Interior design allows us to make our homes the most welcoming, and personal, spaces possible. Our own personal refuges, and a sanctuary from the hubbub of life, interior design allows the creative and artisanal into the everyday.
But the era of interior design ‘trends’, coming and going season by season, is over. We’re all more aware that living consciously, and sustainably, is truly important when it comes to looking after the future of our planet. That doesn’t mean that interior design must be relegated to the past – but it does mean that the world is more aware of sustainable interior design approaches.
This blog explores sustainable versus green interior design, as well as giving you some tips and ‘how-tos’ when it comes to implementing sustainable design practices into your own design schemes at home.
Why is sustainable Interior Design important?
According to an Opinium study, the average Brit spends a shocking 22 hours indoors per day. That’s around 90% of every day. That should remind us how important it is to optimise this space – the space we spend most of our lives in.
As well as optimising the spaces for our mental health, interior design has real impacts on our physical health, too. Making sure to use healthy materials in our homes ensures we aren’t exposed to materials which could compromise our health.
Sustainable interior design is also important because it’s been shown that interior design makes a heavy impact on the planet. The building and construction industry creates 40% of the world’s carbon emissions, and interior design makes up part of that. The Carbon Leadership Forum and Seattle-based LMN Architects recently published a report in Metropolis which suggests that over the lifespan of a building, the carbon footprint of its interior design will equal if not exceed that of the structure’s initial construction. So if we’re going to be regularly refreshing interiors, sustainable interior design choices become more and more important.
How to implement sustainability in interior design
There’s plenty to consider when implementing sustainability in your interior design plans. As well as considering your materials’ make up and manufacture process, it’s important to consider their carbon footprint. For example you might choose wood, as a natural product with minimal manufacturing processes. But is your wood sustainably grown or is it from woodland or rainforest which is being depleted? Is it locally grown or has it travelled across the world? There is a footprint and story associated with every product you consider, from the synthetic to the natural.
Here are six tips to help you bring sustainability into your interior design plans:
- Minimise space by using space more efficiently. If you can keep the size of the building, and therefore its resources and construction materials – to a minimum, then you are automatically creating a greener plan.
- Use materials which maximise efficiency. For example, consider using rapidly renewable sources such as bamboo as a wood alternative.
- Make sure to consider human ethics in manufacture. For example, look for materials from suppliers who prioritise safe manufacture and employment processes. Using local sources where possible is usually a great option for more transparent supply chains.
- Use recycled or reclaimed. Antique and vintage options repurpose existing objects, meaning there is no carbon footprint to their manufacture second time round. Where existing items cannot be repurposed, choosing new items recycled from old helps minimise the creation of the new and use up what has already been created.
- Lighting is important. Incorporating natural light wherever possible, as well as using LEDs in any fittings you require, will save energy.
- Opt for non-toxic, non-polluting products. Choose paints which contain no VOCs, for example, and opt for organic fibres and woods that haven’t been treated with pesticides and chemicals.
Choosing materials in interior design
It’s important to choose materials with the maximise transparency when it comes to choosing sustainable materials. Because there is more and more focus on sustainability, it’s easy to fall victim to ‘greenwashing’ – when companies are less than honest about their true green credentials. Make sure to keep an eye out for certifications such as the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) for responsibly sourced wood, and C2C (Cradle to Cradle) for circular design and sustainability. These help us to make informed choices when planning interior design.
As well as considering the materials themselves as final products (will they be recyclable?), it’s important to consider both their manufacturing process and the ways in which they were manufactured. Some processes take hundreds and thousands of gallons of water, whilst others use plenty of energy – as well as utilising toxic chemical products.
There are plenty of common household items and manufacturer processes that bring toxins into our home. Some of the more common include products containing formaldehyde, lead, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) – products like paint, flooring, and insulation. Household items made from synthetic materials release VOCs over time, and VOCs are nasty. Exposure to VOCs has been shown to have detrimental health effects, including headaches and loss of coordination, nausea, damage to kidneys and liver, and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Some are also either suspected or proven to be carcinogenic.
Green design versus sustainable design
What’s the difference between green design and sustainable design? You might think they sound like synonyms, but in fact they are different. The key difference is that sustainable design has a broader scope, considering the environment of course but also considering social, performance, and financial implications too. Green design focusses specifically on the environmental impacts in isolation.
Advantages of sustainable Interior design
Because those focussed on sustainable interior design are usually more holistically interested in their projects, the green movement creates higher standards in the building and design industry. Some of the advantages include:
Landfills are far from ideal as a waste management system. Using sustainable materials means you can avoid heavily contributing to further waste. With a distinct emphasis on using less, sustainable products are the option to consider to reduce waste.
Improved health outcomes
Sustainable options not only create a healthier environment whilst building takes place, but also for the future inhabitants or users of the space.
Conserving energy and water, choosing sustainable building materials mean less waste going into landfill. But these materials also result in increased, more ongoing efficiency. Low-flow plumbing will have oncoming cost benefits, as will green insulation and programmable thermostats. Put simply, they all allow you not to waste resources, protecting both the environment and your pocket.
Many of the most sustainable products have the best durability, too. Wood, for example, is a product which you can rely upon for longevity, functioning well for the decades to come.
You can make an even more positive impact on the environment by using these products. Recycled or end-of-life materials, repurposed, mean giving an existing material a second life instead of causing the environment further damage.
With 45 years of design experience, CCL Interiors is a forward-looking company informed and educated by our past successes. Get in touch to see how we could help with your design today.