How to Change Your Home Decor in an Eco-Friendly Way

Remake your rooms without wasting resources—yours or the planet's

Quartzite countertops

Amy Kartheiser Design

All of us have looked around our home, taking inventory of our window treatments, rugs, wall decor and more and finding them a bit tired. Tastes change, lifestyles evolve and before you know it, you are perusing the stores or cruising through the web, gathering ideas for a makeover. But trading out the contents of your home for new items creates waste and runs up against the effort to be sustainable.

So how do you switch up your home decor in a sustainable way that doesn't create excess waste?

Amy Kartheiser, founder and principal of Amy Kartheiser Design, understands that a new season—on the calendar or in your life—often calls for a refresh, no matter how carefully you have chosen your current decor. Here are her best tips to help you update your home’s look and love the planet, too.

Shop From What You (And Your Friends) Own

Before you replace anything, take an in-depth look at what you already have in other rooms and even in some unexpected places. 

“I recommend a classic rearrangement session,” she says. “You can even get creative on a Friday night by playing around with arrangements. Start small with accessories and accents, then see where it takes you.” 

You don’t have to stop with your own belongings. Gather some friends who are also looking to make home decor changes and have an accessories swap. Every participant can bring a set number of items that are in new or like-new condition to the host’s home a day before and the host and helpers lay everything out boutique style. 

On the day of the swap, friends gather for good conversation, maybe some snacks and take a number. When yours is called, you can peruse all the goods and grab what speaks to you. You and the other participants come home with a new look for zero costs. Someone else’s knick-knacks might add just the right touch to your living space!

Framing personal items

Courtesy of Amy Kartheiser Designs

Highlight Keepsakes

You can even take your repurposing journey a step further and give more personal items new life and your walls a story to tell. “Look around for keepsakes such as maps, posters, flags, scarves or banners — and then frame them,” Kartheiser says. “I love this option for remembering travels, adventures and memories while adding some new decor to an old space.” Reusing your current picture frames to repackage such keepsakes keeps your re-do even more eco-friendly

Think Long-Term

Sometimes, only new will do. If you have your heart set on a certain style that would look just right in your space, consider how long you think you’ll want to live with it. “ I recommend choosing a high-quality piece that truly speaks to you, so you can enjoy it for years to come,” Kartheiser says. “This way, you’ll avoid product turnover and minimize waste.”

That long-range thinking applies to more than just a new piece of furniture, window coverings or a high-end piece of art, she says. “A simple way to design with sustainability in mind is to design for longevity. Just as fast fashion contributes to waste in the fashion industry, trend-forward design does the same in the interior design field as well.” 

Think realistically about the look you want to create and why. Is it fun and funky and hot right now? Nothing wrong with that. But consider how that piece would blend into your next re-do. Would it look out of place or outdated? Just because something has some years on it doesn’t mean it won’t stand the test of time. Remember: Quality never goes out of style. 

Go for Sustainable Materials

Sustainability doesn’t mean you are compromising on style, either. You don’t have to get a boring rug or plain-Jane draperies to save the planet. “Sustainable materials can get a bad reputation as not being luxurious enough, but I firmly disagree,” says Kartheiser. “Well-made, durable materials not only provide a foundation for life-proof design, but they also make for an earth-friendly choice. I frequently design kitchens with quartzite, which is a natural, sustainable alternative to quartz; and when it comes to fabrics, I’m a big fan of natural wool — it’s softer than synthetics, durable for your busy life, and oh-so-easy to clean.”