Sustainability Starts at Home: Embracing Eco-Friendly Design for Better Living

Global warming, deforestation, pollution, ocean acidification, overpopulation, waste disposal: the environment is a recurring topic in our conversations. Day after day and disaster after another, multilateral organizations debate climate issues while governments combat drastic environmental changes. Yet, we’ve overlooked the significance of our role as citizens and stewards of the world. What can we do to address this global challenge? As in most cases, the solution starts from home.

How our living spaces impact the environment

Dubbed the “indoor generation,” studies show that we spend up to 90% of our time inside, and nearly half of this is spent in our houses.[1] Factoring the rise of remote work and distance learning in a pandemic era, experts predict that we will spend more time inside now and in the future.[2]

Within this context, our homes play a crucial role in meeting climate targets, such as the agreements set forth by the Paris Climate Accord. We emit an average of 4 tons of CO2 every year from our living quarters, contributing up to 40% of all emissions in certain regions, such as the United Kingdom.[3],[4] In the United States, the average home produces 7.5 tons of CO2 annually, the equivalent of driving a passenger vehicle for over 30,000 km.[5],[6]

In addition to consumer behavior, our choices in home furnishings and space design influence our ecological footprint. Globally, we buy furniture corresponding to the total economic output of Sweden — roughly USD 18,000 per second — making the furniture market worth an estimated USD 575 billion.[7] Manufacturers deploy vast amounts of resources to meet high demands, including trees, plastic, cotton, fiber and toxic chemicals. Home fixtures that use cheap synthetic materials, such as formaldehyde and perchloroethylene, can cause irreversible environmental damage via air, land and water pollution. The rise of fast furniture further complicates the sustainability dilemma, making responsible processing and recycling efforts tough to achieve.

For this reason, climate action is everyone’s responsibility, and it is up to us to fight against the environmental issues and make a difference. Although daunting at first, the good news is that creating a home with the planet in mind does not require sacrificing comfort, style or budget. We can curate spaces by choosing earth-friendly materials and optimize sunlight, airflow and ventilation to reduce our daily impact. “People can live in carbon zero homes right now,” urges Michael Reynolds, a renowned architect of radically sustainable living. “The technology is here. We must take action to make it happen.”[8]

3 greener home decor ideas…

With climate change knocking on our front door, interior experts recommend three sound alternatives to design an earth-friendly space:

1. Regenerated nylon
Artisan rugs and furniture made from recycled materials, such as old carpets, abandoned fishing nets and industrial scraps can minimize waste that would otherwise pollute the earth. For example, for every 10,000 tons of ECONYL® raw material, we can save 70,000 barrels of crude oil and avoid 65,100 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions from being released into the air.[9] , browse these exclusive carpets by Ferreira de Sá for a luxurious and conscious purchase, or peruse through the latest collection of noho chairs or other trendy pieces like these Zanotta poufs.

2. Bamboo

Did you know that bamboo is the world’s fastest growing plant? As a sustainable alternative to wood, it is a member of the grass family that reaches maturity in less than five years, compared to 60 years for most hardwood timber. Some species can grow up 1.5 inches per hour — making it a viable renewable resource option. The plant requires less water, pesticides, fertilizers and land area to cultivate and is highly versatile for furniture, flooring and light fittings, giving your humble abode a modern and eco-conscious twist.

3. Bio-glass
Made from discarded bottles and jars, this material requires less energy and raw materials to manufacture. For every ton of glass that is recycled, we prevent 246 kg of CO2 equivalents from being discharged into the atmosphere and preserve 1,200 kg of virgin raw materials.[10] Bio-glass can transform kitchen countertops, bathroom sinks, walls, and windows into beautiful and unique pieces, adding charm and sophistication to your home.

…and 3 eco-friendly practices

While incorporating natural or repurposed components in design is a step forward, a green home also adopts eco-friendly habits to cut indoor emissions. Sustainability experts suggest three simple, accessible ways for making your home a little gentler on the planet:

1. Audit your home (not just your taxes)

Conduct an energy check of your property to identify potential power-saving opportunities. Energy Sage, a solar firm, suggests reviewing your monthly electricity and water bills to locate any spikes or irregular activity. Checking for air leaks and insulation gaps is also an important routine, as both heating and cooling systems consume the most energy.

