Most of us now think ‘green’ around our homes, conscientiously doing our bit for the environment and the future generations that will share our planet. Recycling is in, food miles are out; but how many of us have extended our eco-friendly efforts to home decorating? The interior design world is going green, bringing us lots of great ideas that benefit not just the environment, but also the health of our families. Now that the major household names in home decorating have begun to catch on, there’s never been a better time to get eco-friendly next time you fancy a new look.
You might love the smell of a brand new carpet, but how many of us realise that many synthetic carpets can be bad for our health, and that of the planet? The buzzword is VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which exist in the adhesive used in fitting, as well as the materials from which the carpets are made. Polluting VOC fumes are slowly released into the environment, and are thought to be the root of ‘sick building syndrome’, linked to headaches and respiratory disease in affected office workers. Products made with lower levels of VOC are now readily available, along with alternatives to adhesive fitting; but if you want to be VOC-free, why not investigate some natural, greener flooring solutions? Naturally-sourced fibres make for beautiful floor coverings, and add a great textured look to your home decorating. Think seagrass, sisal and coir for durable, sustainable carpeting that’s ideal for heavy traffic areas of the home. If hard flooring works better for your household, take a look at reclaimed or sustainable wood, like bamboo or cork. With a bit of imagination it’s easy to produce an individual yet eco friendly theme, and there’s really no need to skimp on style.
Standard wallpaper tends to be coated with PVC, which not only leaches toxins during its creation, but continues to do so during the lifetime of the product. For this reason much discarded wallpaper is non-recyclable, and consequently continues to hang around long after we’ve thrown it away as rubbish. Happily even the big names in interior decorating now produce environmentally friendly wallpaper, printed with non-toxic inks and made from sustainably sourced timber, or even completely recycled waste paper. Some manufacturers will even make a donation to charity with every purchase – and don’t forget to add eco friendly glue and preparation materials to your shopping list. Experimenting with natural fibres can achieve great, if expensive, results too, bringing depth and interest to your walls. Away from the paper round, it’s easy to create stunning home decorating features using recycled tiles made from glass or metal. In contrast to their humble beginnings, such materials can add a real touch of luxury to your home, and will be particularly effective at reflecting light in a bathroom or kitchen.
More often than not interior decoration means painting. Traditional household paint can contain large amounts of VOCs, as evidenced by the heady, over-powering smell of freshly coated walls. Even those products claiming to be low in VOCs or VOC-free can be just as harmful to the environment due to the other chemicals involved in producing a result that performs as well as traditional solvent-based paint. Although the compromises made during manufacturing mean that eco friendly paints will generally not be quite as effective as standard products, it is well worth exploring the ranges available to find one to suit you. Samples are the perfect way to measure performance, and providing that you educate yourself around some basic ingredients and disposal information, you will we be armed with all the knowledge you need to paint your own little planet green.
There’s no question that true environmentally friendly home decorating does require a bigger budget, but you might think that’s a small price to pay. Even without much to spend, you can still make your mark by hunting down some of the fantastic accessories made from reused materials – think recycled glass and reclaimed wood. Being kind to the environment means just doing what you can. Next time you turn your hand to interior design, be keen to think green!