How to Create a Sustainable Home One Room at a Time
It’s April. Which means it’s nearly Earth Day again. Except, this year we’d hardly notice because we have so much else going on. Social distancing. Self-isolating. Trying to keep our spirits high during a time filled with so much uncertainty.
But there are some positives that have come from this unprecedented time. You might have seen the satellite photos displaying how the COVID-19-led lockdowns across the world have lowered global emissions and giving Mother Nature a well-earned rest. What better way to celebrate Earth Day later this month?
And, while we spend more time at home than ever before, we find ourselves finding time to focus on things we rarely have time for. Our physical and mental wellbeing. Creative hobbies and outlets. Spending time with loved ones we live with, albeit at a distance.
Another thing we might find we have extra time for at home is catching up with some bits around the home we’ve put off. And, seeing as it’s Earth Day later this month, what better time to figure out how to create a sustainable home one room at a time?
Sarah Pelham, the Beauty & Wellness Expert for Bookwell, offers some of these handy tips which we hope help to take your mind off the never-ending stream of news right now. Over to you, Sarah.
Make your home eco-friendly
Sustainable living is something that’s becoming more and more important to a lot of us, and we might have already started to make simple lifestyle changes such as walking more rather than using the car, or taking our own reusable shopping bags with us when we head out. And that’s great! But it’s time we all went a little bit further; it’s time we start shifting from a sustainable lifestyle to a sustainable house.
Eco homes can massively minimize our impact on the environment. And don’t worry – creating eco-friendly homes isn’t quite as daunting as it sounds! There are lots of ‘basic’ changes you can make instantly, such as swapping out incandescent bulbs for LED lighting or getting a recycling bin, for example. But if you’re keen to delve into the world of eco-homes, even more, there are lots more ways that you can make a difference, making positive changes around your home, one room at a time.
Here’s a bit of room-by-room inspiration to get you started:
National Geographic estimates that 91% of plastic isn’t recycled. This is why to have a truly sustainable bathroom, it’s best to try and avoid products that are made of, or are packaged in, plastic. Here are some great plastic-free bathroom alternatives to get you started.
With bathrooms often being warm and steamy from a hot bath or shower, they’re the perfect environment for germs to thrive. Cleaning a bathroom is never a pleasant job, and many of us automatically choose the strongest cleaning solutions to make sure we kill any nasties lying around. Unfortunately, these chemical-filled cleaners get flushed away, filtered, and are back in the water supply… even if some chemicals still remain.
Instead, try to use natural cleaning products. You can even make some yourself using white vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda.
One of the best ways to get the ball rolling on an eco kitchen is to invest. Invest in high-quality cookware and durable plates and bowls, rather than always selecting the cheapest options. Why? Because investing in quality means investing in sustainability.
High-quality cookware and dishes are more likely to withstand frequent use and washing, and less likely to deteriorate or break from everyday use. Cookware that lasts for years can significantly reduce demand for manufacturing, and all the byproducts of manufacturing such as energy, water, and fuel.
If you’re not quite a dab hand in the kitchen, you may want to look away now. Believe it or not, cooking at home is actually one of the best ways to create a sustainable kitchen! Pre-packaged ready meals have probably done more traveling than you and me combined. Each step of the process will usually be handled at a different facility, really clocking up those food miles.
Cooking from scratch not only means you can reduce your carbon footprint, but you can also be sure that the ingredients have been sourced sustainably. Don’t forget to use green kitchen appliances, too.
Could your bedroom do with a lick of paint? If you’re redecorating, try to use eco-friendly paint that’s much better for the environment (and for your own health, too!). Look for ‘low VOC’ or ‘zero VOC’ paints, which have fewer volatile organic compounds that can be released into the air.
Low VOC paints typically have less than 50g per liter, while zero VOC paints have less than 5g per liter. It’s always best to check the labels to know for sure, but as a general rule of thumb, flat latex paints that are light in color usually have lower VOCs than glossy, oil-based paints.
