Do interior designers have a responsibility to create environmentally-friendly designs? Fast-furniture and flat-pack furniture companies have become ever more popular as the home decor market flourishes. More people consider home goods disposable rather than a lifetime investment.
This means that almost 10 MILLION TONS of furniture go into landfills yearly.
And that number doesn’t include construction waste and carpeting.
So, do we have a responsibility to the earth to curtail this?
I believe so. But it’s not so easy because often there isn’t a black and white, good or bad solution. Take for example - vegan leather. Many are terrible for the environment because of the materials used and way they are manufactured, but they are good for animals and often the raising of these animals is hard on the environment. So what’s best?
I believe that you should let your values lead you and do your best.
For me, that would be having a conversation with my client about the level of quality that I purchase - not buying cheap, disposable furniture. Not buying super trendy furniture. There are places I don’t shop, I’ve turned down projects because I couldn’t provide a level of sustainability - which is often linked to quality.
It's important to educate yourself the impact your purchases make on others - whether that be the environment, people, and animals. For example, LEED, while a great idea, is often just another badge to slap on a building that ultimately may not mean much. Or that vegan leather example I mentioned above.
How much of sustainability is our responsibility?
I’ve written this post to get you thinking about your role in interior design and the environment. Do you recycle, use reusable bags, drive a hybrid, drink from steel straws, not purchase bottled water? These are small things you can do in your own home, but what about the homes of your clients?
What Can You Do?
This is a great place to specialize. In-depth knowledge about healthy products - both clean in the home and clean in manufacturing is something that people will likely seek out.
At minimum you can include questions on your on-boarding questionnaire about the client’s desired environmental impact. Often making them aware of the “better” options and the terrible waste the furniture industry creates will encourage better choices.
Simply focusing on longer lasting and longer wearing products will make an impact. All those antiques that no one is buying anymore are cheaper than ever - and generally better for the environment. Plus they’ve stood the test of time. Focus on trendless and fadless designs so that it doesn’t need to be redone in a couple years.