Green home decorating doesn't have to be difficult or expensive. Use the following guide to get you started and you'll soon realize how quickly eco-friendly decorating can become second nature.
Start by taking a look at what you already own. It's amazing what you can do by simply moving furniture around. Moving furniture and accessories (like lamps and wall art) around a room or even from one room to another can help you achieve a whole new look. Before you get rid of anything ask yourself if it could be used in another space or completely re-purposed.
You don't need to be especially crafty to refinish home goods. Update a sofa with a slipcover or make a bookcase new again with a fresh coat of paint. Simply changing the knobs on a dresser can give it a whole new look. Go online for a never-ending supply of ideas on how to re-purpose and re-finish furniture.
If there is anything you do want to get rid of, consider making your trash someone else’s treasure. Have a yard sale, use Craigslist or eBay, and check out local consignment shops. You’ll make money, while keeping those items out of landfills. You could also try organizing a housewares swap with friends. Donate anything you don’t sell or swap. Look into organizations like the Salvation Army that take donations (many provide a free pick up service) or try Freecycle – an online nonprofit that helps you to donate to people in your community.
If you are looking to buy, you may want to consider checking Freecycle for free options first. Then, check out thrift stores, garage sales, Craigslist, and eBay.
Eco-friendly home goods are a fast-growing industry. If are looking to buy new, you now have several more green options than you would have had just a couple years ago. Even stores like Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, and Target have started offering organic, eco-friendly, and sustainable home goods. When shopping for home goods:
Start by considering a product's durability and longevity. Resist choosing the cheapest option if you know you will only be using it for a short period of time. It's better to save up and shop around for something of quality that will last than to buy a quick fix product you'll have to replace in short time.
Look for upholstered furniture covered in natural materials like organic cotton and wool and filled with natural latex foam. Avoid any upholstery labeled as stain resistant since that means it's been treated with a chemical containing perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) labeled as "likely to be carcinogenic to humans." Studies show PFOA to be present in the bloodstream of 9 out of 10 Americans so you want to cut down on exposure whenever you can.
When buying a mattress look for one made of natural latex (not memory foam!) covered in organic cotton or wool (which is naturally fire retardant).
Consider sustainability when buying wood furniture. A lot of today's wood furniture relies on unsustainable harvesting methods. Look for wood that’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an international, non-profit organization that requires companies to meet strict economic, social, and environmental standards to become certified. Look for the FSC logo on furniture, ask your retailer, or use the FSC's online database to find certified vendors.
Also consider furniture made from reclaimed wood or a renewable resource like bamboo. Bamboo is a great choice because it’s fast-growing and requires no pesticides and little water. It's incredibly versatile, used to make furniture, window treatments, flooring, textiles, plates, utensils, and more.
Steer clear of furniture made from manufactured wood products (i.e., particleboard, fiberboard, plywood) because they typically contain formaldehyde glues. Also avoid products made with vinyl or imitation leather since they most likely contain phthalate-based PVC. Products made from metal and glass are safer options because they are inert materials which don’t offgas.
Also consider how products are finished since many paints and stains contain formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Unfinished furniture you can finish yourself with low- or no-VOC paint or stain is a great way to get quality pieces you can customize yourself at a reduced cost.
Local craft fairs can be a good source of well-crafted, unique, and eco-friendly artisan furniture and home goods. Or, you can take your search global with eBay Green. eBay Green is a multi-seller marketplace for socially and environmentally responsible shopping.
So go forth and decorate to your heart's content. Just remember: “A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.”
Note: For bigger home renovations check out Green Home Improvements for help selecting eco-friendly countertops, flooring, and paint.