Eco Design Hacks with Erica

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What exactly IS eco-friendly, or “green” interior design? For me - it means that your beautiful, curated and self-expressed space doesn’t have to pollute your home or office nor use excessive natural resources. Within my studio, E. Leigh Designs, I follow the same process as “regular” interior design, except for one part; the purchasing phase.

I aim to source at least 40% of the materials and products needed execute the room’s design from sources that reduce natural resources used, chemicals and toxins. I never sacrifice on style, after all the service I’m providing is interior design.

This means I start with the design and aesthetic and look for opportunities to replace traditional products, materials and furnishings with healthier and more environmentally friendly options. For the client, the consultation, design concept, diagrams, models and renderings are all accomplished similarly to any other project, but when it comes to sourcing and putting together a purchase list, I put a green filter over the lens through which I shop.

To my delight, in the seven-plus years since I first did my decorator’s certification, the quantity and quality of vendors and trade resources proving materials, decor and furnishings that use eco-friendly materials and reduced toxins has greatly increased.

I can find stylish flooring, tables, cabinets and dressers made from Forestry Stewardship Council-Certified wood (responsible lumber!)...

I can find rugs, curtains and bedspreads made from organic cotton or linen (less pesticides, dyes and other chemicals!)...

I can find modern sofas, lounge chairs, ottomans and upholstered pieces free of fire retardants and synthetic stuffing (more chemicals!)...

I can even find countertops, table tops and backsplashes made from recycled metal, ceramic, glass, and even, compressed paper (fewer raw materials, water and energy used!)

How does the average person incorporate these ideas and pieces into their space?

Here are five easy wins for a budget-friendly interior design project to keep chemicals and natural resource use to a minimum when you are revamping your space.

1.No-VOC paint Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) are a category of chemicals that easily offgas, or react and release, into your air (the new paint smell!) Thankfully, nowadays you can find many manufacturers creating quality paints in almost any color without VOCs. Besides a simple No-VOC paint, you can also find natural mineral paints or milk paints, if you want to go a step further. Along this line, water-based stains (opposed to oil-based stains) is the better option for staining wood or concrete.

2.Organic or all-natural fabrics and soft goods The fabrics you and your kids spend time touching like bedding, rugs, throws and curtains can be easily upgraded to organically grown, naturally dyed textiles. In fact, under the non-toxic interior design umbrella, this category has the greatest number of stylized options from an increasing number of retailers. Focusing on all-natural, chemical-free or organic fabrics helps limit chemicals found in dyes, adhesives and solvents incorporated into the textiles. Not to mention, sourcing from natural linen, hemp, bamboo, cotton or wool means avoiding petroleum-based synthetic fibers.

3.Eco-friendly adhesives. Even if you don’t have the budget for eco-friendly flooring, recycled backsplashes, or FSC-certified lumber for a DIY project, you do have the budget for eco-friendly adhesives for any one of these type of projects. Aside from your walls, your floors take up the most surface area in your space. If you are installing a standard flooring type that is not chemical-free or eco-friendly, you can still go low-toxin in the flooring glue you or your contractor uses to lay almost any flooring. A simple Google search will set you on your path to a good product. Look for certifications and manufacturing standards.

4. Pre-loved pieces If vintage, retro or antique items suit your style, this is a great way to reduce your impact on natural resource consumption. This is because no new trees, water, cotton crops, or fossil fuels are needed to make a new item for you - you are not putting any demand on the market for for production. Also, vintage (20 years old +) and antique (100 years old +) pieces are often built with higher quality than the fast-fashion style of production we see at major retailers today, potentially reducing the need for more items in the future, even more. Even if vintage is NOT your style, go pre-loved. There are so many online platforms that can connect you to sellers offloading their modern, trendy pieces in great condition - just ask for lots of pictures in natural light.

5. Locally made suppliers If all else fails and you can’t find eco-friendly pieces for your needs, in your budget, and style; choose locally made suppliers. The fact that most pieces are made overseas in Asia means they use a huge amount of fossil fuels to get shipped and trucked to where you are. Choosing local reduces your impact on CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Along these lines, going a step further, you can always offset your interior design project by purchasing certified offsets for CO2 and water use from a legit retailer. This means the money from buying an offset credit goes to producing renewable energy projects or water restoration projects to counteract the resources used in your project - like breaking even!

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Erica Leigh Reiner, is the owner of E.Leigh Designs, an eco-friendly interior design studio based in Los Angeles. She melds beautiful design with care for planet earth's well-being. Check out her instagram for more eco-home inspiration and tips.