Going Green: Sustainable Interior Design

Whether you have a creative streak or not, decorating your home is an exciting venture. It’s a chance to showcase your personality and unique aesthetic. But, more than that, it’s also an opportunity to help protect the environment. How so? The answer is sustainable interior design.

There’s a vast array of decor and design/architectural principles you can implement in your home that appear attractive and pleasant to the eye and benefit the planet! Sustainable interior design is the perfect way to create your dream home while doing your part for the environment. From faucets and light fixtures to windows and walls, there are almost countless means of making your home gorgeous and green. Let’s take a look.

What is sustainable interior design?

In essence, sustainable interior design is an environmentally-conscious architectural and design style that focuses on using materials and construction methods that lessen a building’s environmental impact. In addition, sustainable interior design and architecture are also centered on improving the health and well-being of the people who live, work or play in a green building through its eco-friendly design.

Although sustainable design and green design may seem synonymous, they’re not entirely the same. Green design is all about reducing harm in the present and near future. By contrast, sustainable design looks at long-term consequences. As the name suggests, this design style uses elements that will continue to minimize the negative environmental impact for years, decades, or even centuries to come.

It’s not just about building a structure — it’s also about building a future for the earth’s inhabitants. In a while, we’ll look at the core principles underlying sustainable design and how to incorporate them when designing your home’s interior. But before we get to that, let’s discuss why sustainable interior design is essential.

The importance of sustainable design

We all know that sustainable practices are critical to the planet’s well-being. From using public transport to buying environmentally friendly cleaning products, there are so many important ways we can reduce our impact on the environment. The best place to start as normal, everyday people is with the buildings we create and use. Utilizing sustainable interior design is vital for two main reasons: keeping the environment and us healthy.

The environment’s health

Sustainable design helps preserve our natural habitat by reducing our carbon footprint. Never heard that term? Don’t worry! In a nutshell, it’s the amount of greenhouse gasses we produce. These include carbon dioxide and methane that trap heat in the atmosphere and increase temperatures worldwide. Keeping the global climate stable is essential for preventing natural disasters and allowing us to grow the food we need to survive.

Unfortunately, so much of our garbage ends up in the wilderness and the oceans, which can have terrible consequences for wildlife and the quality of our natural resources like soil and water. Sustainable design also helps reduce the amount of waste we produce, which is critical to preventing pollution.

Our health

Sustainable design keeps us healthy, too! It helps improve indoor air quality. The right materials prevent potentially dangerous toxins and dust particles from floating around the air and making us sick. By purchasing sustainable interior design decor and products, we can also reduce the noise in our living environment, which is all-important for psychological well-being. Using as much natural light as possible (more on this in a bit) can reduce stress and increase productivity, too. This is especially helpful for those of us who work from home!

How to design with sustainability in mind

So, how do you go about actually implementing sustainable interior design? It’s helpful to start with the “five Rs of sustainability,” which are the basic principles that underlie how to live sustainably:

  • Refuse: Say “no” to environmentally unfriendly products by buying only those that are recyclable and ethically produced.
  • Reduce: Use the minimum amount of required materials and resources to minimize your environmental impact.
  • Reuse: Avoid single-use products (especially plastics) by using metal or wooden alternatives wherever possible.
  • Recycle: This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Make an effort to dispose of your trash responsibly by using recycling bins.
  • Repurpose: Utilize your purchases in different ways once they’ve served their original purpose.

The following concepts underpin the main pillars of sustainable interior design:

Energy efficiency

Because most of the world’s electricity is still generated by burning coal, energy is one of the most significant contributors to climate change. Therefore, sustainable interior design aims to reduce energy consumption.

Using energy conserving lighting is a key pillar of sustainable design.

Waste reduction

Our natural resources are limited, and sustainable design seeks to make a little go a long way. It focuses on using the smallest amount of materials to insulate, build and decorate a building.

Maximized space

Making the most of your space goes hand in hand with energy efficiency and waste reduction. This is achieved by consciously and cleverly choosing materials and pieces (particularly furniture) that ensure a little goes a long way.

Water conservation

Although 70% of our planet is covered by water, less than 2% is safe to consume. Sustainable design works to decrease the amount of water we use to preserve this precious resource.

Healthy environment

As mentioned earlier, sustainable design promotes healthy living by making smart choices about temperature regulation, ventilation, and products when designing an interior.


Sustainable design is focused on using extremely durable, high-quality materials that last longer. In this way, you lessen your need to toss out old items and buy new ones, which supports waste reduction.

Natural stone is minimally harmful to the environment and can last centuries.

Eco-friendly materials and products

Picking recycled or recyclable materials and products with a low environmental impact is the easiest way to achieve sustainability when designing your interior.

Sustainable design examples

Now that you know why sustainability is so crucial and what it aims to achieve, how can you accomplish sustainable interior design in your home? Here are a few tips and tricks:

To make your home more energy efficient:

  • Maximize the amount of natural light in your home by installing glass sliding doors and even skylights.
  • Opt for compact fluorescent light bulbs, LEDs, and halogens when you do need to use electricity to light a room.
  • Utilize renewable energy sources like solar power if possible.
  • Paint your walls with light colors to help decrease the need for artificial lighting.
  • Use lined draperies, carpets, and blinds to improve insulation and thermal comfort, thereby reducing the amount of energy needed to heat and cool your home.
  • Arrange your furniture in heat and energy-saving configurations by opening up spaces around air vents to improve circulation.
  • Install smart thermostats that heat up or cool down a room based on outside temperatures so you don’t have to do it manually. Some include sensors that switch off heating or cooling entirely when people aren’t in the room.

Utilize as much natural light as possible to reduce the need for electricity.

To reduce waste:

  • Choose linen, furniture, and other decorative items made from recycled waste or materials that can be recycled when they’ve reached the end of their lifespan.
  • Pick products made from materials that are good for the environment. These include:
    • Responsibly produced or reclaimed wood.
    • Sustainably made natural fabrics like cotton, leather, and wool.
    • Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint.
    • Recycled plastic, steel, and glass.
    • Hemp.
    • Cork.
    • Straw.
    • Felt.
    • Jute.
    • Natural stone.
  • Purchase adjustable and mobile furniture and modular flooring that can be reassembled and easily moved as necessary. This eliminates the need to buy new pieces.
  • Buy products with easy-to-clean surfaces as they require fewer cleaning products (detergents are often harmful to the environment).
  • Install water-conserving toilets and taps.

To conserve water, consider environmentally friendly fittings such as taps and shower heads.

To buy responsibly:

  • Select wooden pieces that are made from quickly renewable plants such as bamboo or those that have an FSC label on them.
  • Look for locally-produced products. Items produced internationally require long-distance shipping, which pollutes the environment.
  • Shop at antique and secondhand stores. Not only are many of these items rare and charming, but they also minimize the need to produce new goods. Plus, you know they’ll last a long time!

This driftwood table is a great example of using responsibly sourced wood.

As you can see, following sustainable interior design guidelines is actually really simple. All it requires is a tiny bit of care and consideration! However, if you’d like to make your home more environmentally sustainable but aren’t sure where to start, you’re in luck! Michelle Jett – Decorating Den Interiors is here to help.

After you contact us, we’ll schedule a meeting either at your home or over the phone, whichever you prefer. As we chat, we’ll get a sense of your design vision and your home’s current setup. Then, we’ll begin planning to make your dreams of sustainability (with some flair, of course) a reality.

Ready to go green? Contact us to get started!

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Call interior designer Michelle Jett and her team when you are looking for creative solutions, expert execution, and outstanding results. Call 877-538-8332 to get started or to ask questions. Serving the Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire.

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