I’ve been buying used or thrifted since I was born and I generally prefer at least 1/2 of my pieces to be vintage (which is just a fancy form of second hand). But for every shoot, install, project we, of course, buy a lot of new pieces and with that comes an insane amount of packaging and often waste, plus the question of what to do with it after or what to do with the piece you’ve replaced it with? You’ve called us out on it in the past and I am truly trying to reduce waste. I look at the piles of boxes at my front door daily and hope HARD that they aren’t full of packing peanuts or styrofoam—not that that is the only culprit here, but it’s a big one for me and I know I’m guilty of contributing to it.
So to celebrate Earth Day today and help promote “responsible decorating” (should “conscious content creating” be a thing?) we wanted to share a combination of things I do in my own life as well as solutions we researched to help us even more. And look, this is not the end all be all. We know that. There are seemingly endless amounts of resources and research (often conflicting, honestly). We do not have all the answers (or even a fraction of them), so I’m turning to you guys to ask for companies/apps/organizations/ideas…anything you’ve found that has made the issue of reducing waste more doable and easier to accommodate into your everyday life. Honestly, sometimes I think things end up in the landfill simply due to a lack of information, so here’s what we’ve come up with, and we can’t wait to dig into the comments and see what you have to add.
But first: BUY SECOND-HAND, when possible.
Buy used and vintage for all the things you feel comfortable. I usually stay in the furniture, lighting and rugs lanes for myself, but I used to buy curtains, throw pillows and dinnerware/glassware all from thrift stores. If you are scared of thrifting, I get it. Sometimes it can be, well, yes gross to some. I’m rather comfortable and I personally thrive in that environment but I know that it’s not for everyone. So opt for antique malls, vintage stores or flea markets that obviously tend to be less full of used socks.
If you are like me and often tied down by children and don’t have time to troll the valley thrifting but still want to deck out your home with cool/old weird, head to Etsy, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay and if you have more of a budget, Chairish. If you guys know ANY others that we are missing, please let me know.
This week, we’ll be rounding up, either on the blog or on social, new companies that are committed to reducing waste or giving back to the earth, so that we can purchase with pride (instead of guilt) from them.
So that’s the most obvious one about how to consume, but often our biggest problem is:
WHAT DO WE DO WITH ALL THIS LEFTOVER STUFF?
Old Furniture, decor & Appliances
The easiest thing to do with things like furniture and appliances that are still in okay shape is to donate to charitable organizations, duh. This was the big impetus for the rummage sale last year, one that we want to do again as it was such a win/win for us (a big purge for good!), the organization who profited and all the stuff went to a new home instead of a landfill. I wish I could do it quarterly and we are trying to figure out how to. Year round, I work with Pen + Napkin (local to LA) who will come and get any good furniture or decor that was for a shoot and they’ll use them in one of their projects, decorating for families transitioning out of homelessness. There are so many local organizations—at the mountain house, we donated all our appliances and cabinets/vanities/fixtures to the Boys & Girls Club so look up your local chapter. But you can also go old school and drop it off at your local Goodwill or thrift stores that fund shelters (like the San Fernando Rescue Mission).
You can also donate to Vietnam Veterans of America, where they’ll come get it from your doorstep, rain or shine. Schedule a pickup here.
If they don’t service your area, check out Donation Town to see what will come pick up near you.
Another idea we read on a forum while during research is to call the theater departments of local schools or community centers to see if they could reuse because they tend to need this kind of stuff (whether it works or not) for set design, etc. It won’t save it from the landfill in the long run, but it extends its life by reusing, hence reducing.
There are also hauling companies that don’t just pick things up and take them straight to the dump. For instance, Junk King is an environmentally friendly rubbish clearance company that recycles, reuses or donates 60% of everything they haul. If they don’t service your area, a simple Google search of “environmentally friendly hauling company” should point you in the right direction.
