In this episode of the podcast I had an amazing interview with Erica Reiner from E. Leigh Designs and we discussed the basics of eco interior design and how we can use materials and products in our home that are better for the environment and for our health.

I provide a basic outline of what we discussed below. For all of the juicy details click on the player above to listen to the full interview.

What is Eco Interior Design?

Eco interior design is similar to regular interior design dealing with the decorating, painting, and furnishing the interior of your home but focuses on using products, materials, and furniture that are more eco friendly. This means that they use less resources and are better for the health of the environment and human health within your home.

How Did Erica Get into Eco Interior Design?

Erica Reiner and her dog Hank

Early in her undergraduate studies, Erica learned about the concept of sustainability and how you can live more sustainably as a person, not just being sustainable as a business or institution.

This concept entered her mind and fused with her foundation of loving nature and animals and set her on a path to focus on sustainability in her life… starting off with her graduate studies in environmental science and then working in the environmental sector and teaching environmental science.

Having completed her undergraduate studies at the height of the economic recession, Erica became a bit bored with her job in the environmental sector. She conquered that boredom by obtaining an interior decorating certificate as the pursuit of a hobby.

After obtaining her certificate in interior design, Erica originally just thought of it as a hobby and not as something she could pursue as a career.

Years later, after seeing people around her starting their own businesses, Erica decided to make an attempt to build a business in interior design which marrys the concept of interior design with eco friendly living.

What Does Erica Focus on in Her Designs?

From her background in environmental studies Erica realized the toxins and resources that make up not only common household cleaners but also many other items around our homes. This combined with society having a very disposable mindset with their possessions has led Erica to focus on the resource and toxicity makeup of items used in interior design.

Are Embodied Resources and Toxicity Levels of Materials and Furnishings Connected?

No.

For example, a wood table may be composed of reclaimed barn board or railroad ties so it does not use any additional resources. It can however contain toxic glues and be finished with toxic finishes that may offgas into your home.

On the other hand, a seagrass carpet or organic undyed and unbleached cotton curtains come from very renewable resources and contain no toxins.

What About Certifications?

Certifications are being used (and more are becoming available) by product manufacturers and home designers and builders which not only focus on the efficiency of the home but also the air quality and resources used in a home.

One of the newer holistic standards is the Well Building Standard  which focuses on human health and well-being in buildings.

How do we Help Make Interior Furnishings and Materials more Eco-Friendly and Healthy without Braking the Bank?

Photo Courtesy of Erica Reiner

  1. Consider our style and aesthetic that we want to use in our home and then factor in our budget.
  2. Determine our design and what items we need to complete it.
  3. Compile an organized list of what we need to obtain to complete our design.
  4. When looking for the items you will purchase take the aesthetic, price and eco-friendliness of the items into consideration as we determine what we will actually use.

What are Some Easy Wins to Make Our Interiors More Eco-Friendly?

Start with paint

No VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints are easy to find and will drastically improve the air quality of your home. Especially in the first days and weeks after you paint. One really good line of paint in which you can get any colour in no VOC is Natura by Benjamin Moore.

Next, the Floor

Cork and bamboo floors are two amazing options for eco-friendly hard flooring surfaces. The cheaper of the 2 is cork and has many different textures and colours available as well as plank shapes. Cork is very renewable as the tree is never cut down but the outer layers are harvested.

Bamboo is is also very renewable as it is very fast growing.

A third option is recycled leather flooring planks or tiles.

If these options do not fit your aesthetic at least ensure the adhesives used in installing your floor are non-toxic.

Don’t forget about Disposal

Take your old products and materials to places where they can be reused. It may be possible to have a company come and pick up your old carpet to be reused depending on your area. You can also take your unused paint to paint recycling centres.

Another great option for allowing materials and furnishings with some life left in them to be reused is the ReStore by Habitat for Humanity which are available both in Canada and the US.

Look for Used Furnishings that Fit Your Style

Look online to find gently used furnishings that match the look you are going for. It’s surprising what you can find if you take a bit of time to look on local used goods websites such as Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or Kijiji.

Look for Fire-Retardant Free Soft Furnishings

When you are looking for new mattresses, couches, or easy chairs, get them from manufacturers such as Environment Furniture or Ikea who don’t use fire retardants in the making of their furniture.

Look for Tiles or Countertops Made from Reused Materials

Countertops and Tiles are available which are made from recycled glass, metal, paper (Paperstone) , and other materials.

The Eco/Sustainability Industry is Starting to Take Off

Most of the technologies required to make home construction and interior design more eco friendly are already here. As more and more people utilize these technologies in their homes they will become more affordable and accessible.

The next time you are considering doing work on the interior of your home or buying new furnishings, take a bit of time to see what may be available to you that is more eco-friendly to benefit both the environment and your health.

Do you want Erica to Help You on Your Next Project?

Erica would love to help you with your net interior design project. She has a few different service packages available to best meet your needs and is able to help you no matter where you live (Ah the joys of the internet).

Check out her website for more information.

Closure

I really enjoyed the opportunity to chat with Erica and hope that you learned something that you will utilize the next time you paint or refurnish your home.

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below.

If you have found this post valuable and if you know someone who you think would also benefit from it please share it with them.

Thank you so much for reading and until next time… Go do something to make your home a little more sustainable.

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