Sustainable home design: a new mentality, not a fad

Sustainable decor

“A man-made disaster on a global scale”, “a race between consciousness and catastrophe”, “the beginning of a mass extinction”, “there is no planet B”. It’s hard to miss the spine-chilling messages on climate change, pollution, and waste inspired by the likes of David Attenborough’s documentaries, millions of people taking part in climate strikes across the world, and teenage activist Greta Thunberg.

I’m not going to lie – based on these quotes, I’m tempted to think the future is looking pretty bleak. Especially when you mix in statistics: according to a report by The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee published in 2017, if marine plastic pollution continues to rise at its current rate, the amount of it in the sea will outweigh fish by 2050. What is more, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global temperature is likely to climb by 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues the way it’s going.

If we don’t take action within the next decade, the experts all say the natural world could face irreversible damage. But hope is not lost. In September, Greta finished a valorous speech at the UN Climate Action with a message of positivity: “The world is waking up and change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

And I agree, even from an interiors point of view. London Design Festival 2019 was inundated with recyclable and sustainable materials – think used coffee grounds being turned into worktops or seats made from animal offal (yes, really).

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sustainable home design
Take small steps to a more sustainable home – try using wooden boards, bamboo utensils and cotton tea towels. iStock/OlegKov

Sainsbury’s has committed to halving the amount of plastic it uses by 2025, appliance brands are working on the most eco-friendly models possible, Ikea is phasing out single-use plastic by 2020, and the UK’s smart meter rollout deadline has been extended to 2024 – the scheme is supposed to help us be more energy efficient by showing us our usage in real time.

However, concern has been raised that sustainability is more of a trend than a movement. It’s hard to miss the amount of real wood used in design, from dining chairs to kitchen cabinets. And that’s great, seeing as it’s a renewable material if it’s responsibly sourced. But will it last?

I spoke to Tom Allen, co-founder of sustainable flatpack company Grain, about this. “There are trends within living more sustainably, but I think the underlying narrative is here to stay,” he told me. “We have to act for the preservation of our future and I hope we see more of that approach in the market.”

The good news is that big players are starting to take notice – John Lewis & Partners, for example, has launched a vegan, biodegradable duvet. But it’s vital we, as consumers, change our lifestyles too.

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We’ve all heard appliances should not be left on standby but turned off at the switch, but what else can we do? Well, anything – from choosing British-made products to rejecting throwaway culture by buying things to last.

Fix items instead of replacing them, and shop with a more sustainable mindset: look for companies trying to change for the better. That’s what the renovators in this issue have done. From surfaces made out of recycled yoghurt pots to a completely vegan décor, our real homes are brimming with ideas to help you make a difference.

I’ve decided that, from now on, I shall no longer choose glittery wrapping paper and I’ll try to buy fruit and vegetables that are not wrapped in plastic. Oh, and I’ll turn the tap off when brushing my teeth. These may be small steps, but every little helps – and I know this is not a fad I will forget, but a mentality that’s set to grow. Who’s with me?

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Featured image: Strive towards a more sustainable home design and take small steps towards achieving that. iStock/ jchizhe 

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