Something I do regularly is reusing materials like cardboard with the kids to build forts and make crafts prior to recycling, and as long as no oil, liquids or food has come in contact with it, it can still be recycled for the most part. The good news, for anyone wondering what happens to recycled cardboard, according to Earth911, it just gets recycled and becomes more cardboard, and because it takes three tons of trees to make one ton of virgin cardboard, we definitely want to keep circulating and recycling our boxes and whatnot to save those trees. I REALLY hope that is true because cardboard is my #1 guilt when it comes to waste.
If the cardboard you have can’t be recycled (you can find out more about what can and cannot be recycled here), there might be other uses for it around your house. If you compost, cardboard can be used in your compost pile. It can also be used in the garden for things like lining garden beds for weed control.
Oh, and this won’t apply to most people reading this, but for the ones that it does apply it, it can make a big difference. If you’re a company (design or otherwise) that gets a lot of cardboard, you can work with a company like Roadrunner that sets you up with all the proper recycling receptacles, picks everything up and ensures they are sent to the proper facilities for recycling.
For things like packing materials (peanuts, bubble wrap, air cushion bubble bags), there are a few things you can do:
- Call a packing supply company (like UPS) to see if they’ll accept your CLEAN packing materials. If not, they might know what else you can do with them besides put them straight in the trash.
- Call your local recycling center or EPS for drop-off locations for things like packing peanuts. I believe they even have a mail-back recycling program.
Here’s something we didn’t really know: some packing peanuts are actually compostable. A quick way to test is to put a few under your running faucet to see if the material breaks down (and also, I believe these are usually green in color to help you identify them…WHY DOESN’T EVERYONE JUST USE THOSE?). At this point, you can add them to your compost bin or even use them in planters to help water drainage.
If you’re a brand reading this, this is our outcry to please consider environmentally friendly packing materials and finding ways to offset your carbon footprint for transport and shipping. There are numerous sustainable options for packing materials now, like materials made from corn starch or sorghum, which can be composted. Companies like Dell, Crate & Barrel and Puma (among others) even use a fungus-based packing material developed by Ecovative design.
Excess Renovation Materials
The renovation process, in general, is so wasteful. There are materials that are usually in decent shape that are just ripped out and trashed because they maybe don’t match the aesthetic you’re going for. If you’re demoing yourself, or even working with a crew, salvage as much as you can. You don’t have to rip apart cabinets and countertops or even windows…they can usually be removed and salvaged to be donated as long as there isn’t damage or mold (or hell, just put them in your garage or shed as garage org). Also, if you’ve ordered an excess amount of materials like wood or tiles, those can usually be donated to places like Habitat for Humanity, or any local design school. Another idea is just simply offering them up for free (or sell them if you want) online via Craigslists, 5mile, Nextdoor, Facebook Marketplace, etc. You’d be surprised what people are willing to take off your hands for their own smaller projects.
Extra Things You Can Do
Even if we all do one or two of the things listed above regularly, it can make a big difference If you aren’t sure if something is recyclable or what to do with it (like old appliances, lightbulbs, paint, etc.), there’s an app from Earth911 called iRecycle you can download. It’s all broken up by category, so you just find what you’re trying to get rid of/recycle, and it finds local drop-off spots and recycling centers. Oh, and one thing we haven’t talked about yet is carbon emissions from shipping and whatnot, and there’s a site called Terrapass that takes donations and let’s you pay to offset your carbon footprint by funding projects like wind power, landfill gas capture and more (you can see a list of all their projects here). And they’re not the only ones. Carbonfund.org has a similar program, so it’s just a matter of doing your research to find a company you feel good about.
Ultimately, it’s both on the consumer and the retailer to step it up and try to reduce. We applaud companies that are attempting to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly both in the products they offer as well as top to bottom (from sourcing to production to final delivery). For instance, Etsy has recently vowed to offset 100% of the carbon emissions produced by their artisans.
Being a big consumer means that I have a bigger carbon footprint and a bigger responsibility to promote responsible ways to consume and donate. I suppose I also have a big voice, so please REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE.
Happy birthday, Mother Earth. Hopefully, human beings and companies will wake up even more and treat you more with respect.