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Start Your Sustainability Journey this Summer: 24 Eco-Friendly Home Design Ideas

With the summer season about to begin, chances are you’ve heard about reducing water usage, limiting your electricity or air conditioning, and other eco-friendly practices you can take part in. But what does it mean to truly have a green home all year round – not just during the summer months? From sustainable architecture to eco-friendly interior design practices, native landscaping, and energy-saving upgrades, there are countless eco-friendly home design ideas to consider. 

So whether you’re living in Atlanta, GA, or looking to make your LEED-certified apartment in Austin, TX, even more sustainable, there’s always a green option that works for your needs. To help you get started, we’ve reached out to experts to weigh in on the topic. Check out what they had to say so you can make your home more eco-friendly this summer and for years to come.

Eco-friendly interior design ideas

You have the power to make green choices

For the first time, consumers have the purchasing power and access to knowledge to make better buying choices for themselves and their homes, i.e., essential for the planet. Sustainable interiors create positive earth, impactful stories and financial inclusion for creative manufacturers, and a better, more equal society. – Konark Ogra, Rural Handmade

Sustainable interior design is not just creating green spaces by using eco-friendly furniture or products. Sustainable interior design is focusing on minimizing the negative impact on the environment, considering social, performance, and financial implications while creating green spaces by utilizing renewable or recycled resources. Applying sustainable interior design not only has benefits for the environment but also improves the home environment and promotes homeowners’ well-being. If you’re considering making your home more sustainable, keep 3 things in mind – “less is more,” “quality over quantity,” and “all the products deserve a second life.” – Lily, E-Interior Designer, and Conscious Creator, Making A Green Life by Lily

The most sustainable materials are what you already have

While sustainable materials like bamboo are great, it’s even better just to use what you already have. Repurpose old clothes into curtains or use old boots as indoor plant holders. It saves you a buck, and it decreases the amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by shipping products. – Eric & Jhanelle, The Sustainable Living Guide

Bring biophilic design into your home

If we want to lower the environmental impact of our cities, it’s important to start reconnecting with nature – and bringing biophilic design into interior spaces is the best way to do this. But biophilic design isn’t just about adding vegetation. It’s about colors, shapes, art, spaces, natural material, and more that help blur the lines between the built and natural environment. – Sofia Hadjiosif, Founder of Terra Movement

Transitioning to eco-friendly ways for sustainability is simple and cost-effective, contrary to popular belief. Your sustainable or eco-friendly interior design approach could be as small as choosing LED lighting or bringing in a few plants (after all, nothing is greener than plants, right?), to as big as going all out and purchasing second-hand decor and furniture items or applying eco-friendly paints. The furniture will give your home a vintage feel and the plants will make it feel warm and inviting, all while being eco-friendly. – Sharika, Sevenedges

Fair Trade fabrics have many benefits

Create a focal point that can celebrate cultures, support professional artisans, and care for the environment. Beautiful Fair Trade fabrics and unique crafts carry stories for sharing in all your special places. Thank you for choosing Fair Trade, it really counts. – Jackie Corlett, Founder and Designer, Motif Handmade

Easy, everyday changes can make a big impact

We all know that we should be more environmentally conscious, but it’s hard to know where to start. Most people think that sustainable living is expensive and difficult, but that’s not always the case. You can make easy changes in your everyday life to have a big impact. One way you can make your home more sustainable is by using eco-friendly interior design ideas. Sustainable interior design focuses on using natural materials and resources whenever possible. Not only does this help the environment, but it also has some great health benefits as well. – Home Design Institute

Sustainable interior design is just like regular interior design, it takes “good” taste and a bit more awareness of your surroundings, nature, and production – all interior design should be sustainable, without having to mention it. When thinking about designing your space in a sustainable way, you should start with thinking about where to source things – it’s the easiest way to make a change. Order from local producers, check their production process and don’t have your materials travel the globe, for us, this is the second step, the first step is to check what can be reused. – Kurt De Leeuw, Owner and Director of Itsk.Studio

Start by making the space you already have more eco-friendly

The most sustainable thing is to start with the home you already have. If starting afresh or renovating, look at ways airflow, light, insulation, shade, and connection with the outdoors will work best in your specific site and build the least house necessary. – Emma Scragg

