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Interior Design and Sustainability

As climate concerns continue to grow, the ideas of sustainability and eco-friendliness become more important each day. In order to reduce our environmental footprint, we need to incorporate sustainability into every part of our lives.

Housing and architecture are major industries where sustainable practices can be implemented. This goes not only for exterior construction but for interior design as well. Sustainability and interior design are largely intertwined and for a plethora of reasons.

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Interior Design and Sustainability

Sustainability doesn’t just mean minimizing harm to the environment. It means thinking about everything we do as part of a connected ecosystem, and acknowledging the impacts of our lifestyle at every step of the supply chain, as it applies to both the environment and human health.

Having a more all-encompassing definition of sustainability helps us to be more mindful about our environmental footprint and create systems that support the planet from start to finish.

Sustainability Challenges in Interior Design

Sustainable interior design goes beyond energy efficiency and potted plants. If we look at the systems and structures involved in interior design as a whole, we see harmful practices that often go overlooked by consumers.

Furniture Waste

The EPA reports that around 10 million tons of furniture end up in landfills every year. In a market that prioritizes immediate satisfaction and single-use products, used furniture often goes unwanted. Furniture waste continues to accelerate with the rise of flat-packed furniture in popular culture.

This market has created a “fast furniture” mindset that encourages buying cheap furniture and disposing of it when it wears out.


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Exploited Labor

As a consumer, it’s almost impossible to know the labor practices that go on throughout the supply chain of any given product, but exploitative practices are more common than one might hope.

The U.S. Department of Labor has reported that industries like textiles, rugs, furniture, and brassware are known to be widely produced with child or forced labor.

Deforestation and Wood Harvesting

Wood is a staple material in the furniture and construction industries and is largely harvested with unsustainable practices. Deforestation as a whole contributes to habitat loss, species extinction, loss of biodiversity, and climate change.

Additionally, many companies engage in illegal wood foresting that can cause conflicts with indigenous populations and exacerbate poverty.

So, when addressing sustainability in interior design, it’s important to address these issues in addition to boosting the sustainability of the space itself.

Tips for Designing Your Space Sustainably

1. Buy Consciously

The first step to designing a space with sustainability in mind is being conscious of where and how your products are sourced. Learn about fair trade principles and buy products from businesses that fully disclose their sourcing and production processes.

Generally, small companies are easier to learn about than large corporations. This is especially important for buying wood products. Many businesses like ETO Doors will disclose that their wood is sustainably forested and FSC certified.

For furniture and decor, try to shop used first by checking local marketplaces. Up-cycling used furniture can be a fun DIY project, and can be more affordable than buying new furniture.

2. Design for Flexibility

Designing a space with flexibility in mind allows the design to last longer. Life is always changing, and it’s common for a space to need to be redesigned to fit a new purpose. Designing a room or a home to be flexible and easily adapt to changes improves the longevity of the design.

This prioritizes waste reduction by minimizing renovations and extending the life of furniture and decor. It also is the most cost-effective way to design a space.

3. Design for Efficiency

Maximizing energy efficiency is another great way to make sure your space is cost-effective and eco-friendly. Heating and lighting are two crucial factors of interior design.

Investing inefficient windows, insulation, blinds, and curtains can make a big difference in the efficiency of air conditioning and the need for artificial lighting.

Carpets make great thermal insulators, as they can retain up to 10% of a room’s heat depending on the size and material. You can also opt for eco-friendly lighting options like bulbs that allow you to choose the color and brightness settings.


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