products and ditching palm oil, or getting rid of plastic wraps, this helps. After you master one thing, you pick another. We believe at the Sustinable Home Hub, that your home is at the centre of sustainability. It is where you do most of your consuming of stuff, use a lot of resources such as energy and water, and where you create a lot of waste. Your workplace and all the other areas of life are very important too, but home is central.
The word sustainable is used a lot nowadays, and is becoming a trend on its own, but what does it really mean? It is about longevity, things lasting; knowing where something has come from, and what you will do with it when you no longer want or need it. Some people associate sustainable decorating with just rustic or secondhand items, but there are many options to adding sustainability to your home. Repurposing, recycling and upcycling items is just one part of the picture. The idea is not to create a particular look, but to create one that suits your style in a way that ensures a lighter footprint on the planet and a healthier home. There are many ways you can make choices that are better for you, your family and the planet.
So what is is sustainable decorating?
There are a few aspects:
- Making choices that ensure there are fair trade and ethical processes in place around products you use in your home design and decoration
- Choosing a new piece of furniture that has been produced in a sustainable way, or from recycled materials
- Adding upcycled and vintage pieces
- Buying from local designers and makers
- Making items yourself
It is about choosing products that last, and can be reused, repurposed, repaired or recycled. Using or upcycling a piece of furniture, art or object that has a history gives you a sense of connectedness that is often lost in this big busy world. It opens up opportunities for you to be creative and take a personal hand in the decorating of your home.
Here are 8 steps to take to be more sustainable in your home
- Refuse, Reduce, Recycle, Repair, Reuse and Rot – always first and foremost use these steps. We need to stop consuming so MUCH. Refusing things you don’t need or things that are badly made or unethically made is always the first step. It is great there are bio-degradable bags for example, but will you really put it in the compost? Or will most of these end up in landfills? How about just taking your own eco friendly bag. Reduce the amount of miles things take to get to you, reduce what you consume, reduce your waste and reduce packaging. Recycle as much as possible. Learn to repair things. Reuse what you can and rot your green waste in compost.
- Research before you buy – know where something is made, who made it, what it is made from and how you will dispose of it. For example when looking at cushions go to the op shop and either use the cushion you find as is, use the inner with a cover you make, or buy a cover. Or buy an entire cushion from someone locally who is making them with recycled plastic inners and eco friendly inks and fabrics. Think about what you will do if you no longer like the cushion – such as changing the cover or donating back to an op shop.
- Buy local and sustainable, when possible – go to markets and look online, buy from stores who stock local products. Think about the origin of something. Being cheap is not a reason to buy anymore, those days are gone. If it is $5 in KMart it is probably poorly made, will break and end up in landfill quickly, the person making it was paid very little and it is no good for anyone. It is also important because the carbon footprint of an item made locally is often far less than something that has come from overseas.
- Consider buying Fair Trade – looking for items with the fairtrade stamp, or genuine ethics that tell you there has been a fair trade process in place, is so important. There is a difference between Fairtrade and fair trade. Certification through the Fairtrade labeling is a great option but there are also plenty of people working in ethical partnerships with organisations that are considered to be fair trade. Just check them out properly before purchasing.
- Consider buying secondhand and vintage items –everyone should have something secondhand in their homes. Often better quality and more affordable, vintage items add personality and charm to any home. There are just so many options!
- Make or upcycle something yourself – adding something you have made yourself will give you a sense of achievement and create a home that is truly unique. This could be anything from an artwork to a piece of furniture. Be guided by your own ceativity or take some classes. Some DIY on the weekend painting an old chair or cupboard is a perfect way to spend your time.
- Think about your energy consumption – learning how to manage energy consumption and reducing your reliance on external heating and cooling starts with the design of your home. If you are not able to change this in an existing home, get some advice about things like adding insulation, double glazing and the addition of trees to shade your property. Blinds and blocking drafts are also key. The old snake under the door gaps can make a big difference. If you can, go solar and add a battery.
- Love your home and know it is enough – there are so many messages to consume and change your home constantly. The market drives us to want to have a new look and there are always beautiful things you could buy. But will it really change your life? Learning to let go of the need to have more is a big step and not an easy one. I am not saying to never change your home, or to never buy things. One of the joys of having a home is changing things, painting a room, adding a new chair or rug. It is when you do this, where you buy things from, how you use them and for how long, that really matters. Knowing that people and love and experiences are the sum of a life, not the way your home looked, will help in your journey to a more sustainable home and life.
**update of a post originally posted in 2016