If you’ve chosen cotton sheets for your bedroom, good for you. You probably know that cotton is a pretty good choice for a sustainable bedroom. But it’s not the best choice. The problem with cotton is that fertilizers and pesticides are often used in farming processes, which aren’t great for the planet.
If you’re looking to make a quick and simple swap, switch to organic bamboo sheets, which look and feel really similar. Bamboo holds the world record for the fastest-growing plant at a rate of 91cm per day, so there’s always a constant, renewable source. Here are some more benefits of bamboo.
Think the perfect couch doesn’t exist? Think again. Steve Jobs’ wife Laurene Powell once said that it took the Apple Co-Founder eight years to decide on a couch, but we think it’s much easier to find the right one… especially if you look at sustainable options.
A sustainable couch really can be whatever you make it. You could choose second-hand furniture, with absolutely no new resources used, or you could buy new ones. When buying new, look for couches made using sustainable wood (with FSC or AFS certification), or try to buy from a local manufacturer.
Need new furniture for your living room? Here’s a bit of a crazy idea, but it’s one that could help you create a unique space and the sustainable living room of your dreams. Instead of buying new, how about trying to build new furniture from items already in your home? This is also ideal now it’s hard to get out much!
For example, you could create a side table by stacking books, or a box shelf from an old desk drawer. Upcycling is a fantastic way to minimize the amount we send to landfill and create one-of-a-kind spaces. And best of all, you’ll be reducing the piles of clutter that you just don’t know what to do with!
There’s no rush
The thought of what could happen if we all carry on as we are is terrifying, but the truth is that the world isn’t going to implode tomorrow. Don’t try and implement all these changes at once, or you may end up feeling overwhelmed and wanting to give up. And that’s not doing the planet any good!
Instead, approach sustainable living from a ‘one room at a time’ perspective. By working in bite-sized, manageable chunks, you’ll soon find that you’ve created an eco-home that really makes a difference. And right now, this could be time well-spent indeed.
Sarah Pelham is the Beauty & Wellness Expert for Bookwell.com.au, an online platform for instant bookings for hair, nails, beauty & massage appointments. For nearly four years Sarah has worked closely with hundreds of salon owners within the beauty and wellness industries. She has her finger on the pulse of new trends in this growing market.
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What is Organic Cotton?
By: Heather Bien We’re all trying to be better stewards of Mother Earth. From recycling to upcycling and eating conscientiously to dressing mindfully, our choices affect the planet. So choosing organic cotton clothing seems like an easy decision, right? Not so fast! As with all sustainable choices, it’s important to take a moment to learn a bit more about why organic cotton might win over conventional cotton—and what makes these two materials different in the first place. Read on if you’re interested in learning about organic cotton and whether it’s the best choice for you and the environment. Conventional cotton Before we get into debating modern cotton farming techniques, let’s get familiar with the plant we’re talking about: cotton. It’s soft, durable, and probably on your body right now. But what else do you really know about cotton? Here are the basics: Cotton comes from the cotton plant – The cotton plant is a warm-season woody perennial shrub from the genus Gossypium and the family Malvaceae. Cotton fabric is made from the plant’s fibrous seed-hair (which is also called a cotton boll). Cotton is one of the top agricultural crops – Traditional cotton is the most widespread and profitable non-food crop in the world. Although the plant is capable of growing in any warm-weather climate, India and China are now the top producers of cotton globally. Cotton is thirsty – A normal cotton plant requires 10 gallons of water to reach peak potential. That doesn’t sound so bad, but multiplying it outward, that means it takes about 5,000 gallons of water to produce just 2.2 pounds of cotton fabric. Pests think it’s delicious – Not only is cotton thirsty, but it’s prone to pest infestations from bollworms, weevils, aphids, stink bugs, thrips, and spider mites. In order to combat these common pests, conventional cotton is routinely sprayed with a veritable salad-dressing of pesticides, many of which can remain in the soil and water supply for years afterward. Cotton harvesting requires defoliation – In order to quickly and efficiently harvest cotton, many commercial growers use chemical defoliants to strip the leaves from the cotton plant prior to harvesting the bolls. Like pesticides, these chemicals remain in the environment and on the cotton itself. Is organic cotton better? All of those