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Top Tips! Eco-Friendly Home Decorating

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Greening your home decor is easier than you might think, and not only will it reduce your carbon footprint, it could save you a heap of cash.
Jane Drew reports
PHOTOS COURTESY OF Pexels

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” So said William Morris at a lecture before the Birmingham Society of Arts and School of Design in 1880.

It’s still a good maxim to live (and decorate) by but for the contemporary home decorator there’s something missing – there’s no reference to our desire to live in an environmentally conscious way. If Morris were lecturing in Birmingham this month, he would probably say: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be both eco-friendly and useful, or believe to be beautiful.

So how do you go about creating an environmentally aware home filled with useful and beautiful eco-friendly pieces?

REDUCE YOUR SPENDING

Tip one: shop less. Eco-friendly decorators aren’t blind followers of home fashion, nor do they shop for recreation. They might donate or sell items that aren’t ‘useful’ or that they no longer consider ‘beautiful’ but they won’t replace furnishings for the sake of it, and they’re unlikely to remodel their homes every couple of years to keep up with the Joneses.

Eco-friendly decorating isn’t about constantly buying new or more; it’s about breathing new life into old pieces and reworking what you already own.

UPCYCLE AND REPURPOSE

The simplest and easiest way to green your home is to bring a few plants inside. In addition to improving the air quality, indoor plants are also a great way to brighten up an otherwise dull corner.

If your home decor is looking tired, simply painting the walls can make all the difference. Choose eco-friendly paints that are free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can be harmful to both your family and the environment. Another quick fix? Move the furniture around, refresh photo frames and rearrange your artwork.

It may take a bit of work but DIY-ing your old stuff into new stuff is more satisfying than buying new. By switching up the upholstery on a faded sofa, you can reinvent a room. You can also restain or repaint wooden pieces to give them a fresh new look and cover any visible signs of wear and tear. If your creative side refuses to come out, hire someone else to do the job. Upcycling is much cheaper than buying new, and the upcycled pieces will still feel new to you.

Finding new uses f or old objects is another fun way to green your home. Turning a piano into a bookshelf or a phone booth into a couch is too much to ask of most of us, but a simple project like using an old trunk as a coffee table, or a vase as a cutlery jar can be an interesting, eco-boosting exercise.

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TURN ON TO VINTAGE

There are times, of course, when you really need a ‘new’ piece of furniture, and your most eco-aware option is to buy vintage. Investing in sturdy, timeless designs will ensure that your home decor never goes out of style and, if the vintage item you find has stood the test of time thus far, it’s likely to serve you well long into the future.

Assuming you want to shop locally, 2nd Chance in Mui Wo is a good first port of call for pre-loved furnishings of all kinds. The store stocks an impressive selection of second-hand furniture and home accessories. And if you’re after a vintage-look Chinese piece, head to one of the warehouses in Ap Lei Chau, where many of the wedding cabinets and so-called Ming chairs have been put together using wood salvaged from genuine antiques.

If you can’t find anything to your taste locally, eBay is a great place to explore the vintage vibe though you’ll need to watch your carbon footprint.

THINK SUSTAINABLE

If vintage really isn’t your thing, you’ll likely have to pay a bit more for contemporary pieces that are genuinely eco-friendly. Look to brands that are focused on ethical labour standards and fair trade; firms that give back to the artisans and communities who make their pieces and are passionate about cutting-edge design.

Most importantly, choose pieces that are made from sustainable materials – anything from fast-growing bamboo to naturally replenishing cork. Recycled plastic, glass or aluminium can also be classed as sustainable in this context, since we are unlikely ever to run out of them. There are so many sustainable materials available, and in the hands of the right designer, they are varied enough in colour, texture and purpose to outfit an entire home.

For textiles, think wool, linen, organic cotton and hemp; for rugs, sisal, seagrass, coir, jute, wool and bamboo. Wood is your friend, as long as its Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified or reclaimed, as is natural stone. Of course, all-natural marble or travertine tiles come with a hefty price tag but it works out cheaper to splurge on a quality sustainably sourced material that will last a lifetime, than to pay peanuts for something that you will need to replace in a year or two.

DONATE WHAT YOU DON’T NEED

When refreshing your decor, it’s likely that you’ll need to get rid of a few pieces, and these you can choose to donate or sell rather than trash. Even if you don’t make any money, the item has transferred its value to someone else (and more importantly, hasn’t ended up in a landfill). Don’t assume that just because it is used or old or no longer to your taste no one will want it.
Buying, selling, and trading locally helps everyone involved without harming the environment, and there are plenty of ways to do this within DB. You can place small household items, toys and clothes in the Environmental Toy Houses located at Brilliance Court, La Costa and Midvale Village. The items donated are collected by local social enterprise DB Mothers & Friends, which redistributes them to people in need. DB Mothers & Friends (find them on Facebook) also arranges door-to-door collections of larger household items for a small fee, with the next round of pick-ups scheduled for May 10.

Alternatively, there are lots of DB-based Facebook groups for buying, selling and swapping items, as well as ‘swapping corners’ in many of the villages. Your unwanted armchair or bookcase may be just what someone else needs to complete their functional, beautiful and eco-friendly home decor.

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