E-design embraces the items you own

E-design is a great way to hire a designer without the waste of endless samples. A great e-designer will use what you have and enhance it, if your budget is tight they will even work with the furniture you already own (remember that lamp that’s tucked away in a closet). There’s nothing more sustainable than repurposing the things you already have. – Melody, HealthIn Designs

Eco-friendly landscaping tips

Using native plant material around your home is a great way to increase its eco-friendly credibility. Not only do native plants greatly reduce the need for supplemental watering, fertilizer, and pesticides, but they also help provide local wildlife with a food and shelter source. Using native plants also eliminates the potential for invasive species from escaping your yard and causing a detrimental effect on the surrounding environment. – Brian Kennedy, Owner/Operator, Fishtail Landscape & Lighting

Choose plants that work with your outdoors

Selecting native plants that match the growing conditions (sun, soil type, and moisture) of your home will allow you to have eco-friendly landscaping that won’t require much, if any, maintenance throughout the growing conditions. This is because the native species have evolved and adapted over millennia to thrive in your location. Although once rare, native plant nurseries are becoming very common around the United States. – GrowIt BuildIt

Embrace native wildflowers and eliminate pesticides

Loss of healthy habitats has led to biodiversity loss in our urban and rural landscapes. The good news is that anyone that owns or manages any green space, however large or small, can build healthy landscapes to support our essential native pollinators. We encourage people to incorporate native wildflowers that bloom throughout the growing season, convert part of their lawn to a pollinator-friendly habitat, and eliminate the use of toxic pesticides that harm people, pets, and pollinators. These actions will help support the widest array of beneficial bees, butterflies, and birds. – People and Pollinators

Our yards are the future of conservation. We’re facing a climate crisis and our yards play a big part in supporting soil health and wildlife. There are 3 key things you can do to help curb climate change

1. Integrate native plants into your gardens. Native plants are native to the region you live in. They’re best adapted to the climate you live in and support local wildlife by offering food and nesting habitat to animals like birds, bees, bats, and butterflies. 

2. Reduce your lawn space by incorporating more wild spaces and/or gardens. Lawns offer no help to wildlife and decrease soil health. 

3. Never use chemicals. Garden chemicals contaminate our water systems and kill soil bacteria, which we need for balanced soil health. Plus chemicals kill wildlife, like bees, so there’s never a reason to use chemical applications. – Sacred Space Gardens

Restoring the delicate balance of our ecosystems one seed and plant at a time. We harness the natural power of native seeds and plants to assist our customers in creating uniquely beautiful landscapes with the added benefit of vegetated erosion control and slope stabilization. We’re proud to offer an extensive variety of sustainable native species created using seeds collected from remnant prairies in the Midwest. When you purchase from Agrecol, you’re investing in a better future for our planet. Environmental stewardship is key in everything we do, so you can be sure that your purchase will help to enhance and to protect the environment through biodiversity and value-added landscapes. – Agrecol  

Add a rain garden. Many municipalities are starting to require rain gardens to handle stormwater runoff in new home construction and they’re easy to add and give immediate benefits. There’s even funding available to help create one at your home. Have fun. Gardening should bring you tons of enjoyment, from the flowers and fruit to the butterflies and birds that visit. Your garden can be a rewarding home to you and the wildlife friends that visit. Now get out there and do some gardening! – John Magee, Magee Design and Native Plant Podcast

A great garden is one that benefits both you and the environment

While you’re busy selecting plants that attract loads of birds, bees, and butterflies to your garden, don’t forget to invite yourself. A garden can and should be a refuge for your mind. Plan for easy access, places to relax and enjoy the garden, as well as spaces to tend the garden. If you can’t reach a plant without stepping on a bed and compacting the soil, you need to plant a rock, flagstone, or log round that will act as a stepping stone but will decompose over time, feeding the life in the soil. – Wild Ones, to find a local Wild One chapter, visit here

