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Decorating Can Be So Wasteful. Here’s One BIG Thing You Can Do To Help (+ a Ton of Good Resources)


photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp for EHD | from: Michael’s Living Room Reveal

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:


The Ruby Street Rummage For Good Sale

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.

Packing Materials

For things like packing materials (peanuts, bubble wrap, air cushion bubble bags), there are a few things you can do:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Portland Master Bathroom Opener

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. 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.


Fin Mark


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Loveley of

THANK YOU FOR THIS POST. so very needed. there is sooooooooooooo much waste and i love seeing you address it. Happy Earth Day!

Also, if you live in the Detroit area, look up Humble Design. This company does what Emily mentioned about above that another group in LA does. But this is for the Detroit area, and maybe a few other cities. They accept donations of decor and home items and use them to decorate apartments/homes for families transitioning out of homelessness. Their videos are tear-inducing (especially when you see homeless children walk into their very own bedroom for the first time – have a box of tissues ready) and it makes you feel good to know that your donated items are making such a difference and will be used again.
(I would have added the link for Humble Design, but often my comments with links will not post, so just google Humble Design Detroit).


and Humble Design Chicago!

Sheri Lee Johnson

And Humble Design Seattle! I volunteer with them and it’s the BEST ORGANIZATION. When you furnish a home for a family transitioning out of homelessness and see them come into their HOME you realize you are willing to give even your favorite items if it means it can go to one of these families. It’s incredible. It’s in Seattle, Detroit, Chicago and one other city. Support them!


If you’re in DC, Light House DC and a Wider Circle both do this! Also Community Forklift takes old appliances/rennovation materials.

Carolyn Marnon

I’ve donated to Humble Design Detroit. It just thrills me to watch the videos and see how the volunteers take the various donations and bring them all together to make a house a home for these families. And to bring it all together in a cohesive design as well!


Thank you for this post and addressing this issue. I’d love for you also to address the environmental impact of all of the clothes you buy and promote. The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world after big oil. And getting rid of clothing also has a huge impact on the environment and economies all over the world, as textile recycling is relatively uncommon.


Amen to this comment


Yes! Please do stop this aspect of your brand Emily. It is completely unnecessary and really shows that you probably don’t care all that much about the environment. Thanks for your blog post but it flies in the face of all the other stuff you do.


One vote for please never stop the fashion posts!

Tina Schrader

Oh, I don’t at all believe that Emily doesn’t care about the environment. This post obviously took time and effort to research, write and post. If she didn’t care all she’d have had to do would be to throw up a few links, say, “Happy Earth Day!” and sit back and grab a Margarita. Awareness, for all of us, takes time, as does incorporating change. They couldn’t finish Rome in a day; it’s unrealistic to expect swooping change to happen in what amounts to the equivalent of five minutes, judging by these comments. She and her team are obviously responding to feedback from her audience; the least we can do is appreciate it.

Rachel S

this doesn’t feel like a fair comment. No one can be perfect in being environmentally conscious, there are approximately one million variables at play.
You don’t know what Emily does with her excess clothing and just because she posts about fashion doesn’t mean she’s an indiscriminate fashion consumer.


While I think you do probably care about the environment, I agree with this comment. The increase in fashion posts has made this blog more of a stress read than a fun read for me. Unlike the interiors content, which focuses on both form and function, it feels like the style/hair posts are just looking at form.

Tyra Babington

Rudeness or attempting to shame isn’t really necessary to make a point or suggestion. Try approaching others with the same measure of grace and kindness you would want to extended to you. No one is perfect. I’m sure you didn’t mean it but sometimes the printed word comes across as hurtful.


