Written by Alicia Paley, Alicia Paley Home Interiors
What is Eco Design and why is it important?
Green or eco-friendly interior design focuses on improving indoor air quality as well as reducing the impact that furniture purchases have on the environment. This is so important to homeowners because anything that you bring into your home affects the quality of life. Because you spend so much time in your home, you want to be sure that all the items that go into your house are not contributing to poor health for your family.The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that most Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, where the concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations. Since so much of our time is spent indoors, it’s crucial that close attention is paid to the products that we bring into our homes. Eco Designwill ensure that furnishings, accessories, paint finishes, furniture, and building materials are not contributing to these issues.
What do you think of when you hear eco-friendly furniture? Do you think of rustic reclaimed wood furniture or repurposed furniture? Well, you’re right, those examples are both ecofriendly. Certainly reusing and repurposing are two great options for being ecofriendly. But those options aren’t for everyone. Suppose you want a different aesthetic than reclaimed wood, or you want brand new furniture. Is there still an eco-friendly option? Yes!
Choose Locally Sourced Furniture
There has been a trend over the past 25 years towards building overseas, using lower quality materials, and prioritizing volume. Number one on my list when sourcing furniture is making sure it’s made in the USA, and even more preferably, made locally. Not only does this reduce the carbon footprint, but it also ensures better quality. Eco-friendly pieces can last a lifetime and help create a healthier home. Buying a quality, long-lasting piece ensures that you’re keeping items out of landfills. For example, a typical, cheap, mass-market sofa will last you five to seven years, depending on usage. After that, it goes to a landfill and you have to buy a new one all over again.Conventional furniture has toxic chemicals that release gasses into the air. These chemicals have been known to cause many health issues. Eco-friendly furniture is made from natural, sustainable resources. It’s much better for your health since there is no off-gassing.
Definition of VOC: Volatile Organic Compound. These are chemicals that off-gas into the air – some of which have harmful long term health effects. These compounds are found in paints, adhesives and synthetic materials.
How do I find Eco-friendly furnishings?
- Upholstery: Skip the flame retardants, go organic. Look for custom upholstered goods made with natural latex foam wrapped in organic wool. Natural latex is made from collected sap from rubber trees — it’s an organic byproduct that does not off-gas harmful toxins. Support local business and reduce our carbon footprint by using local workrooms to build custom, eco-friendly upholstery.
- Wood Furniture: Opt for furniture made from solid wood such as walnut, teak, oak or maple. Wood furniture is typically held together by basic wood joinery techniques, ensuring a stronger bond and requiring less adhesives, which are the main culprits in harmful VOC emissions.
- Rugs: Choose natural fibers such as wool, cotton, or jute over synthetics. Wool is naturally fire retardant unlike its artificial counterparts, which are prone to igniting more easily. Wool absorbs moisture and captures dust or pollen, thus reducing humidity and allergens in the air.
- Paint: Choose zero-VOC or low-VOC paints. Look for Benjamin Moore’s Natura line, or Sherwin-Williams’ Harmony line. Both are available in a wide range of colors.
Eco design is not just about the home you live in, it’s about our greater home – our planet. Using things that are sustainable, environmentally-friendly, and supporting companies that build locally and have green practices, make for a greener planet for all of us. All these things can also create a beautiful and comfortable home to enjoy.