Energy-saving upgrades

Solar is always a great option

We feel great knowing we help customers reduce their carbon output by 500,000 pounds in a decade. Next to the obvious environmental benefits the financial returns are often steady and not influenced by market changes. Solar’s ability to avoid the politics and price volatility that increasingly characterize fossil fuel markets is a major advantage. We see a solar system as a 401K plan. This plan pays on a monthly basis through the utility bill and through the SREC payments a couple of times per year. – Belmont Solar

If you’re doing new construction, consider including PV solar for your electric needs. That way you can electrify your house, pay less utility bills, and lower your carbon footprint. Consider the following when including PV: an EV charger in your garage, an induction range, whole-house LED lights and dark sky lighting with LED on the exterior, electric heating, and cooling system. Many of the electric coops are now providing very hefty rebates for doing any of the above. There are also rebates on LED bulbs. – Sarah Sumner, Senior Designer and Owner of Fusion Interiors

Residential solar panels offer a bevy of benefits that can save you money year after year. They’ll reduce your reliance on the power grid, may increase the value of your home, and provide reliable, consistent energy. With every kilowatt-hour your solar panels generate, you’ll help remove CO2 emissions, sulfur oxide emissions, and other particulate matter from the air. In fact, a National Renewable Energy Laboratory report states that each household that switches to solar energy could stop up to 7.7 tons of toxic greenhouse gasses from being released into the atmosphere. – TENCO SOLAR

Green building ideas

When building an eco-friendly home, it’s essential to use natural materials like bamboo, timber, cork, eco-friendly concrete and cement, and recycled materials. It’s also important to remember that the smart consumption of resources is at the heart and soul of eco-friendly design: make a point to provide thermal insulation of doors and use multi-glazed windows, underfloor heating, reuse of water, and better energy expenditure with LED or CFL bulbs. A good start to making your home eco-friendly is applying principles of biophilic design that includes not only generously integrating plants and greenery in the interior, but also using natural finishes and organic forms of furniture pieces, textures, and materials, such as cane, rattan, and raffia. – Giovanni Patania, Lead Architect and Co-Founder at WindsorPatania Architects

You can start with two strategies

Choosing suitable sustainable building materials can be a complicated task. However, I think of it in two simple strategies. Firstly, use as many natural materials as possible with uncomplicated manufacturing processes. Materials close to their original state will likely produce the most eco-friendly home. In addition, abundant natural materials from local sources have intrinsic value, resilience, and significance to the people and place. The second is to build less. Building a home that efficiently serves your needs will use less energy, land, resources, and building materials. Smaller homes that use passive strategies for their climate and incorporate more usable outdoor spaces are the ideal sustainable homes of the future. – Hugh Holder, r, B.A. (Hons), M.Arch Designer + Blogger, Architropics

Environmentally sensitive site planning is a key to first steps.

Identify mature vegetation, hydrological and geological features that can be preserved and incorporate those into your site design. Identify view corridors that will enhance long-distance views. Human health is enhanced by near and far views. In northern climes identify the best solar exposure for capturing solar gain and optimize that gain with glazing. Minimize openings on the north side of the building to minimize heat loss. Look for the best opportunities for cross ventilation and add operable windows and vents at entry and exhaust locations. A well-thought-out building program will eliminate unnecessary space and reduce the building footprint. Incorporate multi-use space into your program if possible. Smaller buildings have less environmental impact and cost less as well. – Lynn Fritzlen, Lynn Fritzlen Architect

Consider what options you have

Today, the building material market is saturated with new ideas and products that come with high production costs and limited environmental stewardship. Designing the look and feel of a new home is never an easy task. The list of colors, materials, and products is ever-growing and it’s just as important to consider how and where your materials are sourced, how they’re made, and their end-of-life service.  

To minimize your home’s carbon footprint, you can reuse old or used products rather than purchase new ones. Or consider incorporating regenerative building materials like Zeocrete which has been likened to hempcrete, but utilizes a broader range of feedstocks, including Class 4 weeds, cures in a fraction of the time, and the output can be tuned to a variety of densities from load-bearing walls to insulation panels.

As homeowners, we have a responsibility to make sure the well-being of our household is prioritized. Whether you are building something new or renovating something old, recovered materials and products offer exciting environmental and economic benefits that will improve the quality of your home and its inhabitants. – Jesse Bird, Head of Architecture at Zeoform

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Originally published by Redfin