Awesome post, I’m so glad that you’re able to use your blog as a way to help preach that Earth Day is EVERY day! Your non-local sustainability coordinator here to help add some details to your awesome tips: 1) Cardboard can be recycled only about 5-7 times in it’s lifespan (because paper fibers shorten every time it’s recycled). This is why its especially frustrating when companies ship cardboard boxes in cardboard boxes…they’re already packaged!! (looking at you glamazon.) Small amounts of torn up cardboard can be composted, but Emily is spot on, it’s an excellent weed barrier for under mulch. Even better, choose companies who ship in containers that can be returned! (Like plastic totes.) 2) “Compostable” products sadly can often not actually be composted in your home composting bin, because the smaller bins don’t generally get hot enough. This requires a larger pile (which are not always looked upon kindly by homeowners associations) or wind-rowing compost piles like at your community composting facilities. Save compostable products for large scale composting facilities which do get hot enough to break these materials fully down or, hot tip, these packing peanuts are often great as a drainage layer in the bottom of… Read more »

these are all great points thank you xx


Yeah! I was going to mention that the easiest and most environmentally friendly way to reduce impact is to just buy less. Not always feasible if your job is to decorate someone’s home or whatnot, but I loved when the EHD team was borrowing/renting stuff for the Samsung TV shoots. Such a great way to reduce waste at the source!

Rachel S

to your second point, I assumed (as a californian) that Emily was referencing our municipal compost.

We are privileged here in CA that we have access to large scale municipal composting and aren’t required to DIY. But yes, if you are backyard composting, many “compostables” do not qualify.


We used to buy scratching posts for our cat. They were always ugly though and within a month or two just ended up being an eyesore. Now, we use our cardboard boxes. He loves them way more than he ever loved those scratching posts or cat trees. He actually gets excited when he sees us break down a box. Okay, first he wants to sit in the box because…he’s a cat. Then we break it down. That cardboard is the perfect scratching material for cats. They love it.

ooooh what a great idea!

Julie P

Thank you so much for this post!!

Several things:
1) Amazon has introduced a voluntary program by which everything you order during a week is held and then shipped in one box, on the day of your choosing. Less packaging, less gas used by giant UPS trucks.

2) the ReStore is a wonderful place that will even take everything under the sun including used toilets. They will take used cabinets, used doors, used hardware, leftover building materials and supplies etc.

3) I’ve started collecting all the plastic wrapping and bubble wrap from packaging and putting it in with the plastic bag recycling.

4) Apart from T-shirts and bras and underwear I buy almost all my clothes used at a fabulous used clothing store My Sister’s Closet and eBay. Find a used clothing store near expensive neighborhoods and you’ll find gently used fabulous pieces.


thanks for sharing about Amazon!


ReStore is fantastic! When we replaced some ceiling fans and light fixtures we saved all the parts and pieces and donated them, as well as some furniture that was too big for me to get to Goodwill. I coordinated the pickup with them and they came and got everything. ReStore is affiliated with Habitat for Humanity. It’s a local shop where people can purchase donated construction and home improvement supplies like old countertops, cabinets, light fixtures, etc., as well as furniture.

Just a week ago I talked my mom through a donation to her local ReStore. She was convinced no one would want an old bookcase she had in her attic, so she was just planning on putting it out for garbage pickup. She also thought no one would be willing to drag it down from the attic. Wrong, ReStore to the rescue!


Yes to ReStore! Was so glad to see it mentioned in this article and comment. I have definitely brought them sinks, toilets, vinyl flooring, old kitchen cabinets (must have all hardware! – not handles, but for doors that come off/on etc.) and more. IT WILL ALL GET USED AGAIN! Also, as a shopper, YOU can go and purchase things there if you’re looking for a discount and don’t need much, or are flexible on your space. Maybe consider repurposing someone else’s old cabinets for your basement or garage storage?

Side note – it’s also a great place to look for random doors! I volunteered at one in college and they always had these cycling in and out of old homes.


I own a beautiful consignment boutique for women, and it’s amazing!!! #frenchtoastkitty we sell immaculate condition clothing and accessories without the “ick” factor you can sometimes get at goodwill or thrift stores.
People really need to look at “pre-loved” clothing as an environment and money saver!!

Rachel S

Sadly the ReStore failed me when I renovated my kitchen, I was desperate to find somewhere to donate the old cabinetry but no one would take them. Every building material recycler that I found refused anything made with an inch of particle board and my 90s era cabinetry I was replacing was made with particle board boxes. There was nothing to be done but haul them to the dump which broke my heart.

I co-sign on your second-hand clothes buying 100%. I also love Poshmark, I have the app on my phone. There is SO MUCH STUFF on there it’s fantastic and such a money saver. Plus I found a couple amazing vintage brass belt buckles for my husband for his birthday. Highly recommend!


