Furnishing your home sustainably needn’t be an act of hempy martyrdom
EDITORIAL & CONTENT
It wasn’t until I had children that I started to think about the provenance of things. Once it made my life prettier, tastier or easier, I really didn’t care how it came about. But when the little stars began to make their highly publicised appearances, it became a thing. You see, they come with a rider that’s strictly organic, natural, hand-made everything; they simply wouldn’t survive exposure to the poisons their parents had absorbed. So, the impetus for this change of mindset was their bodily health (and ours, purely as their caretakers; but mostly theirs), rather than safeguarding the planet for their future, or anything so grandiose.
Before you shout “selfish”, or “shortsighted”, hear me out. It’s a system. In almost one hundred per cent of cases (by my expert deduction), what’s good for the health of the person, in terms of avoiding the illness-causing contaminants of modern society, is also good for the health of the planet. Eating locally produced, organic food; keeping that food untouched by plastic; ditching the car; avoiding Volatile Organic Compounds in home furnishings; I could go on — all good for both. So my system is how I implement positive change in the world, in an achievable way. I have control here; it’s a good feeling. If my goal was to save the planet, well that’s an insurmountable task; very hard on the spirit. Instead, I keep my own little patch clean (and healthy) and add to the worldwide cumulative effect, via happy bi-product.
Though healthy home-making does involve some thought. The easy (and cheap) road is to opt for the sustainable lines being rolled out by big highstreet brands, though admittedly, there aren’t too many, as yet. A positive step, sure, but these products still exist as part of a disposable decor culture that not only encourages waste, but clocks up quite a few air miles before it reaches your humble gaff. What requires a bit more shopping graft (and usually more cash dolla) is to partake in conscious consumption that’s not just looking for massive green SUSTAINABLE labels, but thinking about what it means to buy a high quality thing that’s been made by a person, preferably in your locality. Small Irish design brands like Bunny & Clyde, Ceadogan and Arran Street East might not shout about what makes their products worthy of a sustainable label (possibly because this can be typecasting); instead the focus is on design and the value of the craft. It’s up to you to go a little Jessica Fletcher on the situation.
The good news is that Ireland’s indigenous design industry is blooming, thanks to this growing demand, among discerning consumers, for beautiful, substantial things that aim to be around (your house) for the long haul. Growing, too, are the numbers of independent design stores, like April & the Bear and Industry & Co, who stock these homegrown brands, alongside curated collections of ethically produced labels from around the world. While industry leaders, with bases here, like Roche Bobois and Bo Concept provide solid, company-wide sustainability strategies that implement change on large scales. Of course only buying things made in Ireland would be ideal, not only for the low carbon impact, but because a strong economy means cleaner industry... but sometimes you just want a Danish sofa, and that’s fine, too.
As I sidle up to middle age (okay, Im 35, but I watched Wine Country and identified with the characters more than I would have liked), I’m not as dazzled by stuff that’s just stuff. I want things in my house that improve the experience of being there; that serve a useful purpose; that contribute towards my long term grownup aesthetic; that make me seem together and mature; that I don’t ever intend on throwing out unless they fall foul of a feral three year old. So, here I am, again, being accidentally sustainable. Now, there’s still a tiny stuff gremlin inside me; no denying. You’ll see her in future installments of this column; she’s fickle and grabby and wants everything Anthropologie has in stock (who, by the way, is totally lying to us with those organic looking images of boho babes tending vegetable patches; in fact, there’s very little that’s sustainable about it). But for today, I’m lording it up in my understanding that buying well means buying once. It means not regularly throwing broken/faded/dated things into the recycling bin (which I do knowing full well that that type of plastic can’t be recycled). And for me, selfish cow that I am, it means starting at home.
From my interiors & lifestyle column in Irish Tatler, July 2019 edition