Putting the 'eco' back into decorating

As people recognise the need for more eco-friendly environments and habits to restore balance and well-being to the planet and their lives, the range of construction and decorating alternatives available is constantly expanding.

Living ‘green’ doesn't mean settling for a shabby-chic, hippie-vogue or roughly-rustic look, nor does it mean breaking the bank. There are some affordable, stylish, contemporary decorating solutions that are good for the earth and that will also provide you with a clear conscience and more money in the long run.

Here are the main things to consider when making eco-wise décor choices:

Efficient use of resources

  • Restrict your consumption of energy and water.
  • Use energy-saving appliances and gas.
  • Insulate your home properly, control temperatures with appropriate window and floor coverings and use ceiling fans and cross-ventilation instead of air-conditioning.
  • Insulate your geyser, set it to a lower temperature and install a timer on it.
  • Replace old light bulbs with LED or compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, light up dark areas using skylights or solar tubes, or use motion-detecting lights.
  • Use alternative energy sources like solar electric and solar thermal systems.

Non-toxic, sustainable materials

  • Invest in sustainable, natural, organic, non-toxic, chemical-free materials.
  • Use recyclable, renewable, reclaimed or biodegradable materials manufactured with the least amount of energy, water, and chemicals; that are light on packaging, and sourced locally.
  • Choose soy-based foams inside mattresses, chairs or sofas.
  • For linen and carpets use organically grown cotton or other natural fabrics and fibres such as hemp, rattan, tencel or wool.
  • Use bamboo tiles, flooring, blinds, furniture, accessories and linen.
  • Stay away from formaldehyde-based lacquer finishes and VOCs (‘volatile organic compounds’) commonly found in house paints and stains, glues, building materials, carpeting, flooring, furniture cabinetry, etc.
  • Buy non-toxic cleaning materials and body products that are not tested on animals. Or use grandma’s recipes to create your own.
  • Avoid products containing palm oil (find out why here).
  • Other good options: beeswax/soy candles; bio glass (post-consumer recycled).

Bring nature inside

  • Allow plenty of natural light and fresh air into your spaces.
  • Use indoor plants to improve air quality.
  • Plant indigenous/water-wise trees and gardens.
  • Decorate spaces with natural elements such as tree stumps, driftwood, water features and fish, shells, stones etc.
  • Grow your own food – even a stoep/balcony, windowsill, or vertical growing wall will do.

Buy and waste less

  • Reduce: don’t buy new if you don’t have to. Cut down on the resources required to produce new items and eliminate packaging waste and transport emissions.
  • When you do buy, invest in more expensive yet higher-quality, longer-lasting items, or those made from reclaimed woods, glass, and other renewable resources.
  • Reclaim, re-use, repurpose and recycle: get creative with materials such as wooden palettes, cinder blocks, paper, plastic etc.
  • Reinvent: go retro, vintage, collectible and ‘upcycle’ inherited or older items.


Written by Erica Kleine (January 2016)

Image via LivingHomes

January 14, 2016
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