Sustainable Interiors – Buy Sustainable, Buy Vintage and Just Don’t Buy

If you are a lover of fashion as well as interiors as I am you will most likely have been hearing a lot about Stacey Dooley’s recent documentary Fashion’s Dirty Secrets.

A shocking watch, the programme highlights the environmental impact that Fast Fashion is having around the world including the massive reduction in the Aral Sea due to cotton production and the chemical waste discarded into the water in manufacturing hubs such as Indonesia.

Fashion instagrammers have been responding, with major players such as Erica Davies questioning how their own social media and blog posts are contributing to the issue and considering ways in which they can post more consciously whilst still recognising that we follow them in order to get our daily outfit inspiration.

In spite of the publicity there seems to have been little response from the world of interiors, itself a massive importer of the materials that have wreaked such devastation.

Whilst it’s true that the march of disposable fashion has been more marked than in the homeware department, the fact that retailers such as Primark and H&M have started to make big plays into interiors has meant that it is more possible than ever to create an Instagram-ready home for a shockingly low price.

I’m going to resist the urge to get on my bandwagon again about the recent Instagram posts encouraging us to switch up our homes for the seasons (and no I don’t mean our Christmas decorations but just because it’s bloody October), but with such low cost items available it is really so easy to keep changing the way our houses look, delivering brilliant new photos ready for our Instagram posts.

Now I’m far from being one to preach about restraint when it comes to shopping.  True, I’m currently on a spending ban but in general I’m not known for my ability to resist a new pair of trainers here and a couple of candles there.  That said, over the last year or so I have been becoming more conscious about the sheer level of stuff we have in our home and how little we have any need to add to it.

So with that in mind what can we all be doing to design more sustainable interiors?  I’d sum the answer to this up in 3 main areas:

Buy Sustainable

Image: mosnox

The good news is that there are a wealth of sustainable interiors brands out there today that offer us the opportunity to make a different choice.

For example, mosnox, who I featured recently in a Meet the Maker post, have eliminated plastic in their packaging and use birch faced poplar plywood, a fast-growing, sustainable timber, for their locally-made products.

There are also a number of sustainable online stores emerging including Urban Collective who cover both sustainable fashion and interiors, offering products such as recycled wool throws, bamboo bedding and organic textiles and Aerende – meaning “care in Old English – who sell a beautiful range of “life-improving” products, all made by craftspeople who have faced social challenges and barriers to conventional employment.  MAiK also sell ethically-made kitchenware as well as socks whilst The Basket Room offer African sisal baskets made by women’s co-operatives.

If you’re decorating it’s also worth checking out Earthborn paints who sell environmentally friendly and eco-paints which are free from acrylic, oils and vinyls and give off no nasty smells (perfect for kids’ rooms).

Image: Urban Collective

Inevitably sustainable products tend to come with a higher price tag which may make them feel less appealing to some.  High Street brands such as H&M with their Conscious range, Oliver Bonas and Habitat are offering their own range of sustainable products which will reduce the price point somewhat but ultimately we have to accept that the craftmanship and materials used mean a higher cost.  And perhaps also that buying cushions for a couple of quid is not the best way forward even if it does make our sofa look prettier.

Buy Vintage

Image: Mustard Vintage

Unsurprisingly the second answer is to buy vintage.  I suspect I’m preaching to the converted here in a lot of cases as so many of us discovered the joys of second-hand furniture long ago.  I have to say all of my favourite pieces of furniture in my own house are vintage and they are also the ones that I get asked about frequently on Instagram posts (although I know it’s never helpful as they are obviously hard to find).

eBay is always hard to beat for a good late night scroll but it’s great to see so many alternative sites emerging that are selling good quality vintage furniture including Mustard Vintage who have gems such as the Richard Hornby Drinks Cabinet pictured above.

Just Don’t Buy

The last answer is the hardest, particularly for a die hard shopper for me but actually, just don’t buy.

I read a great article on The Pool (again on fashion) this week by Marisa Bate which talked about how we are conditioned from such an early age to believe that if we just buy that item or this item then we’ll look better, feel better, be better.  And perhaps we do, for a day or two and then we’re back to square one and we need to buy the next thing.

And it’s just the same in interiors, even more so thanks to Instagram which has given us the opportunity to look into others’ homes and covet all of their beautiful things.  But actually, instead of buying the thing it might be interesting to think about just why we need the thing and if there is something that we already own that could be switched up, adapted or upcycled to give us the thrill of the new without the actual buy.

There’s so much more we can be doing including reducing our plastic use, increased insulation and switching over to LEDs but it’s really our voracious consumption that is having such a huge effect on the planet so if you do one thing today to make a difference it might just be to do nothing.