You use styrofoam packing peanuts to help draining in planters–not the compostable kind! When used for drainage, you want the packing peanut to stick around and stay fluffy.


Great post! Another online resource for vintage and second-hand items is EBTH (Everything But The House). It’s an auction site for estate sale items, and they typically have some really nice pieces, especially if you’re willing to dig. Also, just a quick clarification, if you use packing peanuts for planters, you’ll actually want to use the ones that don’t break down in water. Otherwise, they’ll just “melt” and run out the drainage holes when you water the plants. 😉


I recommend joining a “Buy Nothing” Facebook group in your area. You’ll be surprised by what you can find before you go buy something new, or how easy it is to pass along things you no longer want or need! I’ve gifted everything from extra wine glasses to extra tubes of diaper cream, and I was able to take some gently used outdoor toys for my kids off of my neighbor’s hands!


My best buy nothing give was eztra Valentine’s for a busy mom that forgot! My best get was fancy laundry soap for workout gear. I am a walking ad for buy nothing. Its so great!


Buy Nothing is my favorite!! I am a stylist and always have great random stuff leftover after jobs. It is so great to share my bounty with my neighbors, while cleaning it out of my house! And I have also received some really generous gifts, like a new bike for myself and a bike rack, just to name a couple.


For your Portland readera, Metro’s garbage and recyxling website lets you type in what you have akd your address and it’ll tell you the olaces nearby you can taoe it for recycling/disposal if there is a fee, etc.

Also local Facebook buy nothing groups, I am able to pass on a ton of stuff that way and people pick it up from my house!

Lastly, one of the biggest things you can do is use a car with good mpg. I don’t know what you use for your staff but there are lots of hybrid SUVs and even a minivan now.


The easiest thing one can do to lead a more sustainable life is Stop. Eating. So. Much. Meat.


Great post! In LA check out donating to A Sense of Home
They set up homes for young people transitioning out of foster care. It’s an amazing group!


What a great concept!


If I lived in LA I would totally take your packing materials and boxes for my etsy store! (Microscopetelescope) I wonder if there are a few in LA that would love to grab your materials and reuse them?

Ooh this is a good question..I will have to look into it

Nancy Shaw

Thank you, thank you, thank you! My husband and I were just cleaning out a shed yesterday and were trying to determine ways to recycle more unique items. As well as the frequent packaging material we receive. We so appreciate all the resource links.

Nikki Burnet

As an interior designer in New Zealand I find myself feeling physically ill at times at the amount of waste produced in our industry. It is a daily battle to align my love of ‘interior design’ with ‘sustainable practices’! A big issue that I am working on (possibly a much bigger issue for somewhere remote like NZ then America?) is reducing my carbon footprint, which has meant needing to make a conscious effort and shift to specifying furniture pieces etc from NZ suppliers and manufacturers (a fantastic but very very small and often much pricier source pool) and trying wherever budgets allow to minimise importing the cheaper, more mass produced overseas product, and then educating the client to the benefits of this! I have also found my own personal design style has changed over the last few years to embrace a slightly more minimal feel, and the products that I do specify are higher quality, longer lasting and more classic/timeless in design so that they aren’t just binned in a couple of years time when trends change. Thirdly, one of my biggest bugbears is the waste of beautiful fabric and wallpaper sampling created in our industry when a collection is… Read more »

Paula Carr

I love to find remnants of designed fabric for making pillows! I could never afford the “real” prices for such things. And it’s a win-win. I get great fabric, and it stays out of the landfill!


My upholsterer gave me his out of date fabric samples and leftover rolls of fabric, which I donated to my disabled daughter’s day program. Two years later and they still are using them for art quilts, art dresses, art projects, etc. It would be great if you could add day programs for people with disabilities to your donation list, too. Many thanks for your consideration.


I think the best and most comprehensive strategy is just to consume less and say no to excess. The sooner we learn to be content with what we have, the better off we will be spiritually, mentally and physically.


Yeah, that’s the simple truth. The recycling tips etc are helpful, but I think it’s a struggle to reconcile a desire for sustainability with a business model based on compelling people to buy new stuff and redo their houses.


