Sustainable home decorating doesn’t mean that you have to skip the designer pieces. There are so many ways you can have an eco-friendly approach when it comes to choosing furniture for your home and the founders of Two Design Lovers are here to guide you.
Gone are the days where being a ‘tree hugger’ or a Greenpeace activist was the way to show you cared about the environment. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer found that 80 per cent of consumers today want the brands they buy from to solve society’s problems. That’s a huge number of people who are concerned about their environmental and social impact. It’s no longer just a few lone protesters carrying the burden by shouting, literally, from the tree tops. As conscious consumers we have realised that we can significantly influence important issues by using our spending power to deliver our message.
One of those messages is that we are keen to be more sustainable by reusing and upcycling. For the past 10 years Gumtree has issued an annual report on the value of the second hand economy in Australia. It’s now estimated at a staggering $46 billion and one of the biggest categories which Aussies love to buy and sell in is furniture and home decor. COVID-19 has likely had an impact on general decluttering activities and budget concerns, but growing environmental consciousness is also on the up. According to Gumtree, 48 per cent of Aussies say they’re becoming more concerned about their “brand new” footprints.
Deb Achhorner and Emilia Harrison of designer second hand furniture marketplace Two Design Lovers have seen a steady increase in their business since launching in 2019. Recognising that conscious consumers don’t necessarily want thrift store style, they consign pre-owned designer pieces that are a level up from what’s generally available on bigger marketplaces like Gumtree and eBay. “I genuinely believe that as a responsible society we should be looking to embrace the circular economy. If we can manage to shift our consumer mindset away from ‘on-trend throwaway pieces’ and instead keep in circulation beautifully crafted furniture and furnishings, our children will see the benefit,” says Harrison.
“We’re one small part of a bigger picture of responsible consumerism,” explains Achhorner. “The cycle starts with choosing well-made things and recognising value in what has already been produced. When a piece of furniture has been well-designed, there has been a lot of thought put into functionality and the selection of enduring materials,” she adds. “Fast furniture is the opposite: its goals are low priced on trend items (often copied designs in flimsy materials) with very little thought for longevity. For so many reasons, fast furniture and landfill need to become a thing of the past.”
Here are Two Design Lovers’ top five tips for choosing fabulous furniture, sustainably:
Quality over quantity: don’t be tempted by the latest trend. This is especially true for nick nacks and small furniture like side tables and storage. A small number of well placed decorator items and timeless designer pieces will have far more impact in a room than a lot of mismatched clutter. If you add up the value of all those unnecessary items you might find that a designer piece you thought you couldn’t afford becomes reasonable.
Be authentic: knock off design has a negative impact on the livelihood of designers who invest in prototypes and getting their new products to market. Get real – buy authentic design and where possible, support the work of local artisans and designers.
Buy second hand: there are so many reasons why people choose to sell their treasures. Before hitting the shops it’s worth spending some time on online marketplaces to see what bargains can be found. Second hand shopping is not only fun, it’s the best way to reduce your carbon footprint and help solve the landfill problem.
Look for the logos: There are a couple of certifications worth knowing about when it comes to sustainable shopping. One is ‘B-Corp’, which is a measure of a company’s social responsibility. Another is ‘Fair Trade Certified’ which requires a set of standards to be met (as opposed to generic statements like’ ethically sourced’). In the furniture and home decor sphere, these certifications might apply to the materials used (such as wood, fabric, etc) or the standards for labour in the supply chain.
Sell what you no longer need: balance a new purchase by turning your ‘no longer needed items’ into cash. There’s no such thing as ‘away’ when you throw away. Everything has to go somewhere. If you don’t have time or energy for selling, look to marketplaces that can take care of it for you.
Caring about our environmental and social impact is one thing, doing something about it is another. Choosing where to spend your money is one of the easiest ways to make yourself heard.