5 easy ways to make your home more sustainable
We all try to do our bit for the planet. And it all starts at home – when everything else feels a little out of our control, the home is perhaps where we can have the biggest impact. Building sustainability into your project is more important than ever and it’s never too late to start to make those changes. No longer seen as just an optional add-on or tick box exercise, sustainability has become a top priority for interior designers and architects as well as homeowners. And with building regulations set to become even stricter and demand a higher level of sustainability for new projects in 2022, there’ll be no reason not to go green.
Sustainability doesn’t necessarily have to mean an extra cost to your project nor result in a compromise on style. Sustainable solutions tend to be either passive or active. Passive strategies can be introduced right at the beginning of a project, using an holistic approach to design to carefully consider the role of natural ventilation, orientation, and the use of materials and daylight levels. Active sustainable strategies tend to be more expensive and involve the integration of water and heating systems, PV panels and air source heat pumps, to name a few. Scenario have created optional Sustainability ‘Levels’ to help clients improve the sustainability of their home. From the basic compliance of Bronze, through Silver and Gold, to the rigorous certification of Diamond, there’s an option for all budgets to reap the benefits.
In this post we’ve rounded up 5 ways to make your home more sustainable, with a focus on the little changes and easy wins that will add up to make a big difference, whether you’re embarking on a new project or looking to improve your home’s existing eco credentials. We’ve already delved into everything that makes an Eco Home in this post, but today the spotlight is on interiors. Mostly, it’s about being more mindful of the things you introduce into your home – so you can ensure your surroundings are not only better for the planet, but healthier for those that live there too.
1. Choose low impact paints and varnishes that are better for your health and wellbeing
2. Swap your light fittings for LEDs
Since late 2018, to help cut carbon emissions, there’s been a ban in place on importing and producing new halogen bulbs in the EU. The more favoured LEDs (short for ‘light emitting diode’) are significantly more energy efficient than incandescent or halogen bulbs, consuming up to 85% less energy and lasting 20 times longer (between 20,000-50,000 hours as standard). LED bulbs also need replacing less frequently and can help to reduce electricity bills – the Energy Saving Trust estimates that the typical halogen bulb uses £11 of electricity a year, while a replacement LED would use only £2 worth. In fact, if the whole of Europe switched over to LEDs, we could save the equivalent of Portugal’s annual electricity consumption each year and cut carbon emissions by 15.2 million tonnes by 2025. The technology has moved on leaps and bounds since first being produced in the 60s, and it’s easy to find statement lighting and sculptural eye-catching pendants. Working from their London-based studio, Tala, for example, create sustainable LED light fittings and donate a percentage of their revenue to reforestation programmes in the UK and around the world, planting 10 trees for every 200 units sold.
3. Source materials with a low environmental impact
It’s worth taking the time to understand where your furniture is made and where the materials have come from, so you can ensure you’re introducing ethically made, responsible designs into your home. There are various respected schemes that recognise companies that source materials responsibly, from Fair Trade to the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC). The better companies will have an environment report or statement on their website, but if you want to do a bit more research, the WWF publishes a Timber Scorecard each year that measures UK retailers based on their timber buying. The FSC label is one of the only clear ways for the consumer to know if the timber has been sourced from responsibly managed and socially beneficial forests. It’s a standard that provides a certified chain of custody to suppliers, helping track the wood from FSC certified forests to the consumer. There are three different labels – which can be a little confusing – but only FSC 100% ensures that all of the product has been certified and checked. The FSC Mix Label, for example, may only contain a small proportion of FSC certified timber.
4. Prioritise reuse and recycling over buying new
The quick, easy route is often to buy everything new. But thrifting for secondhand finds, reusing materials and recycling furniture can help create a richer, more characterful home, while letting you be more mindful of the environment. Second hand furniture and unique found objects can help bring a home interest, texture and life. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure after all. From timber worktops and decorative marble fireplaces to cast iron baths and encaustic tiles, there’s a wealth of pre-loved materials already out there looking for a new lease of life. Trawl the International Antiques & Collectors fairs, browse eBay or head to a reclamation yard like Retrouvius to find something completely unique for your project.
5. Look local and consider a design’s carbon footprint
The problem with alot of furnitureor materials is the distance they have to go to get to us, often flying across the world and racking up the carbon emissions in the process. One of the best ways to be more mindful and sustainable when sourcing for your home is to reduce your net and only source items from a limited radius. If you’re in the UK, that could mean prioritising British makers, local craftsmen or European production. There’s not many companies still producing furniture in the UK, but the likes of Ercol, Isokon Plus, Benchmark, Very Good & Proper and Konk Furniture are helping keep British craft alive. Benchmark, for example, uses Red List Free Declare labelling to show customers where a product comes from, what it is made of and where it goes at the end of its life. They also use Life Cycle Analysis to provide Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) to demonstrate the low environmental impact and carbon emissions of each product.
Header image: Matt Clayton Photography
About the Author: Cate St Hill
|Cate St Hill is a home interiors writer, stylist and designer. Her work focuses on simple, everyday interiors that endure beyond trends. Her ethos is all about curating a home with less but better – prioritising simplicity, sustainability and design built to last. Cate is interested in the relationship between wellbeing and interiors, believing that a home should be designed as much around how it feels to be in as the way it looks. Her blog, catesthill.com, has been rated one of the top ten interior blogs in the UK and her work has been featured in Grazia, Elle Decoration, The Telegraph and The Sunday Times.|