Lewis Pugh is on the last leg of his incredible 560km English Channel swim to raise awareness for the protection of our oceans. He, and many like him, are witnessing the dire consequences of non-sustainable purchases, waste and pollution to the environment and are making desperate attempts to warn us.
This is how we in the interior design industry can help.
Why we Need to Create Sustainable Interiors
The ocean garbage patch has grown in the last 40 years to a horrific 1.6 million square kilometers. Not only does plastic kill marine life and choke sea birds, fish 25 miles down have been found with carcinogenic plastic in their stomachs and can end up in the food we eat.
China, Indonesia and the Philippines have been identified as the top three countries responsible for garbage in our water according to Forbes but the problem is worldwide.
The best way to to cut plastic waste is to cut consumption as this video “The Story of Stuff” demonstrates.
While it was made for the USA a while ago, we can all relate.
The building industry is one of the biggest polluting industries on earth. It causes more pollution than that from trains, planes and vehicles. Those working in this industry have an ethical responsibility to ensure the impact on the environment is as small as possible.
So how can we help in this process?
The first step is awareness. Educating ourselves on the products we buy is one of the ways we can make a difference. We need to change the way we think and put sustainability central to everything we do when it comes to interior design.
Creating Sustainable Interiors
Here are some questions you can ask yourself when making product choices for your interior.
- Is it needed
- Is it durable and will it have longevity
- Does it’s production have low environmental impact – cotton, for example is biodegradable but it needs huge amounts of water to produce causing water shortages in some areas where it is harvested. For this reason Linen or hemp fabrics are a better choice.
- Does it have recycled content
- Does it have minimal or recyclable packaging
- Is it non-toxic – is it low or zero VOC
- Can it be re-used or recycled
Back to Nature
Incorporating nature into interiors not only improves air quality but has been shown to increase productivity and wellness.
Biophillic design is an approach which seeks to connect buildings occupants more closely to nature. Introducing plants and living walls – like the one featured by by Arti Green landscapers above.
When designing a home consider how the design allows for natural light and ventilation. This will reduce the need for air conditioners and heating.
Use insulation that is made of renewable and breathable material.
Check the energy rating of appliances before buying.
Install smart meters to monitor how much electricity you are using.
Be aware of companies taking advantage of our increasing awareness of the importance of going green. There are many labels companies use that are purely “greenwashing’ or ‘ecobling”. For example badly installed solar panels may use more valuable resources than save energy.
Choose good designs that will last and stand the test of time. So much interior design is disposable today, rather have less things you love than products which will be discarded after a short while. Not only will this be more sustainable but it will also result in a much more rewarding experience.
Indoor Air Quality
VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) are widely used organic chemicals used in a variety of household products including paints, varnishes, furniture, carpets as well as many cleaning products. When used these chemicals are released into the air. Breathing them in over a period of time can have long term health effects.
Choose Low VOC or Zero VOC paints and finishes and stay away from solvent based products that use turpentine or thinners bases.
House plants are excellent in removing airborne toxins.
Reuse, reduce, recycle. Before throwing anything away consider whether it could be re-purposed or given new life. This does not mean down-cycle.
Here is an example of a beautiful and interesting chandelier made from recycled materials including crockery.
On a positive note, inspiring companies like carpet manufacturer Interface has adopted Mission Zero. A vision of the company and a promise to eliminate any negative impact their company has on the environment by 2020. Have a look at this inspirational video.
Careful consideration and making sustainable choices for your home, or clients home, can be the start of something that has a snowball effect. It will also make you feel good, knowing your choices are helping the environment. After all, we all want our children – and theirs – to have clean air, experience the beauty of our oceans and the worlds incredible wildlife.
Please let me know of any “green” products or companies you highly recommend and lets spread the word.
Have a wonderful week