2. Change a bulb, change the world

Commercially available LED lights, which are toxin-free and recyclable, offer tailor-made and cost-efficient solutions. LED bulbs can last up to 20 times longer and are 80% more efficient than standard lighting forms, such as incandescent or halogen bulbs. With the correct voltage, LEDs are compatible with most household light fixtures and dimmers.

3. Step aside VOCs

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in paint and home furnishings evaporate into the air and can adversely affect indoor air quality, impacting human health. Check the labels before your next painting project and consider using VOC-free products to limit indoor toxin exposure.

It is important to bear in mind that the list of sustainable practices is long and much more multifaceted. Daily habits such as composting food waste, cleaning with natural products, and installing solar panels, underfloor heating or double-glazed windows all contribute towards greener living.

Let’s see who is making a difference

As we step outside our homes, we uncover innovative eco-sensitive practices in other dimensions, such as art, real estate and hospitality. Such advances represent the way forward, paving a path to protect our planet.

Sustainable design from the ground up

To mark the opening of Italy’s ArtVerona festival, Paola Pivi — a contemporary multimedia artist — transforms ECONYL® regenerated yarn into an extraordinary and sustainable carpet masterpiece. By choosing repurposed materials as a medium for art and the imagination, her work celebrates a new form of expression inspired by eco-design principles. The rug installation will continue to be used for other events and repurposed at the end of the product’s life cycle.

A building that can breathe

Torre Reforma is an award-winning skyscraper located at the heart of Mexico City, Mexico. During construction, the 57-story building integrated environmental factors, such as rainwater recycling, solar and wind power generation, and natural ventilation mechanisms. For example, sophisticated sunlight shading and curtain wall systems open before dawn to bring in cool air and allow warm air to flow out, minimizing the building’s electricity consumption. Torre Reforma achieved the highest possible level of LEED certification — today’s standards for sustainable design, construction and operations — serving as a benchmark in one of the world’s most populated and ancient cities.

One hotel, one ecosystem

The Eaton HK is situated in Hong Kong’s busy Jordan junction and reimagines hospitality to create a better world. Each customer touchpoint is carefully considered and intentionally designed to meet high sustainability standards. The hotel is free of single-use plastics and embraces a fully digital check-in procedure, eliminating paper waste. Eaton HK creates an ecosystem within its rooms by using Green Guard Gold mattresses made from all-natural fibers and deploys energy-efficient LED bulbs to meet 90% of its lighting needs. The hotel cut down its annual waste by 60% by donating to local food drives and integrating a rigorous recycling program.

When reimagining green and sustainable homes, there is a need to shift away from the traditional approach of brick or stone, electricity-powered, and factory-made interiors towards a more thoughtful and intuitive design. Homes today can be wellness-minded structures built with natural materials, self-powered roofs, and repurposed furnishings for better and healthier living. Today’s alternatives can meet our impeccably high standards of comfort and taste while doing our part as stewards to preserve the planet we share.

References

[1] US EPA. 2021. Indoor Air Quality | US EPA. [online] Available at: https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/indoor-air-quality#note1

[2] Future generations face health risks from life indoors. 2021. Future generations face health risks from life indoors. [online] Available at: https://press.velux.com/future-generation-of-brits-faces-health-risks-from-life-indoors/

[3] 2021. [online] Available at: https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/carbon-footprint-calculator/

[4] Theccc.org.uk. 2021. [online] Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/5CB-Infographic-FINAL-.pdf

[5] Ccfpd.org. 2021. [online] Available at: https://www.ccfpd.org/Portals/0/Assets/PDF/Facts_Chart.pdf

[6] US EPA. 2021. Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle | US EPA. [online] Available at: https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/greenhouse-gas-emissions-typical-passenger-vehicle

[7] Theworldcounts.com. 2021. The World Counts. [online] Available at: https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/consumption/other-products/environmental-impact-of-furniture/story

[8] Stubbs, P., 2021. Michael Reynolds quotes. [online] The Environment Show. Available at: https://www.environmentshow.com/michael-reynolds-quotes/

[9] Medium. 2021. Renovating Your Home? Choose Sustainable Carpets! [online] Available at: https://econyl.medium.com/renovating-your-home-choose-sustainable-carpets-f18ad43ad618

[10] Aigmf.com. 2021. [online] Available at: https://www.aigmf.com/Environmental%20Benefits%20of%20Glass%20usage.pdf [Accessed 5 October 2021].

Author: Naomy Gmyrek

Giving you #endlesspossibilities to create and buy something new and beautiful from waste. ❤️ #liveandrepeat