By Dominique Mickiewicz
We spend the majority of our time indoors, constantly using and in contact with household items and furniture. Greatly contributing to pollution both in and out of the home, furniture and decor, especially products mass-produced cheaply, contain and release toxic chemicals into the air, easily break, and end up sitting in landfills for years. In addition, they cost the consumer time and money to replace. The rise of sustainable home design has proven to be better for the natural environment and human health. Below are some tips to decreasing the carbon footprint of your home:
Seek Out Sustainable Furniture
Sustainable furniture and decor is broadly characterized as anything that can be reused or disassembled and composted. Almost everything from sofas to pillows to beds to tables can be classified as sustainable and biodegradable simply by being made from natural materials such as reclaimed plant products or sustainably harvested wood. Additionally, eco-friendly furniture companies use water-based lacquers to finish their products as opposed to traditional toxic lacquers, significantly reducing the amount of chemicals the consumer brings into the home.
Sustainable and biodegradable products are made to last as the goal is to conserve and not contribute to landfill collection. Buying sustainable decor and furniture lasts longer and saves money overtime, as you have to replace items less and less. They also tend to be lighter and more compact making them easy to store and move. However, if you do decide to throw away certain pieces, you can do so guilt free knowing that they will biodegrade easily since they are easy to disassemble, not coated in toxic lacquers, and made of natural materials, effectively breaking down into new soil instead of accumulating in a landfill for years.
Buying vintage furniture and decor is an amazing alternative that reuses quality products and keeps perfectly good furniture out of the dump. Not only are vintage pieces incredibly unique, but since most of them were not cheaply mass-produced, they are often more durable and contain minimal to no toxic chemicals. Fun to find and easy to alter to your style, vintage pieces also have a greater resale value if you decide to let an item go later.
Upcycling is a popular trend that allows you to give items a second life by redesigning them to create something new and tailored to your personal style. Hunt for the perfect item at garage sales, flea markets and antique stores, or in the dusty corners and cabinets of your own home! Giving purpose to items that would have otherwise been thrown out, here are some upcycling ideas for transforming regular household items:
- Add a new coat of paint to old pieces of furniture to transform the mood of a room. Chalk paint is a fun addition that allow kids to draw, personalize and play with their in a non-permanent way.
- Old lamps can be repurposed as bird feeders simply by attaching a colorful bowl to a lamp base.
- Lay a filing cabinet horizontally and take out the drawers to create the perfect garage storage unit with plenty of space to rest rakes and shovels.
- Convert a bookcase into a sandbox by laying it on its back and readjusting the shelves to fill with with sand.
- A dresser can be converted into a kitchen island with the perfect amount of drawers to house utensils and cooking tools.
- A French door can be personalized to hold photos of family and friends making a beautiful spread to display on a wall.
No matter which project you set out to accomplish, make sure you prepare beforehand by checking that you have all the appropriate products and tools. Clean your item thoroughly before starting to upcycle it, and add non-toxic wax or a water-based varnish to the piece at the end to extend its life.
Switch to LED
Incorporating LED lighting is a quick sustainable home fix that brightens the home and saves money. LED light bulbs are more energy efficient and last longer than traditional light bulbs. They have no filament or glass bulb that breaks easily, making them brighter and more rugged. LED lights also contain no mercury or hazardous substances and can be controlled for brightness, color and direction meaning you get the most out of a single light fixture.
Do Good and Donate
If you still feel like you need to get rid of a certain decoration or piece of furniture, research local charities and thrift stores where you can donate your item. Most locations allow you to schedule free pickups to transport large items such as dressers, beds, and bookcases. Additionally most donations are tax deductible making it a great option to keep furniture out of the landfill while also helping neighbors in your community and giving your home good a chance for a second life.
Developing greener habits and investing in sustainable furniture and decor benefits your home, the community, and environment by transforming it into a healthier place to live.
Dominique Mickiewicz is a Prince William County native and a student at Wellesley College. An avid reader with an even greater love for writing, she is the First Place winner of the 2018 VHSL Multimedia Contest for Prose Spread. She is currently a writer and Production Director for the Wellesley Globalist, an international affairs publication, and a Prose Editor for the Wellesley Review Literary Magazine.