Mass media often encourages a mindset of consumerism rather than sustainability. While this mindset has prevailed in developed countries for decades, warnings from the scientific community regarding the problems associated with global climate change have caused a gradual but growing shift in people’s attitudes.
As the population grows exponentially, people are starting to realise that low-quality, disposable furnishings are simply not sustainable long term. Since many of us didn't grow up in the mindset of sustainability, it can be a challenge to understand how to go about creating an environmentally sustainable home. Here are four practical styling tips you can use to make green design choices when you furnish and decorate your home.
1. Opt for water-efficient bathroom, laundry & kitchen fixtures.
When you're ready to replace any fixtures from your taps to your toilets to your washing machine, be sure to choose water-efficient models. Look for a WELS label for the products you're considering, as WELS is a trusted scheme for communicating water efficiency ratings in Australia. This will allow you to save large volumes of water as well as the significant sums of money you would otherwise pay for utilities.
2. Decorate with houseplants that are beneficial to air quality.
There are lots of different objects you could use to decorate your home, but few of them are as good for the environment as houseplants. Scientific testing performed by NASA indicates that there are numerous houseplants that can actually detoxify the air inside your home. These plants can reduce or nullify the effects of toxic pollutants like benzene, trichloroethylene and suspected carcinogen formaldehyde that's often found in the home environment. Formaldehyde can be present in numerous household furnishings, from particleboard furniture and subflooring to kitchen cabinetry.
Some of the houseplants you'll want to consider adding to your decor include the following:
- Gerbera daisy: The gorgeous blooms from the gerbera daisy add a vibrant and colourful touch to any room. The gerbera daisy is also one of the most effective houseplants for air purification. It can help you to detoxify a variety of pollutants.
- Peace lily: The peace lily is a flowering tropical plant that complements minimalist decorating schemes beautifully. The peace lily also offers a measure of protection against toxic gases in the environment such as formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene and trichloroethylene.
- Ficus benjamina: This lovely tree thrives in the northern Australian climate and grows well outdoors. This plant is useful for detoxifying air contaminated with trichloroethylene from sources such as paints, adhesives, dry cleaning chemicals, metal degreasers and varnishes.
Note: Use of synthetic chemical pesticides or fertilisers could invalidate some or all of the benefits of these plants, so you'll want to be careful in your choice of potting mix and ongoing maintenance.
3. Select furnishings that are biodegradable, recyclable or second-hand.
If you're buying new furnishings, always choose products made of biodegradable or recyclable materials. This is not as significant a concern when upcycling or buying second-hand furnishings, as a purchase of a second-hand item will prolong its useful life and keep it out of landfill for as long as you're using it.
What will happen to your flooring materials when they become outdated? Natural fibre rugs and carpets such as wool, sisal and jute will readily biodegrade, which makes them a more sustainable long-term choice.
However, some synthetic carpet materials such as acrylic carpeting, which is a type of plastic, do not biodegrade. That means that eventually when your synthetic carpet becomes old and outdated, it will be likely to take up space in a landfill indefinitely - perhaps for hundreds of years or perhaps even forever - unless you take steps to recycle it after you replace it.
In Australia, carpet recycling can be difficult. Sydney does have one carpet recycling facility that is able to process nylon carpets. If you want to install carpet in your home, choosing a biodegradable carpet fibre is advisable if you're conscious of the environment.
4. Choose durable materials & maintain your furnishings as recommended.
A primary goal of environmental sustainability is rejecting the disposable in favour of things that have longevity. The following materials are durable and will make your home look great for years and years.
Solid timber flooring: Solid timber flooring is one of the most sustainable flooring choices, because it's unlikely to need replacing in your lifetime if it is well cared for. In the unlikely event you do need to replace it, it biodegrades easily.
Natural stone benchtops: Some types of natural stone, such as granite, are durable to the point of near indestructibility if you maintain them properly.
Wallpaper: High-quality wallpaper lasts up to 15 years when maintained carefully. In contrast, homes typically need to be repainted every three to five years. Wallpaper is often the more sustainable choice if it is applied using low-VOC adhesive.
Using these tips will not only help you create a greener home environment; these ideas can also be beneficial in helping you to save money in the long term, as green solutions typically are also frugal solutions as well. We hope this information will prove helpful to you as you plan out any environmentally friendly upgrades you want to make to your home.
Article provided by BuildMat, an Australian home renovation store providing high-quality building materials.
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