Sustainability

This is the buzz word of the moment and has never been as important as it is now.  But how does this apply to interior design and should clients and designers be that bothered by it?!  Of course, we all know the answer to that already, but can we really make a difference and how do we even start?

When you consider that designers go from house to house regularly refreshing, renewing and redesigning houses, the potential for waste is astronomical.  Twenty years ago, even as recent as 10 years ago, we wouldn’t have thought twice about ripping out a fairly decent kitchen which has years left in it, throwing it on the skip, and never looking back.  However, today with all that we know about our planet, the limited resources that she has to offer, and the fact that our society is just about fed up with the ‘throw away’ attitude of the past, we can no longer carry on as we have done.  Time for change is right here, right now.

Sustainability in interiors is not about never throwing anything away or never updating your interiors, it is about minimising your impact on the planet as you do this.  Sustainability is about finding a way for life to go on but in a more planet-friendly way, and having the awareness to make informed choices about the products and finishes we choose.  Once your eyes have been opened to the problem and you are given options, why would you not choose the more eco-friendly one?

Scenario:  I remember when one of my clients was all set to throw away her old kitchen to make way for the new one.  I gently reminded her that even though it was no longer for her, someone else would be so glad of it.  I informed her of the various companies who would happily take it and re-sell to someone that would love it and she was delighted.  With just a little thought it was a win-win!  

How else can we make better choices when looking at finishes for our interiors?  When sourcing for interiors right at the top of my agenda is not only to find materials and finishes my clients will love but that they are as sustainable as possible.  I tend to favour suppliers and makers who have a considered sustainability policy: it may be that their mission is to minimise waste; it could be that they have a plan to remove plastics from their organisation so that they are 100% recyclable; some suppliers I use are small businesses using traditional crafts that entail using less energy, vegetable dyes and low or no-chemical processes.  I try to choose timber products from FSC certified sources; British-made products are preferred but often, if not, I try to ensure that they are fairtrade or ethically produced.  

Most importantly in our fight for sustainability, is to train our mindsets to buy better quality so it will last longer!  In luxury interiors this is something that all designers are familiar with but the old adage is so true – you get what you pay for.  If you want something to last you years then, yes, you will need to pay a little more for it, but the planet is worth it, isn’t she?  Instead of stretching your budget so thinly that you have to make compromises on the quality of the products that you buy, make the compromise about the number of items that you buy.  That conscious decision to do just this will mean you will be safe in the knowledge that those items will last you so much longer, have been ethically sourced, and are all the more beautiful for it!  Buy the rest later on down the line, when the funds dictate.  Buy right, buy once!

A great resource for further information is my favourite directory on the subject in Kate Watson-Smyth’s award-winning website: https://www.madaboutthehouse.com/do-less-harm/