Changing your decor can be a quick, cost effective way to make your home feel fresh and updated without extensive renovations. With some planning, you can reduce waste sent to landfill and reduce indoor air pollutants like VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Here are some eco decorating tips for your next remodelling project.
When you’re planning to redecorate a space, plan a walk-through of your existing pieces to see if there’s anything that can be relocated or revived. Take the time to go through your whole house, including cupboards, garage, shed, etc. You probably have more tucked away than you remember!
Summer is a great time to wander through garage sales and flea markets—one person’s junk might be your treasure! You may also be able to find great pieces at reuse centres, like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Canada and the U.S. (search for one near you here). Pinterest offers no limit to ideas on repurposing book cases, pallets, doors, dressers and more. Try also searching “Ikea hacks” to breathe new life into Ikea furniture. If DIY isn’t your thing, a local handyperson can help you see the vision through to completion.
If reusing or repurposing isn’t possible and you need to buy new, pay attention to how things are made. Less expensive pieces often contain more toxic chemicals and won’t last as long, which means they’ll end up in landfill sooner and you’ll end up paying more over the long run to replace them.
Here are a few things to think about for specific materials. At the end is a list of online retailers who offer more environmentally-responsible products to get you started.
Wood: Select solid wood with low-VOC finishes wherever possible. These pieces will last longer and won’t add air pollutants to your home. If selecting composite wood, avoid products with added urea formaldehyde (UF).
Consider pieces made from reclaimed wood (like barn board, pallets, retired orchards, etc.) or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood. Avoid wood that is commonly clear-cut or from ecologically important forests, such as mahogany, teak, walnut, douglas fir, and western cedars.
Fabrics and Foams: Avoid products (notably foam-filled cushions) with flame-retardants and stain-repellant fabrics. Studies have shown these chemicals may be linked to cancer and hormone disruption. Look for the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Plus or Made in Green labels, which indicate the product has been tested and falls within set limits of potentially harmful chemicals.
Paint: Most major brands now have no- to low-VOC options that perform just as well as conventional products without the harsh odours and fewer hazardous chemicals. There are even a few brands selling recycled paints.
Furniture and Decor Retailers
Here is a list of some online retailers that stock eco-friendly products. Don’t forget to check out your local independent shops too!
West Elm has reclaimed wood accessories and furniture.
Crate and Barrel offers FSC certified furniture and are working with the Tropical Forest Trust to source responsibly managed wood.
Pottery Barn now features an “eco leaf” symbol in stores and online, indicating products that are FSC-certified, Oeko-Tex certified, use organic cotton, or are recycled or reclaimed. They feature an eco shop online where you can browse all their eco products.
10,000 Villages sells hand-crafted items from around the world, often with recycled or sustainably-sourced materials. Great for beautiful, unique pieces to accent your home.