Exciting and aesthetic ways to protect the environment
PUBLISHED: 10:39 13 June 2017 | UPDATED: 10:39 13 June 2017
Jon Day Photography
Recycling, washing at lower temperatures and turning off the TV standby are standard approaches to eco-living, but there are much more exciting and aesthetic ways to protect the environment, says Carol Burns
Saving the environment one lightbulb at a time is all very worthy, even investing in solar panels, a wind turbine, or overhauling your home to create a carbon-neutral dwelling can be exciting projects. But they are not very pretty.
Enter the growing range of lovely homewares and furniture that boast impressive eco-credentials. You’ll want them even if you fall into the President Trump club of environmental deniers. Of course, for many the combination of environment and our own self-interest (whether cutting energy bills or for health) has some impact on our choices. So here’s a few ideas for overhauling your home eco-style.
Getting a new kitchen?
Consider recycling your old one into an outdoor kitchen. Specialist paints will help increase its longevity in the elements, your barbecues are sure to be a success and you get a chance to show-off your Mediterranean outdoor living style.
I’ve just rediscovered my love of the rag rug – remember those marvellously cheap and very environmentally friendly floor fillers of your youth that covered up bare, cold floors – or even worse the hideous patterned carpets beloved of landlords. There’s also patchwork quilts, vintage lighting and rubber tyres reimagined as coasters, mouse mats and more. And buying recycled glass goes without saying…
Turn your old bath into a vegetable garden – but remember to take out the plug to ensure drainage. Using your toilet in the same way may be a recycling step too far.
We all know you are meant to change your mattress every ten years for good sleep – but regular swapping of mattresses is not necessarily good for all. Fire retardant chemicals used in mattresses are toxic
and a danger to human health, wildlife and the environment. Used in furniture, sofa and mattress manufacture, they are applied as a spray or liquid which dries out, turns into powder and becomes airborne. When burnt the chemical emissions are highly toxic and cancerous. But there are some great eco-alternatives. Natural Mat (naturalmat.co.uk) is a south west bedmaker now being sold in Harrods, among other places. Introducing coir, a natural fibre harvested from the husks of ripe coconuts and used to make healthy mattresses (as well as flooring and brushes). Cambridge Natural Mattress use Cottonsafe®. They are all handmade and contain hand-teased wool, silk, horse-hair and even boast wooden springs. The good news is there are no chemicals, no foams, no glues or adhesives.
The best way to create eco-friendly interiors is to buy local. Switch off the computer, empty your shopping cart and head into the outside world and rediscover the art of shopping in the high street and discover the boutiques selling upcycled and antique furniture which have cropped up in recent years. If upcycling isn’t your thing, you can still do your bit by buying from local makers where furniture doesn’t have to be shipped from the other side of the world.
Take all those food packages, boxes and bags from your shopping list and add some of your favourite storage boxes and tins instead. Tuckboxes and drinks canisters can be reused endlessly; store your dry goods, spices and herbs in glass jars and bottles with luggage labels to identify the contents. If that’s too upcycled for your tastes browse all those lovely designer storage solutions – after all who doesn’t like Orla Kiely?
Paint your way
The ultimate in eco-living is the make-do-and-mend mentality beloved of our war-rationing remembering grandmothers. But this is an interiors feature so by definition we want to make some aesthetic choices rather than rely simply on seen-their-best-days hand-me-downs.
But there is a happy medium in upcycling. For less than the bus fare to one of those furniture showrooms stocking mass-produced furniture, you can create something unique and beautiful by adding a lick of paint.
Upcycling is something we have grown familiar with and has caused much rootling about in attics looking for old wooden furniture in need of a little loving and a slap of paint over its battered dark varnish.
Enter the genius of chalk paint. This stuff is ideal for those of us who long for some vintage-style furniture but lack the elbow grease for stripping and sanding (and stripping some more) to create the right surface for painting.
Instead try your hand at this lovely matt chalk paint by legendary Annie Sloan – this stuff has been around for 25 years and is a well-established secret of those lovely vintage shops selling upcycled furniture in hazy blues, greens and whites.
Just beware – you may find yourself wandering paint brush in hand looking for things to paint – even family members may be at risk if they sit still for long enough.