How To Make Your Home Shopping Experience Way More Eco-Friendly

Written by Laura Baross

Photo by IKEA

One of the most common challenges I face as an eco-friendly interior designer is finding sustainable furniture from larger, more budget-friendly brands. However, I've noticed that with a little preparation and know-how, it's easier to track down pieces that you can feel really good about.

One home store that has started getting a lot of attention in the sustainability world is IKEA. The Swedish furniture giant is associated with affordable, low-quality, trendy furniture that wasn't necessarily designed to last. Recently, though, they have set an ambition to become more planet positive by banning single-use plastics, selling alternative retrofits like solar panels in select stores, and releasing collections that are made using natural materials.

And IKEA isn't the only furniture store releasing more sustainably crafted pieces these days. Stem Goods is super transparent, West Elm is taking big steps toward sustainability, especially with its wood products, and Dune is using only FSC-certified wood. You can also find gems in thrift shops! In New York, I love Porter James and Home Union.

Ambitious corporate goals like these speak for a greener future for the home market, but consumers still have a role to play. Here are five designer-approved tips that will help you become a conscious shopper and eliminate waste. Your house (and the planet!) will seriously benefit.

1. Avoid packaging when possible, and recycle anything you do end up with.

Ordering online is convenient, but it has one big disadvantage: all that packaging waste! And even if you avoid shipping and make the trek to a local store, you'll probably still walk away with some nonrecyclable plastic bags, wraps, cardboard, etc. Luckily, you can make sure these don't end up in landfill with services such as TerraCycle—a company that allows you to send in otherwise unrecyclable material to be reused into new goods. Look for their free recycling programs across the country.

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2. Write down your vision and stick to it.

Always, always start by taking measurements of your space and sketching a floor plan. The last thing you want to do is spend money on something that doesn't even fit in your apartment. Keep these dimensions near you whenever you're adding a new item to your shopping list, and bring them along with you as you browse the aisles. This will help you get only what you really need and eliminate impulse buys that you might end up tossing down the line.

3. Check twice; buy once.

Before checking out, make sure your cart includes only items that you really need and will fit in your space. If you're shopping online, I encourage you to plan a trip to a local store and check the quality and finishes of selected items to avoid any last-minute surprises.

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4. Come prepared.

If you're shopping for smaller pieces that you'll bring home with you, go to the store prepared with the necessary items. Instead of relying on plastic bags, bring your own travel bag or reuse one you already have at home. Throw a tape measure into it too, so you can avoid single-use paper rulers scattered all over the store. And instead of keeping a ton of different paper lists, go digital. Store your wish list in your phone and snap item codes with your camera. Shopping, especially in the summer, can be tiring, so be sure to bring your reusable water bottle, refill it in the cafeteria, and stay hydrated!

Here are some more ideas for crafting the ultimate sustainable sanctuary, starting with your bedroom.

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