Wanted to add, check out your Local Buy Nothing on Facebook. I know it has a lot to do based on neighborhood but it has been a great resource for passing on boxes/packing peanuts (for someone that is moving), so those nail polishes that you never use (that you’d throw away), to that cleaning product that you just didn’t love or skin care product that wasn’t quite right. These were all things I would have generally tossed but it’s nice to be giving them a new home and eliminating waste.


I love my buy nothing group!!

I’ve never heard of this!! What a cool idea thank you for sharing 🙂


Just want to say — Habitat Restore also picks up donations & is a great organization. You can find info online about what items the store nearest to you is accepting/ not accepting.


SUPER LOVE THIS POST! Thanks Emily for helping others understand that designing doesn’t mean creating more waste in the world. I would love to also see a post on where to shop for more sustainable good sometime! Article, West Elm, and a few others come to mind.


Goodwill also has an online auction site.
I’ve purchased dinnerware to art from the site and it is terrific. Also, when you win an item they send it to you in recycled packaging (bubble wrap, packing peanuts) and cardboard boxes whenever possible.
I’ve also found that many thrift shops will take packaging and boxes to reuse.


Great post! Most cities/neighborhoods have their own chapter of Buy Nothing on facebook. Its a community of like minded people hoping to reduce/reuse consumption by posting things they no longer need or want, which someone may need/want. I’ve received plants, tiles, you name it and given away a ton of stuff from baby supplies to pillows to curtains! Its such a great resource and a lovely way to get to know your neighbors.


I see there are other Buy Nothing enthusiasts up there. I should have read the other comments first.


Please don’t use TerraPass. They were sold to a larger energy company called JustEnergy, and there are other companies doing much better work in the carbon space (Also, TerraPass is not a donation so it is not tax-deductible). If you want to purchase carbon offsets, please consider Carbon Fund, Native Energy or If you are looking to calculate your carbon footprint the EPA has a good footprint calculator. If you have any offset questions leave them below and I can answer them.


Good to know. If you’re interested in offseting carbon, you can also cut out the middleman, and donate directly to the urban forest organization in your area – more tree canopy means more carbon stored! In CA you can find your local tree non-profit at Califorina ReLeaf, and nationally with ACT.

Paula Carr

I attempt to recycle everything that our garbage people accept as recyclable. That’s the easy part.

“Original” styrofoam (sp?) packing peanuts are the WORST. They not only aren’t recyclable, but they take up a huge volume and have that nasty static cling issue. I love it when I get biodegradable packing peanuts. So easy and clean to dispose of!

I use the Vietnam Vets pickup ALL the time. They’re really convenient, and they’re a 501 3(c)!


I have bought fabulous items for my home (furniture, dishes, paintings) at good to excellent prices on on-line auction sites (I have used and although there may be others) They provide an electronic auction platform for vintage stores, thrift stores, etc. They service these stores all over the country. The items are all featured on the live auctioneers or invaluable sites with the name of the local organization who is using their service and the time of the auction (some or online only some are online plus onsite). I focus my search on local organizations so I can preview the items I am interested in and then go pick them up if have the winning bid at the auction. However, if there is a specific item you are interested in you can bid on them and have them shipped to you (at additional cost). This really expanded the audience for these small for profit organizations and some charities who use this platform.

Peggy McCallum

Terracycle collects and recycles hard-to-recycle waste, everything from action figures to razors to art supplies, and on and on. I bought a “fabrics and clothing waste” box to recycle all of my fabric scraps from sewing and clothing that couldn’t be resold and it couldn’t have been easier. For more information, their website is


I really appreciate all of this, great conversation. I think it also needs to be said that we all need to not just donate to second hand but shop there too, or it’s pointless. I love all of Emily’s thrifting! And, we can also recognize that the inherent desire to update our spaces so much is wasteful… which is hard to talk about on a design blog! I totally get it, we want personalized homes that are beautiful to us, including me, and we can try to approach it in ways that are Earth friendly by just living with rooms that aren’t totally “perfect” or cutting edge, and finding ways to minimally update/modify what we might already have . Overall, thank you Emily for making beautiful homes, and a home for a conversation like this!


One big thing I think a lot of people could do is to NOT order online. Especially things like groceries/toiletries/ or basically anything else that can be bought at a local store. It’s just plain lazy to have everything sent and worse, extremely wasteful. I also think it’s crazy hypocritucal when you see people pledge to the climate and environment yet they order online most things they could easily get from a trip to the store.


