Six Easy Ways to Make Your Home More Sustainable

Photo credit: Alice Morgan
Photo credit: Alice Morgan

It might feel like living a more sustainable lifestyle is a major undertaking, but we're here to tell you that it doesn't have to be. Creating a home that keeps the environment in mind doesn't require a ton effort, just a little extra thought. And there's a good chance you're already doing some of these things! Already made the switch to reusable straws and coffee cups? Great! Now, here are a few more ideas to build a more sustainable home. While these ideas won't change the state of our planet over night, small actions can add up to big change.

Source Decor Locally

Sure, hopping online and ordering mass produced decor from a big-box store is easy, but consider checking out local vendors first. Supporting local artisans is not only a better way to bolster your local economy, but it's actually a more sustainable way to furnish your home. According to Sustainable Connections, a non-profit organization that aims to create thriving, sustainable communities, reports that shopping locally can significantly minimize the environmental impact of shopping. Communities with more local businesses actually log 26% fewer automobile miles because local purchases require less transportation, reducing the impact on our changing climate.

So, where do you find local vendors? Candon Michelle Murphy, Materials and Sustainability Specialist at MG2, a global architecture, design, strategy, and branding studio with a penchant for sustainability, has a few ideas. Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook can help you take advantage of your community's knowledge. Search location tags or ask members of your community if they know of any local shops, artists, or even farmer's markets (and don't forget Facebook Marketplace!).

If you do need to look online, Murphy encourages shoppers to continue to support small businesses by shopping on platforms like Etsy. "You can filter by location to find a community craftsperson, who will often let you pick up goods from them directly instead of them having to ship," she says. Even some big box stores, like Amazon, allow users to search for local vendors in your region.

Do Your Research

If you can't shop from local vendors and need to turn online, make sure to do your research. "Really understanding the origin of whatever piece you’re buying is critical," Murphy says. "and it’s still important to do your best to purchase from makers who are as close to your home as possible." Find this out by checking a company's FAQ page, looking at the product description of whatever you're buying, or even calling up the company to ask! "Many product sites today have this information at the ready, particularly when sustainability is a part of their brand ethos and consumers expect it."

Buy Secondhand

"It’s always the most sustainable way to go when you are considering your carbon footprint," she says. Visiting an antique or vintage market is a good place to start. While you might have to drive a little farther than your town center, buying something that's already been loved is a far more conscious way to shop.

Avoid Certain Chemicals

"There are many chemicals in our built environments and in the products we purchase that eventually leech into our living environment," earns Murphy. "As mindful consumers, we want to avoid those as much as possible."One such chemical is fire retardant, once thought to be essential for keeping a home safe, but which actually poses major health risks. According to Scientific American, "studies have shown that flame retardants in furniture leach into homes and then accumulate in the body. The chemicals also wind up in waterways and aquatic organisms."

To start eliminating these products from your home, Murphy suggests using the UL Spot Database. "You could think of it like it a consumer report for indoor air quality and health, which allows you to search thousands of products," she says. "There are also other indoor air quality certifications on the market that can be considered in your search," she adds. Mattresses, for example, have an indoor air quality certification such as CentiPureUS, which should be listed on their website.

Consider Materials

Not all materials are created equal. But that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice style. "When you really want to consider a sustainable home, you want to think about natural materials," says Murphy. When possible, she suggests opting for materials like wool, bamboo, cotton, and linen. Other simple swaps, like opting for real wood rather than artificial wood, which isn't biodegradable, is not only better for the environment, but in most cases, will withstand more wear and tear, which prevents the need to frequently replace pieces (there's a reason vintage furniture is gaining popularity again!). "If it’s local wood, all the better," Murphy adds. Similarly, opting for silicone rather than vinyl, the world's third-most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer, is also an eco-friendly swap.

Use Reusable Items

According to the environmental group NRDC, we produce 300 million tons of plastic each year worldwide, half of which is used for single-use items. Common household items, like water bottles, plastic wrap, and even parchment paper are big contributors. Making a conscious effort to use reusable items whenever possible is an easy way to show our environment a little love. You might have already made the switch to reusable straws, so why not take it a step further? Switch out your parchment paper for reusable silicone baking sheets, use refillable water bottles rather than single-use bottles, and opt for reusable paper towels to cut down on waste. And once these eco-friendly items reach the end of their life-cycle, know how to dispose of them responsibly.

Have questions about your next renovation project? We’ve got answers. Let’s do this together.

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