It’s no secret that my many years working in conservation research in East Africa influences my work at East & Gray. That’s why we’re passionate about sourcing materials and products that are good for you and good for the planet. While sustainable design is a relatively new concept, we’re hoping to help people find simple, effective ways to create sustainable home designs they’ll love for years to come.
Today, we’re sharing three simple tips to help you approach your next design project more sustainably. Keep reading to learn more!
Source Unique Antique Pieces
Most of us don’t want our home to look like a cookie cutter design—if you do, we’re probably not the right designer for you! At East & Gray, we strive to help clients create a unique design that suits their personality and incorporates part of their own history and story into the home’s design. One of the best ways to make a home feel one of a kind is to source unique, antique pieces. Think: an ornate dresser passed down from a relative, an oil painting from one of your travels abroad, or even a vintage rug that speaks to your soul.
Sourcing unique antique, vintage or pre-loved pieces cuts down on production and gives them a second life so they don’t end up in our landfills, not to mention that older antiques are often extremely well made and built to last!
Opt for Custom Made Pieces When Possible
We often encourage clients to opt for custom made pieces when possible instead of buying from a bulk supplier. It’s worth noting that custom pieces can be more expensive, however when you choose the right manufacturer, these items are often better quality and are able to be created to your exact specifications—size, color, materials, etc.—so you are more likely to love them for years to come. Bulk suppliers contribute to deforestation due to the mass-production of furniture and often use cheaper materials, resulting in lower quality pieces that won’t hold up well over time. This means you’ll be replacing them more frequently (and spending more money), which continues the cycle of waste. , so you’ll have to replace them more frequently, which will cost you more money, time, and headaches in the long run, and once again contribute huge amounts of waste.
Additionally, when you’re able to have more control over where the materials are coming from, so you can source more sustainable, clean elements and healthy materials for your furniture. For example, many synthetic fabrics are laden with chemicals and toxins. Materials with an Oeko-Tex certification, on the contrary, are one of the world’s best-known labels for textiles tested for harmful substances so you can feel good about the materials you’re exposing to your family. Another great certification to look for when buying furniture or sourcing materials for your custom made piece is the Forest Stewardship Council’s FSC certification. Per their website, “this certification ensures that wood products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.”
Practice Mindful Purchasing and Consumption
East & Gray believes it is important to be mindful about where items are coming from. As noted above, big box stores churning out bulk, non-unique, lower quality items to meet furniture demand are often contributing to deforestation, especially throughout Central Africa. Simple, and often more rewarding, solutions to this issue are more available than you may think. Purchasing pieces from sustainable local or domestic businesses:
- Cuts down on the CO2 emissions resulting from shipping
- Supports local jobs and the community
- Supports fair wages and healthy working conditions
- Enables the consumer (you!) to know more about the story of the product
- Allows consumers to use their purchasing power to send a message about what is important to them—When enough people choose to support only businesses and companies that operate with sustainability in mind, other companies are incentivised to follow suit!
By being mindful of your purchasing power, you are helping to protect forests, biodiversity, and access to medicinal plants. Each purchase helps to support kind of world you want to live in. Purchasing sustainably casts a vote for people’s livelihoods and food sources, fair living wages, no child labor, and healthy working conditions. Not to mention a healthier living environment for you and your family by eliminating harmful chemicals that are living inside your furniture & fabrics. Many of these chemicals are known to cause a host of health issues from asthma, fertility issues, neurological deficits, developmental delays and cancer. You’ll feel happier in your home knowing that these decisions have contributed in a big way to both your own health, and being a good steward of the earth, helping to preserve it for future generations!