Home decor pros share their tips for less-wasteful ways to furnish and style your home.

By Laura Fenton
June 10, 2021
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I love to ogle cute new furniture on Instagram as much as anyone else, but as I've become more conscious about my consumption, I've been trying to find ways to beautify my home without creating more waste. For example, when my sofa began to look tired recently, I had new slipcovers made instead of replacing the whole couch. I've also started keeping a careful eye on what makes its way into our trash bin: No surprise, it's a lot of packaging and things that were poorly made from the start. To get more inspiration for ways to reduce waste and beautify my home in the process, I called on a few of my favorite eco-minded home experts. Here are 10 tips for how to reduce waste and increase beauty in your home.

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Use what you've got

"If you are looking to refresh a room in your home, consider how you could repurpose any of your existing pieces before starting from scratch," suggests Jennifer Jones, the founder of Niche Interiors in San Francisco. Jones suggests reupholstering furniture for a completely new look, but simply shuffling pieces from room to room might be all you need.

Shop secondhand

"You can often find high-quality, well-made items at a discount when you shop secondhand," says Lily Cameron, the author of Simply Sustainable: Moving Toward Plastic-Free, Low-Waste Living. "Vintage items are so much more interesting and beautiful to look at than something brand new." By going the used route, you reduce waste and add character to your home-win-win!

Phase out your disposables

"When our homes are filled with single-use products, we start treating all of our belongings like they're disposable," says Cameron. She suggests slowly switching to reusable products made from wood, glass, metal, and natural fabrics instead of disposables, like say, a wooden dish brush instead of a synthetic scrubby sponge. "Not only will they last longer, they are a pleasure to use and look at and can even make mundane chores a little more joyful," says Cameron. 

Set your table with real plates

Ditch paper napkins and paper plates and use cloth napkins and ceramic dishes for all your meals and you'll be treated to more beautiful mealtimes. It may sound fancy, but you'll save money not buying the throwaway items, and you can simply toss the napkins in the laundry hamper and plates in the dishwasher when you're done.

Decant your pantry items

An organized pantry full of pretty glass jars is more than just a swoon-worthy Instagram post, says professional organizer Elise Hay, founder of Organized Sanctuaries. "Seeing what you have will help eliminate buying in excess by allowing you to see what you have before you grocery shop," says Hay. Air-tight glass jars also help preserve dry goods and prevent pest contamination, points out Cameron, who suggests checking out thrift shops for jars or reuse empty pickle, pasta sauce, and jam containers after a good scrub. 

Grow some herbs

Plant a few pots with oregano, rosemary, and thyme for a charming windowsill display, and you'll never have to buy those plastic clamshells of herbs again. Plus, when you grow your own, you can snip just what you need, so no herbs get forgotten in the crisper drawer.

Prevent the paper pile-up

Reducing the paper in your mailbox will mean you have less clutter in your entryway. If you pay bills electronically, consider opting out of paper copies, says Hay. For junk mail, she recommends using DMA Choice. "For a $2 fee they will get you off lists that send the typical solicitations, such as pre-approved credit card applications."

Skip the plastic for personal care items, too

Erin Boyle, author of Simple Matters and the blog Reading My Tea Leaves says she makes a concerted effort to avoid buying plastic in her everyday personal items. Instead, she opts for biodegradable, eco-friendly alternatives for everything from toothbrushes and sponges to straws. "It feels good because I'm not contributing to the plastic problem, but it also makes my home more visually calm," she says. "It might be a stretch to count a toothbrush or shampoo bottle as decor," she laughs, "But the visual impact those small items makes on a space is pretty significant." Likewise, Cameron loves bar soaps because they come in recyclable cardboard packaging. "You'll be surprised how beautiful a simple bar of soap looks next to your sink," she says.

Green your cleaning routine

Hay loves the new products like laundry detergent sheets, concentrates, and cleaning tablets that are diluted with water because the smaller packages take up less storage space on a shelf and the cleaning formulations look sleek decanted in glass bottles. 

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Compost!

The more food scraps that go into the compost, the less room you need to store your trash, figures Boyle, who notes that kitchen trash bins tend to be eyesores. "I love being able to keep a very small, vintage-style can in our kitchen because most of the bulkiest waste goes to our local compost program." Huge bonus: Her family never has stinky garbage!

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