Eco-friendly design and interior decorating choices are becoming increasingly important for people building or renovating their homes. We are all more and more aware of the need to limit our carbon footprints and think carefully about what impact our actions have on the environment. This awareness should feed in to the decisions you make about your surroundings, and help you make choices about materials and methods which are as sustainable as they are aesthetically pleasing.
Here then are our seven building and design choices for an eco-friendly interior makeover.
Properly insulating your home helps to reduce your energy usage, which is good for the environment and makes energy bills smaller. However, actually producing the insulation in the first place can be bad for the environment. Making fibreglass, the most widely known and used type of insulation, is a very energy intensive business – up to ten times more so than eco-friendly alternatives. It can also be bad for your health and has been linked to irritation of the skin, eye and respiratory tract.
Luckily, alternatives are available, including sheep’s wool, aerogel, cork, polystyrene, cellulose and even denim. As well as being better for the environment, many of these also offer better insulation per square inch. Icynene, a spray foam insulation, can reduce a home’s energy bill by up to 50%.
Traditional heating methods involve using fossil fuels – oil, natural gas and coal, which are all damaging to the environment, not to mention expensive to harvest. The risks around using fossil fuels include global warming, potential oil spills, air pollution and acid rain. However, there are increasing methods of heating your home without relying on fossil fuels, which are cheaper as well as greener, such as geothermal heating and pellet stoves.
The most energy efficient method of all is solar heating. Once you have spent the initial sum of money on solar panels and other equipment, you have no additional costs, apart from maintenance of that equipment. This essentially means you can heat your home for free, forever.
3. Paint and adhesives
A lot of paints and adhesives contain Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. These are chemicals that are released by paint as the wall dries, which can be harmful to your health. In fact, paint and adhesives can release VOCs for years after it has been applied to the wall, so it is much better for you and your family to avoid it. In recent years, legislation has come into force to limit the amount of VOCs used in products.
As a result of this legislation, most paint manufacturers now offer an environmentally friendly or organic paint range. Some manufacturers, such as Farrow and Ball, have moved entirely to water based paints, which have fewer toxins. Removing a large amount of VOCs from paint also means it gives out less nasty fumes and therefore less odour, making painting your house a more pleasant experience.
If you’re using wood in your home, whether to build the frame of the house, lay a solid wood floor, or make furniture, it’s important to make sure it has been sustainably sourced. Wood is a great choice of building materials as it is renewable and has minimal carbon emissions, whereas other building materials such as concrete and brick have large carbon footprints due to the processes used to produce them.
When sourcing wood, look for timber that has an FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) logo. The FSC is an international non-profit organisation that approves timber that has been processed, produced and even delivered in an environmentally, socially and economically sound and viable way. The FSC helps to protect woodland and make sure it is forested and managed in a sustainable way.
5. Tadelakt Plaster
All houses require plastering and polished plaster is an increasingly popular choice of wall covering for modern, minimal bathrooms. One of the most environmentally friendly types of plaster available is tadelakt. Though currently not well known, tadelakt is growing in popularity due to its green credentials as much as its aesthetic appeal. Tadelakt is a type of natural lime-based plaster that has its origins in the Marrakech region of Morocco. It is waterproof, which is why it works so well in bathrooms, but it’s also commonly used in shower cubicles, baths and even swimming pools.
Tadelakt is an entirely natural substance, meaning it isn’t full of chemicals as synthetic products often are, and it involves low energy intensive production methods, meaning it has a relatively small carbon footprint. It also releases up to 80% less CO2 than other cement based finishes, which is much better for the environment.
Another big benefit of tadelakt is that it creates a healthier living environment for your home. Unlike other more traditional finishes, you don’t need to use bleach to clean tadelakt. It is sealed with a soap solution which discourages dirt from building up and can be easily cleaned using a sponge and water, leaving your bathroom free from harsh chemicals.
6. Natural textiles
Having plenty of comfortable soft furnishings in your home is very important, but some textiles and finishes are more environmentally friendly than others. Sustainable and eco-friendly fabrics benefit everyone along the supply chain, from the farmers who receive fairer trade benefits and safer working environments, to the consumers who get better quality, longer lasting fabrics. Sustainable fabrics are engineered in ways that limit the need for pesticides, remove harmful dyes and processing chemicals, and reduce the amount of water waste caused during production.
So which fabrics should you consider when furnishing your home? Some, such as organic cotton, linen and hemp you will already be familiar with. These use less harsh pesticides and insecticides during the growing process than conventional cotton and are fully biodegradable. Other less well known textiles include Modal and TENCEL™. Modal is made by spinning cellulose from beechwood trees and has a silky smooth finish. TENCEL™ is a product of eucalyptus trees and its production is fuelled by 100% renewable energy and uses 80% less water.
7. Plenty of plants
The final touch to your eco-friendly interior is the presence of lots of plants. As well as looking beautiful and softening the hard edges of your home, plants help to filter out harmful chemicals in the air by providing oxygen. Bamboo, aloe vera and ferns in particular improve the air quality of your home, making it a safer environment for you and your family. They also add freshness and beauty to your home, and are a reminder of the environment outside that we need to look after.
Making good environmental choices when building and decorating the interior of your home is easy once you’ve done a little research. Though using sustainable materials such as wood, textiles and plaster, you can decrease your carbon footprint and help preserve precious habitats, as well as making sure everyone in the supply chain is treated fairly. Installing eco-friendly heating and insulation reduces your reliance on fossil fuels as well as the amount of money you spend on energy bills.
Choosing the right paint and adhesives removes harmful chemicals from your home, as does the introduction of plenty of plants and greenery. Not only will your home look fantastic but you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that is good for the environment too.