Written by guest blogger Dorothy Parker, Owner + Sustainable Interior Designer at d+b design | Durango, Colorado
Many brands, companies and services offer up tag words such as “sustainable”, “environmentally friendly”, and “eco-friendly”. What do these claims mean? Short answer, it varies and unless it’s coming from a certified sustainable business or their product is certified (cradle-to-cradle, circular, fair trade, forest certified, etc.), it’s purely for marketing purposes (aka Greenwashing).
Sustainable interior design can mean many different things. For d+b design it means striving for better and healthier products for your home. With a certification as a Green AP from the Sustainable Furnishing Council, we know how to source truly sustainable home products and furnishings. Having this certification means we are knowledgeable about the materials, how they were made, and what they are made of that are hand selected for your home.
Being sustainable doesn’t have to mean drastic changes or doubling of the price. In fact, you might be surprised at the beautiful options available that are both sustainable, fairly made and similarly priced to less eco-friendly options.
Why Does Sustainable Interior Design Matter?
Let’s start with the Why. Why does it matter and why should you care? The majority of scientists around the world agree that climate change is real and drastic change needs to happen to help mitigate the impact.
Just recently, a new report came out detailing the current climate crisis. It outlines the devastation that human caused climate change has inflicted including wildfires, heat waves and floods.
Because of this every industry must do what they can to use less energy, less pollutants and help with reforestation. When it comes to home furnishings, they are third in line for deforestation (after buildings #1 and paper #2).
Additionally according to the EPA in 2018, 9,680 tons of furniture and furnishings end up in the landfill every year in the US alone. Items that end up in landfills create CO2 and that carbon monoxide contributes to Climate Change.
Home furnishings don’t just affect the planet, they also affect the indoor air quality. Chemicals such as formaldehyde, flame retardants, antimicrobials and vinyl can commonly be found in all types of furnishings. Each one of these chemicals are known carcinogens that can cause cancer, asthma, and a variety of other health problems.
Last, sustainability doesn’t just mean the materials that make the items we are purchasing. It also means that the people who make the finished item as well as the suppliers are well treated. It’s making sure that both adults and children aren’t being forced to work against their will.
Do Eco Friendly Furnishings Cost More?
As the demand for sustainable products grows the range and affordability grows. In research done by the Sustainable Furnishing Council, overall the price of eco friendly furnishing is about 10% more. Considering that is the average, some products cost nothing more and some can be higher than 10%.
The fact is that there is a broad scope of options and some may not check all the boxes that make a product 100% environmentally safe and fairly traded. The most important thing about choosing sustainably made items is that small changes and differences matter. This is not a black and white choice, there are a thousand shades of gray to choose from.
Sure, you can have a piece of furniture that is made in the US, with all natural components with offsetting shipping that might be of a higher price range. AND there is also the option to pick something from a retailer that makes a sofa with cushions made from recycled water bottles (yes, it’s 100% a thing!) which was made in China. It may not be perfect, but I’ll take progress any day over perfection.
And let’s not forget to mention that some of the best pieces of furniture are vintage or upcycled. This helps hold the important pillars to reduce, reuse and recycle.
What is a Green AP Certification?
To become certified as a Green Accredited Professional one must complete an intensive course in sustainability through the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC). The course is an industry-first, developed in conjunction with the Sustainable Furnishings Council and approved by ranking staff of Rainforest Alliance, World Wildlife Fund and one of the co-founders of USGBC/LEED.
This accreditation is designed to pick up where LEED leaves off, focusing specifically on the furnishings themselves and other interior design issues.
The Green AP course provided a ton of information on the environmental issues in the interior design industry. It also provided a wide range of product solutions, many of which don’t cost any more than ordinary ones.
It’s simply a matter of knowing the right places to look and the right questions to ask.
About the Sustainable Furnishings Council
I’ve been on this journey to learn about sustainable design for many years now and the more I learn the more questions I have. Any time I see a design magazine featuring sustainable design I grab it and sometimes read it multiple times. Reading one of these articles was the first time that I heard of the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC).
I became captivated with their website, resources and their membership roster. I was really surprised to see so many vendors I’ve been using for years listed as members. I had never known their commitment to making eco-friendly products.
