Far from being a fad, minimising the environmental impact of our home furnishings – from fixtures to fittings – is a priority for many homeowners.
As we become increasingly aware of the sustainability of what we buy, companies are coming up with plenty of ideas to meet the demand for responsibly sourced goods.
Curtains and blinds
Most – if not all – homes, have curtains and blinds at every window. While you can buy these second-hand, the fabrics or sizing may not be quite suited to your needs. This means you may wish choose new products, and if you do, there are sustainable options out there to consider.
Curtain and blinds company stitched.co.uk uses fabrics including ranges made from hemp, wool, recycled plastic and upcycled silk.
The company’s founder, interior designer Elinor Pitt, was frustrated at the amount of waste in the industry. She says: “Our role is to show consumers to buy once and buy well. This helps reduce waste and makes consumers more conscious about their purchasing habits.
“Unlike synthetic fabrics, natural fibres have inherent beneficial fibre properties. For example, wool is naturally water-repellent, inherently flame-retardant and can help provide thermal benefits without any additional fabric finish.”
The outlay for chairs and sofas can be considerable, yet many of us throw away perfectly good pieces of furniture because they look old-fashioned or we want to freshen up our rooms.
Reupholstering furniture is one way to prolong the life of your furniture and avoid adding to landfill.
Sarah Page, managing director of upholstery firm Plumbs, says the UK sends 10m household items to landfill annually: “Of those 10m items, roughly 340,000 tonnes are unloved sofas. Imagine the difference if 50% of those were reupholstered or re-covered?
“Not only does it make a difference to landfill, but it benefits your home, too. If you’re going to reupholster your furniture, naturally you’ll choose to invest in a higher-quality suite, meaning it should last you longer, and that’s before considering reupholstery. And this all helps to promote craftsmanship and reduce buying and the negative environmental impact.”
Walls and floors
Modern eco-friendly paint is made from natural ingredients that won’t give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – or cause environmental damage.
Ian West and John Ashworth of Lancashire-based Lakeland Paints created Ecos, the world’s first complete range of odourless, solvent-free, non-toxic decorative paints. The organic, vegan paints and varnishes are handmade with no solvents or heavy metals and are 100% VOC-free, too.
Earthborn Clay Paint gives a similar finish to the highly versatile chalk paint. It is a thick, clay-based emulsion, free from acrylic and oil, and gives off very low VOCs. The paint can be used indoors on walls, ceilings, plaster and brick, and because it’s breathable, it minimises condensation and mildew.
Some carpets can also emit levels of VOCs, which is why carpets made of natural fibres, such as sisal, seagrass, coir, organic cotton, jute, organic wool and bamboo are becoming more popular as a sustainable flooring option.
However, it’s worth looking at what’s beneath carpets, too. Underlay made from recycled materials could be a surprisingly simple way of boosting your eco credentials. Texfelt, based in Bradford, West Yorkshire, manufactures SpringBond underlay comprising 85% recycled plastic bottles and other single-use plastics. What’s more, when it’s outlived its purpose, the whole lot can be recycled again.
“Traditional carpet underlays are made from polyurethane foam, which can contain VOCs,” says Texfelt’s Danielle Kaye.
“As SpringBond is made from recycled PET [polyethylene terephthalate] plastic bottles and other single-use plastics, it contains no harmful VOCs and results in better-quality air throughout the home while being inherently flame-resistant.”
EnviroBuild’s Sisu luxury vinyl is another flooring option: it contains 85% recycled material content from waste PVC matter. Co-founder Aidan Bell says the product outperforms its competitors’ eco-credentials in terms of recycled content, while diverting waste material from landfill sites.
“On top of that, whenever you buy a product from EnviroBuild, you are also supporting sustainable causes: 10% of our profits go straight to Rainforest Trust UK,” adds Bell.
And if you fancy adding an eco-friendly rug, Weaver Green’s products are made from 100% recycled bottles but look and feel softer than wool. The rugs are stain- and water-resistant, pet friendly and can be used outdoors, too.
Renewing your worktops is an easy way to refresh a kitchen without ripping the whole thing out and adding to landfill. Eco-friendly versions are attractive as well as sustainable and hardwearing – plus, they can often be recycled at the end of their useful life.
Wickes’ Apollo worktops are fashioned from 70% recycled glass, 20% powdered quartz and 10% high-performance polymer resin. The tops resemble quartz, while the glass chips embedded in the strong, durable surfaces catch the light.
For a worktop made entirely from recycled waste glass, opt for Resilica. Made using 100% recycled glass waste and solvent-free resins that are safe and non-toxic, the slabs are cut to shape so myriad options are possible.
Wood lovers could look at worktops made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, or reclaimed timber. These age well and lend an authentic, rustic edge to a kitchen.
And once you’ve got the worktops sorted, it’s time to think about sustainable tableware – but choose wisely. For starters, as an alternative to the plastic straw, which will be banned in the UK from April 2020, you may buy the paper variety – but not all are recyclable.
Vaso straws are reusable, recyclable and contain no plastics, mineral oils or toxins, and can be cleaned in warm soapy water. A spokesman says: “The glass used is shock- and temperature-resistant so can be safely used in warm or cold drinks. The dimensions of the straws were developed to provide a strong structure.”
In terms of tableware, Robert Dyas sells bamboo crockery in myriad designs. These are long-lasting and strong. And, for chopping or serving boards, Lind DNA’s products are stylish and sustainable. They look like wood but are made from compact laminate, a strong material consisting of multiple kraft paper layers pressed together with tree resin. They are thin, heat resistant to 200°C, lightweight and easy to clean.
Bathroom manufacturer Bette uses only natural materials in its production processes, with all baths, shower trays and washbasins made from glazed steel-titanium alloy. Its products are so durable that they come with a 30-year warranty, and when they eventually reach the end of their life, they are completely recyclable. And products can be custom-made to fit awkward spaces, too.
The German firm has invested in energy-efficient manufacturing and creates two thirds of its own energy requirements with electricity it produces from renewable sources.