Design Guide: Tips to Make your Home More Environmentally Friendly (Without sacrificing good design style)

July 11, 2015

We are often asked about eco-friendly products and/or tips on making your home more eco-friendly when designing and decorating. We tell people all the time that it’s very easy to make the smallest change in your design choices and lifestyle to live a more eco-friendly and planet conscious life without sacrificing style. It’s a lot easier than you may think.
Over the years we have compiled our favorite tips and today we are going to share them with you!

1. Want hardwood floors? Opt for bamboo. Bamboo is considered an environmentally friendly flooring material due to its high yield and the relatively fast rate at which it re-grows! It takes just four to six years for bamboo to mature, compared to 50-100 years for typical hardwoods. Wow! Just be sure to look for installers that use formaldehyde-free glues.

2. Use healthier paint. Typical and standard paints contain ingredients such as solvents, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause smog, ozone pollution and indoor air quality problems with negative health effects. Yuck! These unhealthy ingredients are released into the air while you’re painting, while the paint dries and even after the paints are completely dry. What!? Opt instead for zero- or low-VOC paint, made by most major paint manufacturers today. Thank goodness!

3. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. A no brainer for us, so simple! These bulbs are now available to fit many and most light fixtures AND can be found at the grocery store! These lil bad boys (not so bad, huh?) use just a quarter of the electricity of regular incandescent bulbs. Plus, they last up to 10 times longer. Again, a NO BRAINER!

4. Let the sun shine. The cheapest and most environmentally sound heat and light source is just outside your window! Ha! Open blinds, drapes, and shutters to let solar energy warm and brighten your home naturally! So much better, right?

5. Grow plants indoors. Live plants around your home act as natural air filters, and some plants are particularly effective absorbers of harmful pollutants emitted from carpets, furniture, and electronic equipment. Who knew? So clean your indoor air and “green” your home by filling it with spider plants, Boston ferns, rubber plants, and palm trees!

6. Green up your appliances. Getting rid of that old refrigerator in the garage could save you as much as $150 a year. The fridge in the garage is such a grandma thing to do, get rid of it already! Appliance use comprises about 18% of a typical home’s total energy bill with the fridge being one of the biggest energy hogs. If any of your appliances are more than 10 years old, the EPA suggests replacing them with energy-efficient models that bear their “Energy Star” logo. Energy Star-qualified appliances use 10%-50% less energy and water than standard models. According to the Energy Star site, if just one in 10 homes used energy-efficient appliances it would be equivalent to planting 1.7 million new acres of trees. Um…what a great excuse to go get you that new dishwasher you always wanted! The kind that you don’t even have to rinse your dishes beforehand! A win/win to us!

7. Reduce Your Want List. The hardest one for us! Ask yourself if that item you have your eye on is a want or a need. If it is a need, look for products that are produced sustainably as well as ones that are recyclable and made from recycled materials. If your home decorating wish list has entire rooms highlighted, look for ways to refresh the space without redoing the entire room. There may be smaller home decorating projects that make more sense. Reduce your design footprint!

8. Decorate with Natural Fibers. If redecorating your bedroom is on the list, purchase new bedding made from natural organic fibers such as cotton, linen or bamboo (So soft!). Update your drapes or select chair and sofa covers that are made of natural fabrics.

9. Reuse Creatively. Your green décor can be a showcase for finding a new purpose for your furnishings. For example; try saving interesting glass bottles and jars from the recycle bin and use them throughout the house as vases, candle holders and collectibles. Try putting your collection of seashells to use in your bathroom and set the stage for your next creative idea. Also, giving a piece of furniture a makeover with a lil spray paint never hurt anyone (low VOC paint, of course)!

10. Purchase Pre-Owned Furniture. Picking up green décor through garage sales, flea markets and online like Craigslist, can help you fill up empty spaces with gently used furnishings. Remember, hosting your own garage sale or selling unwanted items online can help you recycle your old furnishings. And donating to certain charities not only makes you feel good but the tax write off can help too! One man’s junk, is another man’s treasure.