9 Effective Ways to Bring Sustainable Design Into the Home

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By Michele Koh Morollo
See if you check off all the boxes when it comes to creating an eco-friendly household.

Now more than ever, having a sustainable home that conserves resources and energy usage is paramount. Sustainable design and architecture has seen tremendous growth over the last decade—as has the number of professionals who specialize in designing and building green homes. While major sustainable features pertain to the initial design, planning, and building stages, there are still plenty of changes to make in your home for a greener lifestyle. Have you covered all your bases?

1. Recycle Responsibly 

This may seem like a no-brainer, but a recent Pew Research Center study reveals that only 28 percent of Americans live in areas that promote recycling, with education and access varying from community to community. Metals, paper and cardboard, glass, plastics, batteries and bulbs, and electronics all have a place in the recycling bin. Read up on what, and how, to recycle, and encourage your family members to follow suit.

Villa Welpeloo in Enschede, the Netherlands, doesn't look like a recycled building, but Jan Jongert and Jeroen Bergsma of 2012Architects began the design process by first scouting the local area for items to recycle. The "harvest map" of possible suppliers from within a nine-mile radius of the building site included Google Earth scans for brownfields and abandoned-looking buildings for scrap material.

Villa Welpeloo in Enschede, the Netherlands, doesn't look like a recycled building, but Jan Jongert and Jeroen Bergsma of 2012Architects began the design process by first scouting the local area for items to recycle. The "harvest map" of possible suppliers from within a nine-mile radius of the building site included Google Earth scans for brownfields and abandoned-looking buildings for scrap material.

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RE.BIN Modern Recycling Bin Set
RE.BIN Modern Recycling Bin Set
They say two is better than one, right? With two RE.BINs, sorting your recyclables is as easy as it gets! Use your RE.BINs to recycle, sort your laundry, organize your clutter, or create a little extra storage...you decide! RE.BIN is the modern recycling bin that offers an easy way to recycle in...




2. Compost Organic Materials

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste make up 20 percent of what we throw away. Composting organic materials keeps them out of the landfill, which cuts down on greenhouse gases, and enriches the soil. To compost at home, make a pile in your backyard, or introduce an indoor bin for throwaways like apple peels and eggshells.

Composting provides rich nutrients for your home garden.

Composting provides rich nutrients for your home garden.

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Small Noaway Walnut Compost Bin
Small Noaway Walnut Compost Bin
The Small Noaway Compost Bin has all of the great features of the larger bin, but it is perfect for urban dwellers or anyone with a smaller kitchen. Now it doesn't matter how much a person cooks, anyone can recycle their resources.




3. Choose Eco-Friendly Furniture

Whenever you can, choose environmentally friendly, VOC-free products to outfit your home, whether it be furniture or fit-outs. Look for companies committed to sustainably sourced materials and ethical production practices.

With well-crafted, sustainable products that respect the sustainable teak farming culture, Gloster works with world-renowned designers such as Henrik Pedersen, Cecilie Manz, Philip Behrens, and Povl Eskildsen to create timeless and innovative furniture for outdoor settings.

With well-crafted, sustainable products that respect the sustainable teak farming culture, Gloster works with world-renowned designers such as Henrik Pedersen, Cecilie Manz, Philip Behrens, and Povl Eskildsen to create timeless and innovative furniture for outdoor settings.

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Grain Wood Loft Platform Bed
Grain Wood Loft Platform Bed
Give your bedroom a modern look with the warmth of this solid wood bed. This design features a sturdy solid wood frame construction that can last for years. Featuring an Eco-friendly design, this bed has minimal impact on the environment, as all wood comes from renewable forests.
CB2 Dylan Bench
CB2 Dylan Bench
The Dylan Table now has the perfect (communal) seat. This beauty's all about the living grain of gorgeous eco wood slab planks.
Gloster Loop Coffee Table
Gloster Loop Coffee Table
Natural finish teak frame & slatted table top.




4. Harvest Rainwater

You don’t need to have a complicated harvesting tank built if you want to conserve water. A simpler way is to place a rain barrel—found at your local home and garden supply store—under the downspout on your roof to collect rainwater for gardening. Invest in a good water filtration or treatment system, and you can even use your rainwater for bathing, laundry, cooking, and drinking.

In the garden, Mary Henning gives her potted plants a much-needed drink of graywater diverted from the kitchen and bathrooms and filtered by a massive green wall.

In the garden, Mary Henning gives her potted plants a much-needed drink of graywater diverted from the kitchen and bathrooms and filtered by a massive green wall.

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Soma Sustainable Pitcher & Plant-Based Water Filter
Soma Sustainable Pitcher & Plant-Based Water Filter
Soma is on a mission to improve life for everyone who drinks water, with sustainable, plant-based filters that make water healthy and delicious, beautiful carafes and pitchers, and the convenient Filters by Mail service. The Soma Pitcher is made of shatter-proof, BPA-free plastic.
Soma Glass Water Bottle
Soma Glass Water Bottle
The Soma Bottle is the healthy way to stay hydrated everywhere. Made from high quality, shatter-resistant glass, with an easy grip protective sleeve, it’s perfectly designed to fit into your bag, your cup holder, and your life.




