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More and more, people are thinking about their impact on the world. How do our decisions affect the environment, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the people we share the planet with?

You may not realize it, but you can make an impact just by being conscious of the items you choose to put in your home. Buying items that are made using non-toxic materials that have been sustainably and ethically sourced can help keep your home from having a negative impact on our environment and the vulnerable populations that live within it.

What’s more, you don’t have to sacrifice style or comfort. While you may be picturing plain, scratchy rugs and uncomfortable wood furniture, the truth is you can fill your home with beautiful pieces while maintaining your commitment to ethical shopping.

Here are our tips for finding home décor you can feel good about.

Know Your Responsible Shopping Terms

Wading into the world of ethical shopping can be a little confusing at first, mainly because there are so many different words and phrases to learn. Before you start browsing, familiarize yourself with these terms.

  • Fair trade: A product certified as fair trade generally means that the workers who made it were paid fairly and work in safe, eco-friendly conditions.
  • Organic: Organic products are grown without the use of pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
  • Sustainable: Sustainability is about making sure we don’t use up so many resources that we disrupt ecosystems and prevent future generations from being able to utilize those resources.

Shop with Ethical Retailers

An increasing number of furniture retailers are committing to offering fair trade, sustainable or ethically-sourced products – even some larger, nationally-recognized brands.

Williams-Sonoma – parent company of popular furniture retailers Pottery Barn, West Elm and others – has committed to offering many fair trade, sustainably-sourced or other ethical options for home goods shoppers.

Similarly, IKEA is working towards a goal of increased sustainability, and plans to source all of its wood from more sustainable sources by 2020.

If you’re curious about a retailer’s commitment to sustainability, check out their website. If you prefer shopping at a locally-owned store, ask where their stock comes from and if they have any sustainable or eco-friendly items available.

Check Out Local Artists

Buying from local crafters is good because their production process has a significantly smaller footprint than that of larger manufacturers. However, if you’re also looking for products that are ethically-sourced or don’t utilize harmful chemicals, be sure to ask the person what materials they use. Just because something is handcrafted doesn’t necessarily mean it’s eco-friendly.

If you want an easy way to connect to local artists and prefer to shop online, The Citizenry offers home décor that has been hand crafted by artisans from around the world. They collaborate with local artisans in different areas and connect them to customers, while making sure the artisans are paid fairly for their work.

You can also check out online marketplaces like Etsy that connect you directly to self-employed artisans.

Get It Pre-Loved

“Pre-loved” is a nice-sounding way of saying “used,” but it’s actually kind of apropos – buying an item someone loved in their home and making it your own is a great way to not only reduce your ecological footprint, but to get décor that has character.

If you’re itching for some new décor pieces, hit up your local vintage, antique or thrift stores. Often, you can find really cool items that you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere for an attractive price. Don’t be afraid to check out estate sales or flea markets, as well. You might even consider asking your friends or family if they have any interesting items they’re looking to part with.

However, some things shouldn’t be bought secondhand, so steer clear of used upholstered furniture unless you know the previous owner well and trust their level of cleanliness.

Read the Label

With the rising popularity of ethical shopping, some disingenuous marketers take advantage of this by slapping eco-friendly-sounding labels on items that are anything but. That’s why it’s a good idea to know how to tell if something is truly an ethical item or just a marketing ploy.

Start by reading the label. Organic items are good, but you want to look for labels that show the items have been certified by an organization that regulates standards for organic textiles. Keep an eye out for the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) logo to be sure you’re getting an item that is truly organic.

Look for certification labels any time you see a product claiming some sort of sustainable feature. Fair Trade USA and other similar organizations offer certification for products labeled as “fair trade.” If you’re buying wood furniture, look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label so you know the wood came from a sustainable source.

Other claims can be harder to back up, as they’re vaguer. Terms like “non-toxic” and “natural” aren’t regulated, so you should be a little more skeptical.

Look to Adding Function

Décor doesn’t just have to be about aesthetics. Search for items that look great while adding function.

Having your own indoor garden can be a great way to make your décor more sustainable. Flowers make for beautiful, colorful additions while something more practical like an herb garden will provide you with a source for delicious herbs for cooking. Whatever plants you choose, grow them in cute, biodegradable planters.

Additionally, changing out the hardware in your bathroom is an easy and affordable way to give the room a whole new look. While you’re doing so, spring for some eco-friendly options, like a chic low-flow shower head.

Sustainable Décor Inspiration

decor items

  1. STOCKHOLM 2017 Handwoven Rug $169
  2. Baya Handwoven Fair Trade Lumbar Pillow $195
  3. Boll & Branch Organic Cotton Sheet Set $200 – $295
  4. FSC-Certified 2 Drawer Nightstand $335
  5. 3-Pack Biodegradable Round Nursery Flower Pots $14
  6. WaterSense Handheld Shower and Shower Head Combo Kit $200

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