By now, you’ve all heard the mantras “go green” and “reduce, reuse, recycle”. I’m positive you are incorporating recycling into your daily lives. And no doubt you’ve heard many a marketing campaign claiming ‘green’ benefits for this and that product. Interior design usually involves replacing, renovating or restoring a built environment, so interior designers are uniquely positioned to offer sustainable design solutions at the beginning of a project. By definition, “sustainable design seeks to reduce negative impacts on the environment, and the health and comfort of building occupants.”
Last week’s #intdesignerchat on Twitter focused on green design. (Click here to access the transcript – chat is every Tuesday at 6pm ET, with a different topic each week). Participants discussed sustainable practices they use in their businesses and the best ways to help clients embrace sustainable design. The majority of designers (on the chat) believe it is their job to educate clients on available sustainable options.
Low or zero VOC paint is the most common recommendation to clients. It is easy to specify, most clients have heard of the issue with VOC and every major paint manufacturer offers low or zero VOC alternatives. If you hate the smell of paint lingering three days after the job is done, invest the extra dollars up front for this paint. It’s not just the smell – it’s the chemicals you, your children and your pets are breathing in. For days. Ugh!
Most designers agree that quality is key for furniture to stand the test of time. Buying the best quality you can afford eliminates the need to replace things, and if tastes change, well-made furniture can always find a home with someone else. Antiques and re-purposed furniture define the “reuse” label because they eliminate the need to buy something new altogether. An added benefit is little or no off-gas from glues or finishes. When specifying refinished furniture, designers have eco-friendlier options from which to choose. Another option is using reclaimed wood to make new something new. Counter Evolution in Brooklyn turns old bowling lanes into modern, rustic furniture!
Designers across various segments of the industry offer tips for choosing sustainable. Lighting specialists recommend CFLs and LEDs. Tile manufacturer Modwalls cites recycled glass tile and renewable cork as green options. Textile producers encourage organic and natural materials. Everyone agrees buying locally (country of origin) cuts down on emissions.
As a consumer, what does sustainable design mean to you? Do you ask for green alternatives? There are some people who consider less than a totally green lifestyle to be a failure and purchasing anything new (or heaven forbid, luxurious) to be a bad thing. I am not one of those people. On the bell curve of life, there are a lot more of us in the middle than on the tail ends! I believe conscious choices every day contribute to the overall greater, greener good. I think textile designer Karen Young, owner of Hammocks and High Tea, summed it up best: “It's important to know that green is attainable. No need [for city dwellers] to plant farms & milk cows. Small changes work collectively.”
I’d love to know: what does sustainable interior design mean to you?