The SFC has been committed to sustainability since 2006 and was founded at the High Point Market in North Carolina which is the largest home furnishings industry trade show in the world. When the SFC was created there were some 70 founding members. Since then the SFC has grown to over 400 members which is the largest organization of its kind in the residential furnishings industry.
The SFC has clear values and a clear mission to help companies reduce their environmental footprint, and to and to help consumers find healthier products and design services.
According to the SFC’s website, “SFC urges the use of Life Cycle Assessment as the best method for analyzing the environmental and health impact of products and a verifiable chain of custody as the only acceptable method for tracking wood flow. SFC members support the triple bottom line of PEOPLE – PLANET – PROFITS and lead the industry in best practices throughout their supply chains. Members are committed to continuous work toward a healthy future, inside and out.”
The “What’s it made of” Initiative
I love this concept and commitment created by the SFC in partnership with the American Sustainable Building Council. Center for Environmental Health and Parsons Healthy Materials Lab, and others.
This program is designed to help businesses “ask and find out what everything you use is made of, in an effort to avoid the harmful chemicals most commonly found in furnishings.”This helps with transparency in supply chains and stimulates innovation to reduce harmful chemicals in furnishings.
I have taken a pledge to ask companies that I purchase from about their materials and if they include flame retardant chemicals, fluorinated stain treatments, antimicrobials, vinyl and VOCs including formaldehyde.
Companies That Are Doing Their Part
As I mentioned before, there are companies out there that are committed to sustainability, environmentally safe, and equitable work. Here are my five favorites:
Another founding member of the SFC who have “been making environmentally intelligent decisions” since their founding in 1989. Like Room & Board, their furniture is made here in the United States and their style is timeless and contemporary.
I’ve heard from more than one person that Coyuchi bedding is the best bedding in the world. Founded in 1991 in Point Reyes, CA, their sheets, duvet covers, and towels
have always been organic, intentional and committed to the people who grow and manufacture this luxury bedding. They are GOTS certified which is the highest standard in the world for sustainability. Want to dork out on their commitments more? Check out their blog here.
If it’s good enough for Mila Kunis & Ashton Kutcher it’s good enough for me. Don’t let the fact that it’s in a luxury home featured in Architectural Digest fool you, it’s not the most expensive furniture available. Cisco furniture is made in both Los Angeles and North Carolina and was the first designer to create 100% FSC wood for their upholstery products.
A classic contemporary furniture company who has something for everyone. Robin Bruce is a partner brand to Rowe Furniture and both have commitmentments to sustainability. They have “made a solid commitment to eco-friendly manufacturing processes and sustainable product development. EcoRowe focuses on crucial elements in our future: a selection of fabrics produced from natural fibers, renewable fibers, and the use of wood from replenished, domestic forests for the frames and the choice of two eco-friendly seat cushion cores.”
I love Loloi Rugs and with their broad style and price range there is something for every space in your home. I just ordered this shag rug made from recycled water bottles designed in partnership with Justina Blakeney. You would never know it’s from recycled plastic! If Justina Blakeney isn’t your thing they partner with many other designers including Ellen DeGeneres and Rifle Paper Co.
Sources with Honorable Mentions:
Other sources for environmentally safe options include Kravet, (a to-the-trade resource for textiles, etc.), Crate & Barrel, Ikea, and West Elm and Live Creative Studio’s Sustainable Marketplace has a few choice sustainable design sources too.
In summary, sustainable interior design doesn’t have to be crunchy or expensive. We’re just out here to make homes beautiful, healthy and try to leave no trace along the way.
Not to be all doom and gloom but climate change is happening and it’s our job to take steps to lower our carbon footprint. The most important pillars for this is to reuse, reduce, and recycle. Let’s implement that into all aspects of our daily lives including furniture and accessories.
Through innovation and demand, buying sustainable furniture and home goods is becoming less expensive. Overall the research shows that the price increase is on average 10% though in my experience it is sometimes the same price as a less than eco friendly option.
Have you found an eco-friendly home product you love? Let us know about it in the comments.
And don’t forget, sharing is caring! If you have a friend that might be interested in sustainable interior design please pass it on.
As always, if you want to learn more about us or our design you can out check d+b design here.
Until next time,