With the global demand continuously increasing and resource depletion on the rise a pressing concern, the entire world is turning towards and developing a penchant for green eco tips and sustainable living; be it reducing the use of plastics, using paper only when an utmost necessity, recycling/upcycling, conserving energy and water, reducing electricity usage or installing solar panels. Like all industries, Interior Designing has also made prominent strides towards going green (plants, green walls/roofs, local sourcing and the likes of transparent solar panels and bio/solar wallpapers becoming the wave of the future ) . The good news is, that terms such as eco/environmentally friendly no longer signal towards the ‘meh’ and boring interior choices having little or zero aesthetic appeal!
- Biodegradable fabric
- Linoleum Flooring
- Bio Ethanol Fireplaces
- Energy Efficient Lighting
- Low/Zero VOC Paints
Reportedly produced by the Swiss Firm Rohner , the team decided to design (compostable material) a fabric that would be safe enough to eat! Not only has it led to reduction in waste disposal costs for the company, but has also provided the opportunity to sell the scrap of the all-natural product (in the form of felt-like material) to local farmers/gardeners – to be used as Mulch or Ground-cover. What’s more? Regulators reputedly claim that the water discharged in the aftermath of the factory operations is as clean (or even cleaner!) than the local drinking water supply 😯 ❗ Currently, it’s being used extensively for office furniture but hey! I am sure it will be on top of the list for my upcoming home renovation projects!
Green is the new black!
Even though wood (reported to be one of the most trending materials of the year by HouseBeautiful) might not sound like a very sustainable choice upon first use due to the need to cut trees, it does have many eco-benefits such as physical/mental health improvement and heat retention (conserving energy!). Sources such as mangowood and Bamboo should be preferred – compared to 10-20 years required to harvest most soft-woods, bamboo can be typically harvested in 3-5 years – and hence the adaptability. Similarly, mango trees are also known to be amongst the ‘faster growing’ sources of hard wood. Some manufacturers are now providing completely non-toxic, formaldehyde free and zero VOC bamboo flooring.
Reclaimed/repurposed wood is an even more environmentally green option to go with – with this comes reduced carbon footprint and a reduction in the frequency of the need to cut down trees (making wood all the more ‘renewable’); preventing depletion and in turn allowing them to become stronger and more lasting when the time actually comes to do so. Sources include scrapped furniture items possibly from junkyards (flea markets are always a charming experience too, almost to the extent of being adventurous!), boats, sheds, barns etcetera.
Natural Stone walls and flooring are also a great alternative! Reclaimed materials most certainly extend far and wide to include the likes of concrete blocks as well; At the Index Trade exhibition held this year (UAE) Mr Duncan Denley, (Managing Director desert INK – specializing in landscape solutions for a variety of sectors including residential, hospitality, leisure, and institutional) explained how “sustainability today is about being local” and that their efforts are always directed towards sourcing local materials. He further elucidated upon the choice of ‘left-over’ concrete blocks for construction material and how their recently completed project, THE BLOCK which is a park in the Dubai Design District, made use of 800 30-ton concrete blocks (left over from canal construction) for the design along with recycled materials – featuring a multitude of play areas, an outdoor gym, sports facilities as well as food outlets (For more details and source citing information, please revert to the ‘design talks’ section of my blog post: https://designloungebyanabia.com/2018/04/21/design-for-the-expression/#more-442)
Other eco-friendly flooring options also include (but are not limited to) re-purposed leather, recycled glass tiles or bioglass most of which is post-consumer recycled glass ( uber chic floors, as well as bathrooms and kitchen walls) and rubber flooring (often from tyres).
Undoubtedly amongst my most preferred eco-conscious choice of materials, cork is gaining prominence by the day due its multitudinous advantages. Besides its warmth inducing texture and the natural anti-fatigue and antimicrobial properties (reduces allergens and naturally repels insects), it is known to be a fire-retardant as well. High density cork (known as thermacork) has the ability to provide thermal and acoustic insulation as well. Since it utilizes recycled cork waste along with being harvested as bark directly from living trees – where the bark is known to grow back almost every three years, the extraction process (of this both biodegradable and renewable choice of material) itself does not harm our natural environment and ecosystem. Interestingly, a major cork manufacturer Amorim just recently developed a method of binding cork together without using any urethanes or formaldehydes. Intuitively you might be thinking cork must be so flimsy to walk on! or perhaps like walking on a bunch of cork stoppers?!!! On the contrary, cork floorings and walls have proven to be extremely durable and comfortable to walk on – moisture, mould and rot resistant; and also abrasion resistant (much more than the average carpet!) often lasting thirty to fifty-odd years; icing on the cake – they are available in various different finishes such as ‘sealed white cork floor tiles‘ and the ‘hardwood grain look’ – see pictures above. I however think that the look of natural cork is in no way less appealing and adds that perfect flair to bring in the raw beauty of forests into the premises and breathe new life into your interiors.
Linoleum is another great eco-friendly option for flooring. A concoction manufactured using only natural materials including solidified linseed oil – linoxyn, pine rosin, ground cork dust, wood flour as well as mineral fillers (like calcium carbonate). Just like cork it is considered to be a highly durable option capable of supporting heavy traffic and known to last pretty long. A word of caution, like cork it is also water/moisture resistant but not water-proof, hence making it unsuitable for kitchens and basements. Also, it is important not to confuse linoleum with vinyl flooring which is completely synthetic and employs many harmful petrochemicals while being manufactured.
Popularly known to be a non-toxic, water soluble and biodegradable fuel, bio ethanol is most definitely a more environmentally friendly alternative to gasoline, where the former is known to release much less carbon-dioxide into the air. It is most often derived from different forms of grain including, corn, sugarcane, wheat, barley and potatoes.
Having replaced incandescent bulbs (and even fluorescent bulbs in many instances), the extremely versatile LED lighting has become a leading option for many interior designers. Despite being pricier they are currently known to be the only energy-efficient lighting option, not relying on mercury vapour and lasting almost four times as long as their counterparts such as compact fluorescent lighting – and……!!!, they stay cool to touch as well! Coupled with many innovative ideas such as natural salt crystals they have the capacity to contribute to breathtaking ambiences for luxury design schemes as well.
As we know, many paints, products and materials (glues, furniture, carpets, polishes) contain high levels of VOC’s, namely ‘Volatile Organic Compounds’ which when released into the air put the inhabitants at risk of various health problems. Consequently various companies and brands have come up with eco-friendly products to avoid the same.
Milk paints (No VOC) and Chalk paints (Low VOC) are both considered to be environmentally green options. One of the most renowned names is Annie Sloan who started the modern creation of chalk paints in the late twentieth century. Her products are available worldwide and even sell online. Farrow and Ball has also started its range of water-based paints which they claim are environmentally benign. Other options include US based Sherwin Williams and their zero-VOC formula going by the name of Interior Acrylic Latex; Bejamin Moore also has its line of Aura Interior Paint ranging from low to zero VOC’s. In the UAE, Jotun offers a variety of environmentally friendly and low VOC options. Low VOC finishes are now also available as floor stains and sealers for wood floorings. Click here for additional information on low/zero VOC paint manufacturers.