To truly express a sustainable lifestyle, one must begin in the home. Modern eco-friendly home decor materials are widely available and varied enough in color, texture and purpose to offer fashionable options for any individual style, and the textiles and materials are of a high enough quality that choosing to go green in your home does not mean having to compromise on quality. So greenify your digs — to assist, here’s a list of the best eco-friendly materials to incorporate in the home and why.
Even though standard cotton is indeed a natural crop, it is one of the most chemically treated materials in modern agriculture. Throughout the industrial processing of the raw plant, insecticides, pesticides and even formaldehyde are used, leaving behind a trail of pollutants in the water and soil and affecting the health of the frequently exploited workers who harvest the crop.
Organic cotton is an entirely different material. It is grown and harvested without the use of GMOs or insidious chemicals, and a fair-trade label assures that the workers involved in the growing and production of the cotton were treated fairly and not put at risk. Organic cotton is found in home decor products like drapes, towels, sofas, pillows, throw blankets, linens and much, much more. As an added precaution, choose products available only in colors that reflect cotton’s natural hues, like taupe, beige and light green, or select products colored with vegetable-based dyes, which are safe as well.
One would think that all wood would be considered organic and non-offensive to the environment, but sadly, this is untrue. Only certain woods make the cut, so to speak.
- Reclaimed wood. Technically, this kind of wood can be of any kind of tree, but the trick is that the material needs to have been salvaged. Whether it be pinewood collected from a demolished building or driftwood rescued from a local river, if the wood is reused, it is reclaimed.
- Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood. Generally a material used more in home building than home decor, FSC wood is still worth a mention here for anyone constructing their own furniture and purchasing their own raw materials. The FSC-certified stamp means that the manufacturer of the wood adhered to strict sustainable forestry practices such as preserving the natural habitat and not using pesticides.
- Teak wood. A longtime favorite for decks, the hardwood of this deciduous tree native to South Asia possesses a high oil content that makes it rot-resistant and durable, which makes it perfect for outdoor patio furniture. An agency of the Indonesian government is now responsible for managing teak plantations, and this agency enforces a stringent policy that caps the number of trees felled every year and consistently replants.
Polyester did not die with the 1970s. Affectionately referred to as rPET, an acronym for recycled polyethylene terephthalate, this form of polyester is a plastic resin created by combining purified terephthalic acid with modified ethylene glycol. Even notice a code stamp “#1” on packaged products like peanut butter, water bottles and cleaning sprays? That is PET. After its first life, PET can be pulverized and re-formed into a kind of yarn. This yarn can then be spun into countless shapes and products, from furniture to artwork, giving it a second chance at life.
A well-recognized favorite among conservationists, bamboo is a kind of grass that grows quickly and does not require replanting after each harvest. Additionally, the plant requires no fertilizer, no pesticides and actually leaves the soil more enriched after reaping, One Green Planet says. Bamboo rivals materials such as oak, which can take over 100 years to reach maturity, while bamboo is mature between the ages of two to three. It is important to note, though, that just because a product is made from bamboo does not mean that that specific product is eco-friendly. China is the main exporter of the material and is not concerned with meeting environmental standards, so evaluate bamboo on a product-by-product basis, EcoSalon recommends. Though bamboo can be fashioned into many durable furniture and decor items, it can also be processed to create a dulcet, absorbent fabric with antibacterial and hypoallergenic properties, making it ideal for linens, clothing and towels.
A byproduct of tree bark, cork is considered an eco-friendly product because there is no need to fall the entire tree to obtain the raw material, and the bark used to manufacture cork will regrow within just a few years. Cork’s naturally antimicrobial and hypoallergenic traits make it ideal for in-home use, and the material can be waterproofed and molded into modules used for flooring. Or it can be repurposed for use in decorative products.
This incredibly versatile and inexpensive textile is glued together to create handbags and shoes or drapes and furniture. Available as either synthetic, wool or a blend of both, felt can even be produced from PET bottles through a process called “wet felting,” where the raw, shredded material is wetted down. In this form, its potential is boundless. Felt is not woven but is instead matted, condensed and pressed into fibers while wet, and the resulting textile can be soft or tough, allowing its diverse use for inside decor or even exterior roofing, says EcoSalon.
Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock