Margaret Mead was an American cultural anthropologist. An expert in cultural conditioning, she revolutionised the field of child rearing and education, she was the first proponent of the concept of imprinting and was, all round, amazing. She was so amazing that this quote isn’t even in the top ten things she said, despite being pretty world view-defining:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
As 2019 comes to a close, many of us are thinking about being more thoughtful, committed citizens and how we might change our tiny corner of the world. This is all a bit much for an interior design blog, no?
Interior design won’t change the world, right? Well, not as long as we think of interior design as being about paint swatches and fabric samples. But if we think of it as designing an environment that changes the way we live in our homes, suddenly that feels like more of a catalyst for lifestyle change.
Like the old tip of laying out your gym clothes before you go to bed – the way your home is set up impacts the way you spend time in it. By making small changes to the way we live, and the way our home encourages us to live, design might just change the world.
If you’re thinking of ways to design a more environmentally-friendly way to live in 2020, here are some ideas to get you started…
1. More Packages, Less Packaging
If 2019 was defined by any one business model, it was the home delivery service. From pet food to pick ‘n’ mix, every consumer good going has now been packaged up and brought to our door for us. And while frivolous deliveries don’t have the impact on the planet we’re looking for, grocery subscriptions have been shown to drastically reduce plastic packaging and food waste for consumers. They also reduce vehicle admissions, replacing hundreds of car journeys to a supermarket with a single delivery route.
Signing up to our local farm’s veg box completely changed the way we shopped, cooked and ate in 2019. With a service like Milk & More, you can get your essentials conveniently delivered while cutting down on milk with refillable glass bottles, like the Good Old Days.
2. Go Green With Renewable Energy
We moved over to Bulb at the start of the year, smitten with the easy-to-manage online interface, the transparent bills and the promise of 100% renewable electricity from solar, wind and hydro. The gas supply is 100% carbon neutral, 10% green and the remaining 90% is offset through carbon reduction projects around the world. They’re consistently rated higher than The Big Four on TrustPilot, and we’ve never had a single issue with them. Give them a try with my referral link if you fancy switching (they do the hard work for you) and get £50 of credit.
3. Take Back Control With A Smart Thermostat
Before we had a smart thermostat fitted last year, I never really felt like we were properly in charge of our heating. Either we were stuck with a pre-set programme that was too rigid for our lifestyle, or we had to manually turn it on and off which is super inefficient and kind of annoying.
But when our plumber installed a Nest following some boiler maintenance, that changed. It helps us properly control and consistently heat our cold Victorian terrace (which is super important for damp control in old properties). The Nest learns when you’re in and out, optimising your programme daily to make it as efficient as possible. And if things change? You can control it from your phone, turning the heating up if you’re on your way home early. They say the Nest “programmes itself, then pays for itself” which has been true for us – our bills are down around 25% on last year.
4. Curate A Travel Kit And Carry It Everywhere
I eat on the go most days, bouncing between work meetings, and the amount of takeaway cups, polystyrene boxes and plastic cutlery I could go through in a week was gross. So a few months ago I took some time to seek out a proper reusable kit for every lunch eventuality. It lives in my bag every day, I was it every night and it makes me feel ever so smug. Plus the market is full of super stylish solutions – yellowing tupperware is a thing of the past.
GLASS PORTER STORAGE BOWL
BOTANICAL GLASS CONTAINER
W&P PORTER STORAGE BOWL
5. Keep Your Plant Obsession Out Of Landfill
If your home is part greenhouse, part Day Of The Triffids like it is here at This 1870 House, you may see a fair few terracotta-coloured plastic plant pots hanging around. These aren’t suitable for at-home recycling, but happily Dobbies Garden Centres have stepped up and offer a free recycling service. Simply drop off your old pots (and polystyrene trays) after rinsing them out and the garden centre will ensure they don’t go near a landfill.
6. Go Natural With Your Cleaning Products
Having a more environmentally friendly home doesn’t stop at energy use and recycling. Many of our reliable supermarket cleaning products are toxic to wildlife, contribute to smog and damage water quality, which means more energy is required at filtration plants to clean up drinking water.
If cleaning with homemade lemon and vinegar mixtures is a little too far for you – as it is for me – don’t despair. Environmentally friendly cleaning brands are springing up across the marketplace, formulated without harmful toxins and offering refills to cut down on plastic waste. My current favourite is Tincture London, because environmentally friendly definitely doesn’t mean compromising on aesthetics. Try these, then swap your wipes or kitchen roll for washable cloths to properly overhaul your routine.
Washing Up Liquid Refill
All Purpose Tincture
7. Zero Waste Shopping
The zero waste shopping revolution promises less plastic, less senseless supermarket spending and less food waste. Take along your tupperware, glass jars for any other receptacles you have lying around and fill your boots (not literally, hopefully) with grains, dried goods, spices and fresh produce. Although not yet a fixture on every high street, more zero waste shops are opening every week – you can find your nearest here.
8. Buy Less, Shop Your Home
Reduce, reuse, recycle is more than just a catchy triplicate – it’s a priority order. More important than recycling is that all of us collectively use less stuff. We should shop less, resist trends and buy for life – or as close as possible.
But how to resolve this with a love of interior design? The answer is to ‘shop your home’ – scratch your itch for a new look by rearranging furniture, moving pieces from a different home and creating new vignettes using what you already own instead of buying new.
9. When You Do Shop, Shop Better
If you’ve nailed the art of vintage shopping for your wardrobe in recent years, the next level is furnishing your home from charity shops, second hand stores and antiques auctions. Buying pre-loved isn’t just ultra satisfying – it’s good for the environment by extending the life of consumer goods, and ensures your home won’t look just like everyone else’s.
If you have local charity shops, my top tips are to pop in often and buy rarely – you need to play a numbers game in order to find the good stuff. Make friends with the volunteers who work there – if they know what you like, you’ll be the first to hear when someone finally drops off a vintage peacock chair…
10. Bamboo, The Miracle Material
Bamboo is pretty miraculous. It’s the fastest growing plant on earth and requires much less water to cultivate than any other wood crop. It’s also flexy, sturdy and has a beautiful boho look. Its growing speed makes it one of the most sustainable natural manufacturing materials on the planet. It’s also super diverse, suitable for everything from reusable cutlery to furniture to running clothes.