Simple Ways to Incorporate Sustainability into Your Home

WRITER | DEIDRE REMTEMA
PHOTOS | JASON REIFFER, LYNELL MILLER, RUDY MALMQUIST, ASHLEY AVILA

Our homes are an expression of who we are and what we love. We want them to be inviting, beautiful, safe, and healthy places to live. Some who love design and decorating even feel connected to their belongings, as if we are taking care of them for a season. Often, it’s the story of where our things come from that endears them to us! How was this item made? Where did it come from? Where does it go when we are finished using it? All of these questions around our belongings help us understand the life cycle and sustainability of our choices at home.

The topic of sustainability in home design can be approached in many different ways. Below are a few ideas and resources for designing an interesting home while also incorporating sustainable décor.

Vintage Furniture
Vintage or antique furniture is one of the most significant ways to set the design of your home apart. Not only are you saving furniture from the landfill, but you are adding an item that, more than likely, no one else is using in the same way. The amount of unused and discarded furniture is staggering, and getting creative with older furniture items can really make a statement. If you need furniture or decorations for your home, take a look at Chairish.com, ShopNueve.com, Craigslist, or your local antique store before setting out to buy something new.

Local Handmade Art
Many mass-produced decorative art and accessory items are created overseas and then shipped and sold all over the world. One way to lessen our carbon footprint and invest in the local economy is to seek out artists in our own community. The amount and variety of truly original art to choose from is incredibly inspiring! Filling our homes with local handmade items adds a layer of depth and sophistication that mass-produced items cannot create. When we invest in local art, it puts more money into the local economy. A win all around! Not sure where to start? Check out MichiganArtGuide.com and flip through to find artists and galleries near you.

Real Plants for Great Air Quality
There are two camps when it comes to plants in the home, those who love them and others who wish they could keep them alive. It can be a struggle, but if you are up for it, plants are natural air purifiers and look amazing in every room of the house. Yes, even the bathroom feels better with some greenery! Plants have also been shown to reduce anxiety and provide a sense of purpose with many healing qualities of aromatherapy. Visit your local nursery and bring home a few new plants to try!

Wood with a Purpose
If you’re shopping for new furniture, make sure that the wood used is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. FSC Certification ensures that the wood was sourced according to principles defined by the FSC, whose mission is to protect forests for future generations. Its principles include protecting indigenous peoples’ rights, conserving biological diversity, and creating a plan for managing the forests. FSC certified wood has become more common and should not be hard to find. Upholstered furniture incorporates FSC wood into the frames and legs, and entire tables are made out of it. A variety of furniture companies carry items with the certification, including West Elm, Century, Lee Industries, and Crate and Barrel. For more information, go to US.FSC.org

Donate Your Unwanted Items
Your mother-in-law gave you a clock last Christmas, and it doesn’t really go with the décor. Don’t throw it away; donate it to a resale shop so it can find another home. In her New York Times best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo says, “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life…” Purging IS part of decorating, and if an item does not bring you joy, give it away so someone else can enjoy it. It is easier than ever to avoid the landfill with many wonderful organizations to donate to, including the Habitat ReStore, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army. Donate today; it is freeing!

Living a sustainable lifestyle has become more mainstream over the last 20 years. Sustainable design does not conform to one particular aesthetic. No matter what your style is — Modern, Glam, Farmhouse, New Traditional, Vintage, or a mix of looks — creating a sustainable home is accessible to everyone and a fun journey, too!