Agree. I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. It’s very convenient, but I try to use it only for things I can’t easily find locally. Buying local (even at Target or similar, although of course small retail stores are better) is not only better for the environment, it keeps the tax money local.


Online shopping isn’t as bad as one would assume. Many physical stores act as the middle man to get goods to consumers (Home Depot, Target etc). When you order something online it ships from a warehouse, in a large truck with a planned route. In contrast, when you pick something up from the store, it goes from the same warehouse to the highly air conditioned building with a massive parking lot (less green space). Individuals then drive themselves in personal cars to the store to pick up items. While this doesn’t encompass all scenarios (where you live, what you have available locally) and the packaging/waste is definitely something to consider, online shopping does have its place. This blog post is helpful in explaining the things to consider.


I love this post and all of the great ideas that other readers are contributing, too! I wanted to add another option that reduces the amount of material that goes to the landfill, theoretically reduces the amount of new trees cut down for construction purposes, respects artisans from a bygone era, and reuses a finite resource: reclaimed lumber! I know you used some of this in your mountain house from a local LA company and it added so much warmth and character to the space (and, contrary to common belief, doesn’t have to be rustic). If you live in an area without a reclaimed lumber yard, check out–a family-owned small Montana business that ships everywhere.


So happy to see a post like this! I’d love to spread the word far and wide about Facebook Buy Nothing groups – my local group has made the biggest difference to me in regards to recycling and keeping things out of the landfill. People can find their local group here
and find out how to start one if there area doesn’t already have an active one. I have gifted and received countless items through my local group and now when I need something I immediately ask my local group and I would say 85-90% of the time I’m gifted the item I’m looking for which means money saved for me, and one less thing cluttering up the gifter’s house. It’s honestly life changing and I hope lots of Em’s readers will check it out.


Something that can go a long way towards reducing consumption and a throw away culture is putting a little effort into learning how to fix things, or finding a local business that can do it. Last week I did a little research and taught myself how to mend a hole in a sweater that otherwise would have been unwearable. I’ve re-wired lamps and repurposed closet organizer shelves for the garage. I also rescue lots of things off the curb that are not garbage, which always shocks me. A Kofod-Larson armchair, a vintage Singer sewing machine that needed a simple repair, terra cotta planters in perfect condition…sigh. Why not donate???

Animal shelters are usually in desperate need of old towels and blankets, which sometimes get stained or too gross looking to donate for human use.


I seldom buy anything packed with bubble wrap anymore (or much of anything at all) but I used to pass it along to my neighbor who has an antique store. She reused all my bubble wrap at her store.
When we remodeled our kitchen years ago, we saved all the cabinets and moved them to the basement. Repainted, they’re in use in the laundry/craft room. It drives me NUTS to see people smash kitchen cabinets in good condition instead of taking the time to remove and donate them. Why do they do that?

Rachel S

some first hand experience: I couldn’t donate my kitchen cabinets when I renovated my kitchen, they were made with particle board and no one would take any items with any portion particle board. Every building material recycler I found had a specific rule against it. It broke my heart to see them dumped.


Wanted to leave this resource here for local composting in case any readers saw the suggestion and couldn’t compost in their backyards/don’t have one/aren’t sure where to start!

Anne Davis

EBTH – Everything But The House


Thank you for being open and aware- that’s always a great start!


Thank you for all the thought that went into this!


This isn’t design related but can I compel anyone else out there to bring their own cup to the coffee place in the morning? I get it, you’re busy, didn’t have time to make coffee, etc—but if you make it a habit, it becomes so easy and feels so much better! (Don’t be fooled—that paper cup is probably too dirty to be recycled! And the plastic too!) If you are like me and love ice coffee, here’s my set up: Luminarc glass cup/jars with lids that I poked a hole in and some glass straws. I love glass straws—everything tastes better, I swear!

