In the past two years, homeowners in the UK have spent more time and money improving their homes than ever before – a trend sparked by the pandemic.
Research from PWC shows that post-pandemic consumers are increasingly interested in making eco-friendly choices – and supporting local retailers. And there’s no better place to start than at home, where we produce 22% of the UK’s carbon emissions.
Whether you’re doing a major home renovation or planning some minor updates, here are some of the most eco-friendly ways to improve your home.
Replacing your kitchen doesn’t necessarily mean buying a new one — or sending your old one to the landfill if it’s still in good condition.
The recycled kitchen movement is growing, with companies like The Used Kitchen Company, Used Kitchen Exchange and Used Kitchen Hub leading the way.
Founded in 2005 by Looeeze Grossman, The Used Kitchen Company sells used and refurbished show kitchens at 50-70 percent of the suggested retail price, sourced from nearly 1,200 showrooms. To date, The Used Kitchen Company has saved nearly 30,000 tons of waste from landfill, according to Grossman.
As with new purchases, kitchens can be inspected prior to purchase, and the company coordinates dismantling, delivery and assembly. You can adapt the kitchen to your space – and most importantly, deals are encouraged on price.
Anyone looking to get rid of an old kitchen can also list it for sale on the Used Kitchen Company’s website — or sign up for The Kitchen Passport, also operated by Grossman.
Let’s face it: When it comes to good sleep, sustainability doesn’t come first.
Victorian Dreams was started by Shabs Kay in 1990 and run from an old school in Hampshire. Victorian Dreams restores antique brass, iron and hardwood beds to modern specifications.
According to Kay, the most common issue with antique beds is width, which typically measures 4 feet (1.4 meters) — narrower than a queen-size bed. Luckily, Kay claims to be one of the few people in the country who can widen a metal bed to bring it up to more modern dimensions.
The company also restores and reupholsters bed frames and sells its own range of bed linen.
In terms of bedding, Tielle’s FeelGood range uses recycled European down and Snug’s duvets, pillows and pet beds are all made from recyclable, reusable materials. Here is a selection of the best eco-friendly mattresses.
There are many places these days that you can look for a greener sofa – both new and used.
You should look for sustainable, durable materials, eco-friendly fabrics and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified frames if they are made of wood.
Family-run Sofas & Stuff says it is the first and only UK retailer to use recycled marine plastics in all its sofas and chairs. Pillows are made from recycled ocean plastic, while locals in coastal communities pay to collect plastic waste. It is estimated that nearly 3 million bottles destined for the sea have been saved since October 2020.
To prevent old sofas going to waste, Sofas & Stuff also works with waste recycling company Clearabee, who donate suitable furniture to the British Heart Foundation and offer same-day collection of unneeded items.
Dining tables made from reclaimed wood
Founded in 2010 by sisters-in-law Sarah and Sally Wilkie, Home Barn makes dining tables from reclaimed wood – and claims to be the only place in the UK to do so.
Sarah and Sally salvage wood locally and craft new refectory style dining tables from elm, pine and European oak. Unevenness, dents and patina on the wood are preserved, so that no two tables are alike. Prices start from £1,550.
Home Barn also sells cabinets, seating, mirrors and housewares.
Sustainable updates don’t have to cost the earth. Consider swapping out your existing shower head to reduce your water use (it’s easier than you might think: they can be unscrewed and replaced without the help of a plumber).
Amane’s Mist Sensations showerhead works by having more holes and offering 615 jets of water compared to a typical 50-80. It promises up to 35 percent less water consumption with twice the performance of a normal shower head.
According to energy-saving consultant TheGreenAge, flushing the toilet accounts for a third of household water use. But aside from flushing your toilet less, there are other ways to reduce water use.
Rimless toilets like those from Lusso use half as much water per flush (three liters) as a normal toilet (six liters).
Most toilets drain water into the bowl under the rim, but rimless toilets have a back-mounted valve that sprays water horizontally and around the rims into the bowl. The rimless pan is said to be easier to clean and more hygienic.
And don’t worry – the conditioner should be just as strong.
Garden and terrace
If you are planning to introduce some decking to your garden for the summer, you might want to consider composite decking.
This is a combination of hardwood and recycled plastic meant to retain a wood look and feel with added durability.
Yorkshire-born Composite Prime decking boards contain more than 3,000 plastic bottle caps (or 280 plastic bottles) per square metre. Their wood is FSC certified, and by combining them with recycled plastic, they aim to prevent some common wooden decking problems such as rot, color fading and slippery.
Since its inception in 2014, the brand has saved the equivalent of 176 million plastic bottles from landfill and over 1.8 billion bottle caps.
Second hand household goods
For some people, browsing second-hand furniture stores or haggling on Facebook Marketplace is part of the thrill of second-hand shopping. For others it is a curse.
The marketplace for used home goods Haule is a happy middle ground: all the organization, convenience and shipping options of an online store, but the same potential for uncovering hidden gems.
You might be wondering why it all looks so tasteful. There is a selection process: all of the sellers listed on the site are small, independent vintage homeware shops handpicked by founders (and sisters) Katie and Georgie Barber.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, lighting accounts for 11 per cent of household electricity consumption in the UK. With the energy price cap rising 54 percent this April, taking a closer look at your lighting can be a great way to save energy — and lower your bills.
LED lights are by far the most energy efficient – they also last longer and shine at full brightness like traditional incandescent bulbs.
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that households can save up to £13 per bulb per year by replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb with an LED, or £5 by replacing a 50-watt halogen bulb.
LED bulbs have a higher initial cost but can last 10 years or more. They are stocked at most hardware stores.
Reinvent old objects
Of course, one of the most sustainable ways to modernize your home—and save money—is to work with what you already have.
A household color can be a great way to breathe new life into towels, sheets, curtains or upholstery that are losing their color. It doesn’t have to be messy either. DYLON sells dye pads that can be machine washed with old linen, cotton, or viscose blend items.
As with visible patching, why not make something out of your stains? At Sugru, you’ll find gold iron-on patches that turn stains on napkins, tablecloths, clothing and linens into a statement.
And finally, to liven up an old piece of furniture with a touch of new color, here are some of the best sustainable paints.