Green living isn’t just something to aspire to, it’s something you can start doing right now. Maybe you already reduce your waste through reusing and recycling, perhaps you consciously walk to work and shop locally at the market – all suggestions that you can find in our Guide to Living Green in the City.
That said, you shouldn’t forget about the impact that environmentally responsible choices can make in your home. Take the living room, for instance. It’s your sanctuary, where you come home to relax after a hard day’s work, and where it’s worth investing your time and energy to create an eco-friendly environment that feeds your soul. Here are some ideas to inspire you to go green in the heart of your home.
No more chemical detergents
You will be surprised by the amount of chemicals present in commercial household cleaning products. From laundry detergents to washing-up liquid, furniture polish to toilet cleaner, many products can irritate eyes and throats, cause headaches and lead to potentially serious health problems. Harmful products include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ammonia and bleach, and even natural fragrances such as citrus can react to produce dangerous indoor pollutants. What’s more, no matter how much you rinse, all those toxins end up in the ground, contaminating water sources and harming the wider environment too.
What’s the alternative? Instead of using industrial cleaners, try making your own household cleaning solutions that will be 100% natural and biodegradable. You’ll save a ton of money too. Here are 10 non-toxic home cleaning recipes that you can make yourself using nothing more sinister than baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and essential oils.
Clean, green heating
Are you using fossil fuels or green energy to heat your home? According to the experts, “combining the latest renewable technologies – solar PV, ground and air source heat, biomass and underfloor heating – can provide bigger efficiencies and cost savings” (Geo Green Power), which is good for you personally and the planet as a whole.
Of course, the principle of sustainable electricity generation applies to the whole house, not just one room. From solar panels on the roof to going green with electric fireplaces in your living room, it’s worth investigating all the available renewable energy sources, and choose your preferred option that fits with your budget. Think long-term – once the investment has paid for itself, you basically have free, green power.
Avoid buying brand new furniture
You probably have no idea that as much as 46% of trees have been felled since humans started cutting down forests. Somewhere between 3-6 billion trees are lost every year, a large proportion of which is used to feed the never ending demand for paper products and furniture. From your sofa and book cases to your dining table and chairs, these items leave a huge carbon footprint when manufactured.
You can do your bit to stop fuelling the logging industry by reducing your consumption of furniture. Maybe you could delay replacing items with the latest upgrades and repair or upcycle existing timber based pieces instead. Or you could choose preloved vintage furniture that perhaps has more personality and is easier on the wallet too. And if you must buy new, make sure you choose FSC accredited products that use timber from sustainably managed forests.
Look for natural, sustainable fabrics
You may be familiar with slow fashion (as opposed to ‘fast fashion’), a movement that advocates making your clothes last longer in an effort to reduce global pollution caused by the fashion industry, a major offender. The same principle should apply to all textiles and fabrics in the home such as your living room curtains, carpets, cushions and other soft furnishings. What’s more, many manufacturing processes involve the heavy use of chemicals and use synthetic materials that are not environmentally friendly.
Choose natural materials such as cotton, wool, linen, silk or hemp that are sustainably grown, naturally repellent to mould and dirt and biodegradable. Opt for organically grown fibres wherever possible. Although they may be more expensive to buy, you can be sure that no pesticides or other chemicals have been involved in the production process.
Bringing the outdoors in
Introducing living natural elements into your home not only detoxifies indoor air, but biophilia is a huge interiors trend this year. The term was popularised in the 1980s by American biologist Edward O. Wilson who observed how increasing urbanisation led to an ever greater disconnect with the natural world.
The answer is to bring elements of the natural world into everyday environments to create calm, productive environments that improve your wellbeing. You could place some houseplants in pots and create an oasis coupled with a small fountain. You could plant up a living wall for decorative impact, and use natural fabrics and textures to further strengthen the green connection. You could even grow your own herbs and vegetables indoors.