Jane Manuel

Thanks, Emily, for this post.
I am a longtime reader and a fan of your ethos and approach on many levels (about design, kids, marriage, etc.), but I feel like I must echo comments from some other readers who point out that EHD’s current approach is simply incompatible with good environmental practice. I don’t intend in any way for that to sound mean- I am as complicit as anyone, as I am a consumer of EHD content. Unfortunately, the promotion of reusing and recycling, while great, minimizes the most crucial part of the puzzle, which is reducing the amount we consume in the first place. I assume that being content driven means that the need to create new, fresh posts (with new products, new materials, the ability to swap out materials as often as you feel) necessarily trumps any desire to be environmentally conscious. I would love to see incorporation of responsible environmental practice become a much more prominent aspect of the EHD blog!

Jaclyn DuBois

I. Love. This. Post. Thank you for such a comprehensive list of ideas and for making sustainability a priority – it means a lot to us conscious consumers out there. Happy Earth Day indeed! xoxox

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When we remodeled our kitchen years ago, we saved all the cabinets and moved them to the basement. Repainted, they’re in use in the laundry/craft room. It drives me NUTS to see people smash kitchen cabinets in good condition instead of taking the time to remove and donate them. Why do they do that?


One of the best things you can do is be satisfied with what you have and don’t remodel/redecorate and buy new clothes whenever styles change


Another easy thing to do is put peanuts, bubble wrap, packing pillows etc. Up on Craigslist. I’m a reseller and I pick stuff up all the time




1. Eat less (or no) meat. It uses so, so much water, creates so many emmisions.
2. Don’t buy drinks that come with plastic straws or refuse them at the point of purchase. Seriously, do you really need a straw to drink? We’re adults! If you do think you need a straw…buy a sippie cup!
3. Take your own reusable shopping bags to the shops. Our government banned the single-use bags and it’s so good!
4. Do not buy balloons for children’s parties or promotional events (Emily!). Think about other party decorations too. So much is one use and then chuck it.
5. Have “Decor Swap Parties” with your friends. We swapped some great curtains and glassware.
6. Think carefully about what you buy others for gifts (inckuding how you wrap it).


Love this post! Happy to hear you are thinking about your environmental responsibility and using your platform to help the cause.

Tina Schrader

This is a fantastic post! You obviously took great care in its preparation. I love all the resources; thank you! I’ve seen a few mentions of the Buy Nothing Project, which is great. I think Freecycle is similar. (?) One thing I’ve long wondered about is the conundrum of having stuff that provides decoration but is simply more, well, stuff that’ll end up in a landfill eventually. I’m thinking in large part of pillows — great to decorate with, but they’re just…more objects that are now out there that took resources to make and will eventually enlargen our landfills. Yet I’m not one for an austere look, either. Perhaps I’m not explaining myself well. Also, Emily, I love that you wrote about your proportional “bigger reaponsibility” as a designer to offset your carbon footprint. That’s an example we should all follow, especially our nation as a whole. Kudos!

Rachel S

Being earth conscious is an incredibly complex issue. Paper products, for example, if they are FSC certified (which is increasingly the industry standard) they actually support the continued existence of forests. People sometimes think that the more we consume paper products the fewer trees will be on the planet but the opposite is true often. Not to say we shouldn’t recycle, we ABSOLUTELY should, but using a paper towel in the office bathroom isn’t a net negative thing to do. Electric hand dryers on the other hand, might be net negative. Consuming electricity to dry ones hands seems needless to me. Electric paper towel dispensers make absolutely no sense. Also, for me in NorCal, our recycling vendor allows you to drop plastic film items (i.e. airpockets from packaging) into the blue bin, no drop off required, as long as they’re bundled together in another plastic bag. We keep a “bag of bags” in the pantry, when it’s full, into the recycling bin it goes. Check with your recycler to determine what their stance on plastic film is. Something I’ve internalized recently also is that contaminated recycling is garbage. Recycling experts say “if in doubt, throw it out”. It’s better for… Read more »


Wonderful post followed by wonderful comments. I am a poshmark addict and my kids wear most of their clothes from once upon a child. I have a serious craigslist habit as well, probably one reason I love this blog – – the vindication. Anyway, I have used a lot of cardboard from Amazon in the yard. I save the boxes and lay them out to go under weed fabric, under stones, and under pilee of yard clippings and mulch. Cardboard disappears astonishingly fast. I do strip off stuff that looks like it might have plastic and sometimes I retrieve tape from a bed when everything else has been eaten by worms. Worms adore cardboard. And birds adore worms. You see where this is going.

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