cotton factoids point pretty compellingly to buying and wearing organic cotton fabric. But first, it’s important to understand what sets this organic alternative apart. Why exactly is “organic” cotton anyway? You might associate the word organic with your healthy fruits and veggies, but it’s not always clear what this term means when it comes to cotton. For many years, there was not a standard definition, but today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) require that any cotton product labeled “organic” meet the following criteria: Made with fibers from USDA-certified organic crops Third-party certified (ie., through the Global Organic Textile Standard) under the National Organic Program standards Has a specific percentage of organic material (depending on the crop) But this definition is a little circular, so we need also to define USDA-certified organic crops. According to the USDA, organic crop standards are defined as follows: Land must have had no prohibited substances applied to it for at least three years before the harvest of an organic crop. Soil fertility and crop nutrients will be managed through tillage and cultivation practices, crop rotations, and cover crops. These can be supplemented with animal and crop waste materials and allowed synthetic materials. Crop pests, weeds, and diseases will be controlled primarily through management practices, including physical, mechanical, and biological controls. When these practices are not sufficient, a biological, botanical, or synthetic substance approved for use on the National List may be used. Operations must use organic seeds and other planting stock when available. The use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, and sewage sludge is prohibited. What is organic cotton? In short, it’s cotton that is farmed according to these practices and certified organic by the USDA. Why should you choose organic cotton? With fewer pesticides, fewer synthetic chemicals, and more thoughtful cultivation practices, organic cotton can certainly offer a more environmentally friendly choice when compared to regular cotton. Is organic cotton sustainable? Here are a few other reasons why organic cotton can be a better alternative for you and the earth: It’s better for our water resources – According to an analysis by the Textile Exchange, producing an organic cotton T-shirt requires 1,982 fewer gallons of water compared to a regular cotton T-shirt. Because organic cotton uses less chemicals, its production also releases fewer toxins into our aquatic ecosystems. It’s good for the soil (and our carbon footprint) – According to the Soil Association, the more natural cultivation practices and fewer pesticides used by organic cotton farmers can support healthier soil. That soil, in turn, can absorb more carbon from our atmosphere and help keep the planet healthy. It encourages biodiversity – Multiple studies have shown that organic farming practices can encourage more diversity among the animal species of our planet. Sustainability is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. But when it comes to plant-derived textiles, the ones which help us create a healthier world are always a better alternative. Explore the benefits of bamboo with Boody Whether you choose to purchase conventional or organic cotton clothing, the fact that you are shopping mindfully for yourself is a win for the environment. At Boody, we believe in bringing you quality, comfy, sustainable clothing basics that keep you feeling good about yourself and your personal impact on Mother Earth. From our sleepwear to our loungewear, women’s bamboo shirts to our underwear, sustainable and ethical are our touchstones. Our clothing is made of bamboo viscose, requiring less water than cotton while putting precious oxygen back into the environment. That just feels good, doesn’t it? Explore the bamboo benefits today, with Boody. Sources: Britannica. Cotton. https://www.britannica.com/topic/cotton-fibre-and-plant Cotton. The Story of Cotton - Where Cotton Grows. https://www.cotton.org/pubs/cottoncounts/story/where.cfm World Wildlife Federation. Cotton. https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/cotton Textile Exchange. Quick Guide to Organic Cotton. https://textileexchange.org/quick-guide-to-organic-cotton Soil Association. What is organic cotton? https://www.soilassociation.org/take-action/organic-living/fashion-textiles/organic-cotton/ USDA. Conservation and Biological Diversity in Organic Production. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2016/02/29/conservation-and-biological-diversity-organic-production About the Author: Heather Bien is a copywriter and writer based in Washington, DC. She works with retail, ecommerce, and creative brands on their website copy and digital presence, and her freelance writing has appeared on MyDomaine, Apartment Therapy, The Everygirl, and more. When she's not with laptop and coffee in hand, you'll find her planning her next weekend getaway, working on her budding green thumb, or scouting for her next great vintage find.