Sustainable Materials for Interior Design
As the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent and irreversible, we're seeing a strong push in every industry to find more sustainable ways of manufacturing and production. The interior design industry has taken note as well but how does it implement sustainability all across the board?
The most common method is by using sustainable materials. These are materials that can be produced in large numbers without becoming non-renewable. Another way sustainability can be seen is through the use of recycled materials to build home furniture, structural beams, and more.
One thing is clear, sustainability is not just a buzzword that’ll be forgotten in a few years. It is a permanent shift in attitude that all of us will have to adjust to. In this article, we’re going to help you get started on your journey to sustainable living by listing some of the most sustainable materials for interior design.
Importance of Sustainable Materials for Interior Design
Built to Last
The great thing about sustainable materials is that they are super durable and can last a long time. When they are used to build furniture, their durability is even more noticeable. This is because the companies that practice sustainability tend to hire higher-skilled labor to handle most of these expensive raw materials.
A big part of these companies’ sustainability mission is to reduce waste so you can rest assured that you will never face any planned obsolescence problems using their builds.
A Healthier Way to Live
During the 1950s, high-density polyethylene plastic bottles were invented and they completely changed the beverage industry. They were cheap, lightweight, and had great resistance to breakage. We still use them but we’ve also learned the harmful effects these bottles have on our health.
Similarly, unsustainable furniture is often built using harmful chemicals that don't just affect the environment but also our health. So this is yet another reason to pay attention to sustainable interior design.
Saves the Environment
Perhaps a no-brainer but sustainable materials are really good for the environment. After all, their main reason for existence is to counter the effects of climate change. If you think about it, there really is no point in having aesthetically pleasing furniture if the environment around you is filled with unbreathable toxins.
At the moment, there are a lot of essential things we use that quite negatively affect the environment such as air conditioner units and cars. Even though these are going to stay for a while, you can still play your part in the fight against climate change by at least using sustainable materials for interior design.
Are Sustainable Materials More Expensive?
The simple answer is yes but the long and more important answer is no. First, lets examine more closely the factors that make sustainable materials more expensive. Why They are More Expensive? ...Read on..
The Cost of Raw Materials is Higher
Since sustainable materials mostly come from nature, they are finite until they grow again. This is the reason why materials like hardwood flooring cost so much. As mentioned before, they also tend to be more durable so the cost goes up over there as well.
The concept of supply and demand makes its way almost everywhere. We can see this at play with sustainable materials versus unsustainable materials.
The idea of sustainability is certainly growing but unfortunately, a lot of people either don’t know about it or cannot fully afford such a lifestyle, or just don’t care.
Higher Manufacturing Cost
Every consumer good is made by someone or something. The manufacturing process we have today depends on machines to create these goods but it has been observed that buyers that prefer sustainable materials also tend to value high craftsmanship instead of mass-produced goods.
To get high craftsmanship, one needs skilled labor, such as woodworkers that create sustainable wood furniture. And so, this is another factor that increases the expense.
Why They Actually Save Money - Buy Nice or Buy Thrice
Buying sustainable materials is very much like buying an expensive laptop. Sure, the upfront cost may seem much higher than other options available in the market but you are investing in something that is going to last you two to three times more than the lifespan of the cheaper options.
Flooring materials like reclaimed hardwood flooring surely may scratch more easily than luxury vinyl plank but hardwood flooring can be refinished indefinitely, making it a perfect item for sustainable interior design.
What Materials are Not Sustainable?
Before we explore the best sustainable materials for interior design, lets look at the ones that are considered the worst.
Steel plays an incredibly important part in our lives. Its used in buildings to provide structural support, its used in appliances to add durability, and its also used extensively in the automotive industry to build parts.
This is all because steel provides great durability at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, steel production is considered the third-largest contributor to air pollution in the world. It contributes to 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions and its mining produces toxic gasses like nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide.
Vinyl has come a long way since its inception in the world of interior design. These days, the most popular type of vinyl used is luxury vinyl. And although it is much more environmentally friendly than regular vinyl, it is still made from crude oil, which is non-renewable.
This material is also hardly ever recycled. Not because its impossible to recycle it, its just that it is expensive and difficult to carry out, so there tends to be less incentive for big businesses to play their part in recycling vinyl products. If sustainable interior design is important to you, try your best to avoid at least the regular type of vinyl.
Great Sustainable Materials for Interior Design
Bamboo is a type of grass plant that is native to moist tropical climates. Not enough good things can be said about this sustainable material. It is 100% renewable and when harvested, it can regrow without the help of being replanted. Bamboo also grows at an incredible rate and thats why fertilizers are rarely used during its growth cycle.
If you’re looking for a material that imitates the look of natural wood furniture, bamboo is great for that. Not only can it be used for light fixtures, but it is also a trendy flooring option.
The only disadvantage of bamboo as a material is that it absorbs water quite easily due to grasss porous nature. So, its best to avoid using it in moisture-prone areas like bathrooms.
lets say you are not interested in imitating the look of natural wood furniture, instead, you want the real thing. By all means, go ahead and purchase some wood but take it one step ahead and try reclaimed wood.
Reclaimed wood is more durable than any other type of wood, and as an added bonus, it also looks absolutely gorgeous due to its unique veining. This type of wood often comes from old workshops and warehouses that have been demolished.
The most prized type of reclaimed wood is “old-growth wood” which is reclaimed from trees that lived for more than 100 years. It is a great material for tables and support beams with the only downside being how expensive it is compared to newer varieties of wood.
If you want to create a vibe of rustic refinement, you can’t go wrong with reclaimed wood.
There are high chances you’re already using natural stones in your home without actually realizing that its really good for the environment. And thats all thanks to how beautiful this material looks wherever its used in the house. We’re slightly partial to using it as a countertop material though.
Natural stones, as the name suggests, come straight from Mother Earth. Some of the most common ones that you may know are marble, granite, and quartzite.
Overall, this is a versatile material but we would suggest learning more about different types of stones because certain stones like marble are soft and can break easily if placed in harsh environments.
Plastic is not a healthy material per se but a big part of living sustainably is repurposing whatever material you have at your hand. With material like plastic, it is so important to practice closed loop recycling because, on its own, it can take anywhere between 100 to 500 years to decompose.
Closed loop recycling refers to the process of turning an existing material into a new product without changing its structural properties. Essentially, you can recycle whatever plastic item you own into something new like a recycled plastic chair.
This type of furniture looks great for the patio. It may not always pair perfectly with the other high-end furniture that you own, so you’ll have to get a bit creative in finding the right balance between the two if you want to create an urban farmhouse aesthetic.
If you are looking at your surroundings and seeing some really unsustainable home furniture around you and secretly wishing to just replace it all, take a moment to remember that sustainability also means extending the life of things you already own. We encourage you to make the best out of what you own and only then make a decision on buying whatever else you need. Using this guide, you can now ensure all your future purchases will be in line with sustainable practices.