5. Grow Your Own Vegetables

Cultivating a garden not only helps you and your family live a greener lifestyle, but also saves on grocery bills, too. Start a fruit and vegetable patch in your backyard or roof terrace; and if you live in an apartment with limited outdoor space, try growing herbs and even vegetables inside.

"I can’t believe a lot like ours exists, because it’s so beautiful. Our backyard ends on the edge of an 80-foot cliff, and the property line is such that we could conceivably cantilever the new house 15, maybe even 20 feet off the edge. The great potential for me architecturally is to be able to design a space that will bring a whole new level of dialogue between the interiors and my objects. We’ll probably get more animals, too. It’s going to be a total dream."

"I can’t believe a lot like ours exists, because it’s so beautiful. Our backyard ends on the edge of an 80-foot cliff, and the property line is such that we could conceivably cantilever the new house 15, maybe even 20 feet off the edge. The great potential for me architecturally is to be able to design a space that will bring a whole new level of dialogue between the interiors and my objects. We’ll probably get more animals, too. It’s going to be a total dream."

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The Classic Gardener
The Classic Gardener
Tend to foundations with the harvester's garden kit. Rely on stainless steel ends, bamboo handles, and a durable pine crate for a lifetime of love and use. Use the handmade pine crate to reuse as a garden container, a gift, or a box for safe keeping.
ROOT Indoor Garden System
ROOT Indoor Garden System
Root is the first smart hydroponic, in home garden system that helps you effortlessly grow and maintain fresh organic herbs, produce, and flowers of your own.  The ROOT indoor garden system and mobile app is easy to setup. It’s 30 inches tall and fits neatly on any countertop or room.
Tool & Garden Tote "No.175"
Tool & Garden Tote "No.175"
Balanced for carrying tools and larger objects.  Materials: 18oz twill • 10oz vegetable tanned leather • solid brass rivets .

6. Insulate Your Walls

One of the most effective ways to conserve resources is to keep your home warm without overly relying on heating mechanisms. A smart way to prevent heat loss is to incorporate eco-friendly insulation materials made with natural fibers such as cork, wood fiber, or sheep’s wool. Though this change may be a little more inconvenient and costly that the others, it will certainly help you save on heating bills in the long run.

Ecovative's Mushroom Insulation is made from agricultural waste that is bound together with fungal mycelium, a naturally fire-resistant material that obviates the need for toxic flame retardants.

Ecovative's Mushroom Insulation is made from agricultural waste that is bound together with fungal mycelium, a naturally fire-resistant material that obviates the need for toxic flame retardants.

7. Install Efficient Faucets and Showers

Conserve water and energy by swapping your regular kitchen and bathroom taps for more efficient faucets. Two smart options include the IKEA ALESKÄR Kitchen Faucet, which includes a hand spray for easy fruit and vegetable rinsing, or the Nebia shower system, which produces a larger number of smaller water droplets and uses up to 70 percent less water than a standard shower head.

In the updated kitchen, Ernestomeda cabinets are paired with quartz countertops, a Miele cooktop, and a faucet from Dornbracht.

In the updated kitchen, Ernestomeda cabinets are paired with quartz countertops, a Miele cooktop, and a faucet from Dornbracht.

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IKEA ALESKÄR Kitchen Faucet
IKEA ALESKÄR Kitchen Faucet
This faucet helps lower water and energy use so you can lower your bills too. The handspray is practical for cleaning veggies and the quality is built to last through many years of washing and rinsing.
Nebia Steam Shower
Nebia Steam Shower
Upgrade your shower to a personal steam room—in less than 20 minutes. The Nebia Shower System installs in less than 20 minutes and envelops your body in thousands of tiny droplets that make your shower feel more like a spa experience than a routine.




8. Upgrade Your Home Appliances 

Trade in your clunky old washing machines, dishwashers, or refrigerators for newer, energy-saving models such as LG’s smart and energy-efficient Signature Refrigerator, which has a transparent front that allows you to see what’s inside, so you won’t need to open your fridge door so often. Energy Star-certified appliances are a great choice for functionality and eco-friendliness. 

Knock twice on LG Signature Refrigerator’s opaque, glass panel, InstaView door, and the surface becomes transparent, so you can see what you want to cook for dinner without opening the door, and causing cool air to escape.

Knock twice on LG Signature Refrigerator’s opaque, glass panel, InstaView door, and the surface becomes transparent, so you can see what you want to cook for dinner without opening the door, and causing cool air to escape.

9. Swap Out Inefficient Bulbs

Traditional incandescent bulbs give off 90 percent of their energy as heat, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Trading these for newer options will not only reduce your electricity bill, but also make your home feel cooler and more comfortable. Energy-efficient bulbs include halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light emitting diodes (LEDs). To further cut down on electricity output, choose lamps with timers or dimmer functions. 

Made of recycled corrugated cardboard, the Scraplight series of pendent lamps by Seattle design studio Graypants Inc. can be used with low-energy 12.5-watt Philips LED bulb for lighting that is both green and efficient.  

Made of recycled corrugated cardboard, the Scraplight series of pendent lamps by Seattle design studio Graypants Inc. can be used with low-energy 12.5-watt Philips LED bulb for lighting that is both green and efficient.