Sustainable Interiors: we find out why it's time to slow down with our furniture consumption.
We're all familiar with sustainable fashion - the movement of buying ethically produced garments for their quality and longevity. And now this same ideology, that favours quality over quantity, has made its way into our homes. Sustainable interiors, as the name suggests, is a way of decorating your home with items that will last, whilst creating minimal impact on the planet. It opposes trend-led pieces that have been dubbed 'fast furnishings'. Elinor Pitt, interior designer and co-founder of Stitched (stitched.co.uk), explains more: "Fast furnishing is a product of today's trendy, throw-away attitude. Products are made to be cheap, used for a year or two and thrown away when the fashion changes. This leads to large amounts of waste, huge energy consumption and unfair labour practices. The antidote is high quality, timeless pieces that people love for many years."
The North London Waste Authority (NLWA, nlwa.gov.uk) state that 22 million pieces of furniture are thrown out every year in the UK. And, further to this, fewer than one in 10 people attempt to repair their broken or damaged furniture. The solution clearly lies in changing our attitudes towards interiors. Elinor believes the reason we are so flippant towards our interiors is because of the low price of some fast furnishings. "You can easily buy very low price point products under the assumption that as soon as it goes out of style you will replace it," she says. "We want to encourage people to be thoughtful and buy pieces for life." In Elinor's opinion, the key to valuing and loving your homewares is to spend more time deciding on pieces that will fit the room, based on constants, such as the amount of light the room gets. "Instead of buying to complement pieces that might change - for instance, a rug which only has a couple of years left in it - invest in colours or designs that are 'you', rather than in trend at that specific time."
Next to tackle is the materials which make up your furniture. "Read about where materials are sourced," recommends Emma Vincent, co-founder of Vincent Trading (vincenttrading.co.uk). For example, if it's wood, make sure it's from FSC certified woodland or reclaimed. There are lots of recycled textiles on the market from small companies, alongside other recycled plastic and glass products. We love anything made from natural materials."
And the big question - should plastic be completely avoided? No necessarily, says Emma. "It's single-use plastic or items that you don't plan on keeping for any period of time that are the issue. There are lots of plastic items, such as incredible rugs or blankets which can create beautiful long-term additions to your home. Plastic items which have huge air miles attached to them, bought from America or flown over from far away countries where they are mass made, are what should really be avoided."