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Happenings >> Sustainability in Interior Design

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New certification

It's important to me that I step up my knowledge and ability to make sustainable choices in my design practice. To that end I’ve recently completed an intensive course in sustainability. I received my certification as an Accredited Professional with the Sustainable Furnishings Council.

The course is an industry-first and approved by staff of Rainforest Alliance, World Wildlife Fund and one of the co-founders of USGBC/LEED. The program was written by a LEED AP and is designed to pick up where LEED leaves off, focusing specifically on the furnishings themselves and other interior design issues.

Sustainability dilemma

I have been interested in sustainability for a long time. I've been carrying shopping bags for well over a decade, use planet-friendly cleaning products, own a home with solar panels and send my children to school with a zero-waste lunch. However, I have a lot of less planet-friendly practices, too. I am the first one to admit it.

My work in interior design involves the removal and landfill of finishes and materials that are no longer desired or of sound construction. I like flying to warm locations for a break from the harsh winters of home. Finally, I’m not going to lie, the comfort fossil fuels afford — especially when it is -25 Celsius outside for weeks at a time — are pretty nice.

For me it's not an either/or argument. It's more of a when and how conversation.

Reconciling with reality

So...how to reconcile these two seemingly opposite ideas? That is what I hope to explore more fully with my design practice. Casting a stone against the path our society has taken to development is firstly, not constructive, and secondly hypocritical.

For every decision there is a continuum of options and a balance to be struck. For example, something that reduces water consumption might involve a greater use of source material, or a more toxic finishing process. Choosing or trying to reuse a poor quality set of base cabinets will result in having to replace them again within a shorter period of time using even more material that if you tore out the poor quality product and started over.

Priorities for sustainability

The first step is getting educated about how things are made and what effect those materials have on our health as humans and for our earth. In my practice I am working to make considerations about reducing landfill, up-cycling, re-imagining materials as well as making safer choices for new materials and suppliers top of mind in the design process.

To me that means prioritizing quality over price or quantity, even if that means you have to slow down on the way to having everything you want. Finally, surrounding yourself with things that have history and a story is a huge part of creating a nourishing environment for your soul. It results in better design.

We can make a difference that respects our planet, our human health and the social systems our economy supports. It starts with being aware of what is available today and making those choices first.

Will it be messy and hard to navigate? You bet. Is it worth it? There is no question in my mind the answer is yes.

What are your thoughts on the issue? Please leave them in the comments below.