To Be or Not to Be

With more and more of us wanting to improve the environment we live in, creating spaces, which are healthy and promote our mental and physical wellbeing has never been more important than it is today.  Spaces can make us feel happy and relaxed.  Life can sometimes make you feel like your living in the fast lane, juggling work and family, let alone our desires to stay up-to-date with the latest trends within the fashion and interior design worlds.  However, this need to keep up to date with trends has created a throw away culture.   But just in case you hadn’t already heard, some of the biggest names in the world of fashion are opting out of seasonal trends.  For instance, Gucci, announced this year, it will be moving away from the notorious seasonal design calendar.  We all love to be seen to be keeping up with the latest trends, if not for ourselves, to impress friends and family.  Why is the fashion industry changing? This is due to designers responding to effects of climate change.

How are interior design trends linked to that of the clothing industry? The seasonal design style and colour changes can be seen across both industries.  For instance, if pink is the in colour for fashion industry, this will be reflected within the interior design industry.  Why is this shift in change so important for the way in which designers design, both fashion and interiors?  In the fashion industry, as cited in the ‘The Times’  (2018) 300,000 tones of textiles are thrown away every year.  This is just within in the United Kingdom.  How does this compare with the interior design industry?  Nicholson (2018) writes, in the United Kingdom 22 million pieces of furniture are thrown away every year. This does not include things such as left-over paint, wallpaper, light fittings etc.  So where does this all end up?  This waste ends up in landfills.  Shockingly large volumes of this might have been recycled.  I know, sometimes it can feel like every corner you turn, especially after a busy and stressful day, your being lectured on how we can save the planet. But whilst the amount of furniture disposed of every year is high, we should consider, how we might reduce the impact of this to the environment.  When creating the design of a space in keeping with the latest trends, whether this is inside or outside, consideration should be given to the life cycle of all products?  What does life cycle refer to?  Life cycle is looking at the cradle-to-grave of a product.  For instance, extraction of raw materials, manufacturing processes, transportation and end-of-life impacts of a product.  Therefore, enabling us to identify whether the products we are purchasing are biodegradable or recyclable?

A lot of furniture is made using materials which may contain chemicals, which leak into the landfills and cause off-gassing into the environment.  An example of this is furniture made from particle board.  What is this?  Particle board comprises the waste from wood manufacturing, for instance saw dust.  The waste materials are glued and squashed together using a heat process.  The adhesives used often include harmful chemicals.  Furthermore, the plastic coating, which these items of furniture can be covered in is non-recyclable or biodegradable.   In addition, mattresses.  We all like a good night’s sleep and there are a range of products that promise to improve your sleep hygiene.  However, memory foam mattresses, for example, may contain formaldehyde, benzene and naphthalene.  What are these?  Manmade toxic chemicals.  Therefore, when disposed of release harmful chemicals into the environment.  There is an alternative in the form of chemical-free and animal-friendly mattresses which do not pose the same environmental impact during disposal.  Check out some companies at the end of this article.

Colour schemes, as identified earlier, are influenced by seasonal trends.  Therefore, creating a mountain of spare paint tins in our sheds, garages and lock ups.  How many of you have bought paint and decided within 6 months to a year that you want to change it due to new trends, or you just no longer like that colour anymore?    I know I am guilty of this, especially when we moved house last year, there were quite a few tins of paint in our shed that we had not needed!

Floor coverings can be influenced by seasonal trends, not just colour but shape and type of material.  However, natural materials like wood, marble and slate always seem to remain en vogue in some form.  Carpets however, may be changed frequently for a number of reasons, which include trends, spillages or wear-and-tear.  Though some carpets can be recycled, there is measurable cost in the energy used to manufacture carpets and the chemicals used in their manufacture, which poses a negative effect on the internal air quality of our spaces.  King (2018) writes, indoor air quality can be worse than the outside, even on comparison with those living in a city/urban area.

It is not just the environmental effects, but the social impacts of a need to keep up with the latest trends.  Where are the products you buy made?  Are they fair trade?  What does Fair Trade mean?  Fair Trade guarantees the people in the developing world making the products are working in good working conditions, are paid an appropriate amount of money and are that products are made sustainably from local materials.

Do you actually need to buy new furniture, for instance? Instead of buying new could you buy second-hand to create a similar design style?  This can actually be good, looking around second home furniture stores, antique shops, or flea markets with friends or family.  What can you move around your home to make it look more en-vogue or just feel different?  What’s lurking in your loft?  Could you transform those hidden treasures found within it?  All these options may help you to achieve that next design.

Finally, there are so many reasons why the interior design industry should adopt a similar attitude as that evident within the fashion industry with regards to seasonal trends.  With the excess waste caused by our throw away attitudes and the damaged to the environment due to the materials used in the manufacturing processes, can more be done to break this?  As one of the world’s leading designers Vivienne Westwood suggests

“Buy less

Choose well

Make it last”.

(Vivienne Westwood)

Leave a Reply