In fact, recently Robert Downey Jr., still glowing from the limelight of "Avengers: Endgame," presented at Amazon’s re:MARS conference where he announced that "Between robotics and nanotechnology we could probably clean up the planet significantly, if not entirely, within a decade." He went on to outline the basic steps he would be taking to push forward his project. It all sounded splendid … and very theoretical.
However, while the bigwig personalities continue to try to launch giant, Earth-saving projects, there are plenty of smaller, yet effective steps that the rest of us can take in the meantime — including bringing a splash of sustainability into how we design our living spaces.
Here are some excellent sustainable home design trends and ideas that you’re going to want to have in mind as 2019 continues to unfold. Some are more recent movements. Others are continuing trends that have been in motion for quite some time. All of them are worthy of consideration.
Terms like "carbon footprint" and "embodied energy" are used so often and in relation to so many different things that it can be easy to lose perspective. The truth is, terminology aside, humans use a lot of energy in our everyday lives. While this fact has led many environmentally conscious consumers to seek out alternative modes of transportation, there are many changes we can make right in our homes to reduce waste as well.
One of the key ways that we quickly and easily burn up that energy is through our appliances. We use fridges to keep our food chilled, dishwashers to clean the dishes, washing machines and dryers for our clothing, and so on. One quick and easy way to simultaneously keep up with the current design trends, reduce our carbon footprint, and even save money in the long run is to replace the old and inefficient appliances throughout our homes with energy-efficient alternatives.
For example, dryers are one of the top culprits, using enormous amounts of energy as they dry your clothes. Simply swapping out old, inefficient appliances with Energy Star-certified replacements can lower your electricity bill by hundreds a year. As this approach is taken with all of the appliances throughout your household over time, the snowball effect to your savings can help offset the increased cost of the higher-efficiency models — and can give your house a trendy, fresh look at the same time.
Shopping Fair Trade
Another way you can ensure that your design decisions are sustainable is to look for fair trade products to incorporate into your decor. Fair trade principles are simple yet profound. The concept behind the certification is to make sure that a product is created while strictly adhering to a set of guidelines and principles that take into account the humanitarian rights, economic conditions, and even the health and independence of the workers that provide them.
For example, a fair trade certification can apply to products that avoid using exploitative child labor in their manufacturing processes. It can also include items that have been fairly and respectfully sourced from struggling farmers in war-torn or economically disadvantaged countries.
The fair trade movement has grown to the point where certifications are common to find and can be trusted, which is a boon to consumers trying to make health- and eco-conscious decisions. Taking a little extra time while you shop to look for that fair trade label can allow you to decorate your abode with peace of mind that you’re supporting organizations that, in turn, respect the laborers who help manufacture their products. You can find several fair trade-certified home design products right on the Dwell site as a starting point.
As a final note on working conditions and the Fair Trade movement, another term that is growing in popularity is "direct trade." The term goes even further than fair trade, cutting out the middleman certification process and working directly with farms and laborers themselves. The term is currently largely used for coffee and chocolate. However, with humanitarian and environmental interests growing every year, it wouldn’t be surprising if the direct trade model caught on in the home decor arena eventually as well.
Utilizing Shutters and Blinds
Another home design trend that has great sustainable side effects is the popular use of window treatments. Through the use of high-reflectivity film and energy-efficient window coverings, you can drastically improve the sustainability of your home. When it comes to the latter, there are many different variations and styles available, like woven wood bamboo, bold-colored drapes, and plantation shutters. The variety of materials, colors, and overall looks makes it easy to find something that fits your particular style.
Whatever look you decide to go with, installing quality window treatments can make a world of a difference, as it gives you control over the amount of sunlight entering into your home and can minimize the effects of drafts and heat loss through your windows. In fact, according to the Department of Energy, choosing your window treatments with sustainability in mind can help reduce the amount of heat getting into your home by as much as 77%.
As a final consideration, the way that we incorporate gardens and greenery into our decor is always important. While the presence of plants has been a decorative constant throughout history, the specific way that they’re worked into each year’s most innovative trends always varies.
One popular option at the moment is rooftop farming. Installing a garden to the top of your house or apartment is an excellent way to add plants to your home in the most effective way possible, as repurposing underutilized space on the top of your building is a great way to both be efficient and have a garden even when you don’t have the yard space.
As if the rooftop wasn’t enough, another trend that is gaining attention is vertical forest skyscrapers. The idea is taking shape in the Italian city of Milan, where tall, vertical buildings are being designed with a plethora of cascading trees planted right into the terraces. While the phenomenon is clearly fascinating to behold, it also serves the sustainable purpose of providing more foliage and better air for the inhabitants of the building itself.
Being Sustainably Minded
Home decor is an art all on its own, and there’s something truly beautiful about incorporating sustainability and an Earth-conscious mindset into one’s design. It shows ingenuity, creativity, and respect. Whether that comes in the form of replacing old appliances with humble, energy-efficient alternatives, building mind-blowing tree-clad skyscrapers that resemble the ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon, or anything in between, the results are well worth the effort.