There are countless ways to incorporate eco-friendly materials into the design of your home. This post will specifically focus on home textiles like sheets and upholstery along with accessories and decor. Check out our other posts on Eco-Friendly home design via the links below!
Eco-friendly fabric doesn’t have to automatically mean it’s made from recycled materials, although that is one of the simplest ways to make sure that it is impacting the environment on a smaller scale. There have been many advances to the creation of fabric that are better for the planet and still look amazing.
NATURAL AND ORGANIC
These materials are an easy way to stay eco-friendly. Things like organic cotton and linen are made from plants, and tencel is made from sustainable wood pulp. These fabrics can be used in clothing as well as upholstery/curtains. Wool, jute, and recycled polyester are great fabrics to consider for rugs.
Leather was widely regarded as very non-sustainable, but practices are reforming to make it more eco-friendly. Many tanneries have changed the way they process leather to include fewer chemicals or no chemicals at all, and have stricter standards for disposing of any chemicals they do use. The change is coming both from producers being eco-friendly, and also consumer demand for sustainable and responsibly sourced products. Genuine leather also tends to last much longer than vegan leathers, and so for large investment pieces like furniture it can be the more sustainable option in the long run. Plus, most vegan leather (at least right now) is made from non-biodegradable synthetic materials like plastic and PVC, which ultimately won’t ever leave a landfill. Many leather companies in fashion and design are trying to work with cattle ranches to use hides that come from farming to cut down waste for both industries.
Similar to leather, down can have a bad rap. Recently, demand for responsibly produced down, or sustainably produced alternatives has increased a lot. Also like leather, more down is now being created in partnership with farms using farming byproducts. There are many standards in place and certifications that help mark responsibly sourced down, but if you’re still really against the idea, fashion companies like Everlane and bedding companies like Buffy have started using an alternative that’s made out of recycled plastic bottles. This alternative down remains lightweight but has more ability to withstand moisture. Just look for those certifications that the alternative itself is eco friendly and not made of nonbiodegradable plastic. Lastly, down is similar to leather in it’s quality and durability—and no matter what, it’s more sustainable to invest in something that lasts rather than rebuying products several times due to wearout or low quality.
Even being aware of what your candles are made of or where your bedding is sourced can make a huge difference when you’re trying to be more earth conscious. You don’t have to sacrifice quality for sustainability, as you’ll see here. Everything we talked about above with furniture pretty much applies to home accessories as well. Artisans and artists are getting extremely creative with sustainable materials from art to kitchenware, and everything in between.
For hard accessories like vases and objects, items made using recyclable, reclaimed, or natural materials is a key consideration—kitchen accessories made with sustainably harvested wood or bamboo for example. We’re loving the resurgence of rattan accessories and furniture as well—stylish and eco-friendly. So keep an eye out for the FSC certification on any wood accessories just like you did for furniture.
For metal pieces, stainless steel is a great option. Not only is it easy to take care of, but it’s extremely durable. And at the end of its life stainless steel can be 100% recycled into the same type of item with no loss in quality. For example, a pile of old stainless steel flatware could become brand new durable flatware when heated and recycled.
And you may think of coffee or food items when you hear “fair trade certified,” but the network extends much further into accessories and other home goods as well. Fair trade is a global network that focuses on empowering workers and artisans, but they also have extremely high standards for environmental practices. So look for the fair trade certified stamp the next time you’re browsing home goods—even in a big box store like West Elm, their collection of fair trade certified accessories, bedding, and pillows is always growing.
For your candle needs, consider a brand like Lite + Cycle. Each candle is made from pure essential oils, American-grown soy wax, and a cotton wick. No paraffin, dyes, or synthetic fragrances required for a dreamy scent. More and more candle and fragrance companies are heading in this direction, so do a quick check and make sure your favorite candle brand is all-natural and eco-friendly.
For soft goods like bedding and towels, organic cotton is a great option. Certified organic cotton soft goods are never exposed to the extensive list of harmful dyes, pesticides, and other toxic processing components. Organic cotton fibers are naturally softer and stronger, so they don’t require the intensive breakdown of harsh chemical processing. And as a bonus, organic cotton is especially gentle against sensitive skin and great for allergy-prone individuals. In terms of color options—look for cotton and wool colored with natural or toxin-free synthetic dyes.
Finally, eucalyptus is a popular new source for fabric, especially for bedding. The most promising thing about this new trend is that eucalyptus grows with 10x less water than cotton plus no pesticides. But unlike with organic cotton, there is not yet a global agricultural standard for converting eucalyptus into yarn, so overall pollution effects and worker health are still being studied. But companies like Buffy are doing their part to harvest eucalyptus sustainably as we continue studying this source. Buffy is a bedding company that makes fabrics with transformed eucalyptus through a closed-loop system that reuses 99% of solvents. There’s virtually zero waste! And their farmers plant 4 trees for every 3 cut down for fabric. They use plastic bottles to produce their “down” fill as well. And they’re introducing soft hemp bedding options soon.
MAKE SUSTAINABLE OPTIONS AND MORE OPTIONS WILL APPEAR
Thankfully, the general consensus of wanting to be kinder to the earth is a movement that is constantly gaining momentum. As people continue to seek out sustainable options for all types of purchases, companies will try to meet the demand. The shift toward earth conscious isn’t a fad! With every smart consumer purchase we get closer to making eco-friendly products the norm!
PS – Haven did an entire Tuesday at Two session focusing on Eco-Friendly design. Check out the full episode here!