Sustainable Interior Design

Sustainable interior design is an innovative approach for improving your quality of life, health, and well-being by changing your indoor environment. By implementing environmentally responsible design in your interior setting, you can improve how you live now and in the future while minimizing the impact and depletion of our planet’s natural resources. This is why we, at MG Design Lab, are committed to designing interiors with materials that are safe for our clients and mindful of the earth.

How does it affect you?

You do everything you can to keep your family and workplace safe and healthy. You buy whole, organic foods, avoid fast food, and make sure that everyone in your family gets exercise. But what about the hidden toxins in your home that are eroding your health without you even realizing it? How toxic are our interiors? When people typically think “green,” they don’t necessary reflect on design, building materials, and furniture. 

Products such as furniture and paints can contain harmful chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) so toxic they are pollutants regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. With the rise in the “green” movement, healthy and environmentally safe alternatives such as low or zero-VOC paints are becoming more available. Chemicals used in buildings are a major  source of daily chemical exposure for all and a source of health problems such as asthma, pulmonary infections, allergies, temporary irritation of the nose, eyes, throat, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and cancer. Inhaling VOC’s can cause minor and/or major health problems. Levels of VOC’s are 2-5 times higher indoors than outdoors.

Green or eco-friendly interior design focuses on improving indoor air quality as well as reducing the impact that furniture purchases have on the environment.

Basic Sustainability Principles

By following these sustainable interior design principles, we reduce the negative environmental impact of our society and build a better, more healthy sustainable future.

  1. Healthy Environments: People spend most of their time indoors: in offices, schools, and at home.

  2. Energy Efficiency: We thrive to improve a building’s energy efficiency, mainly by reducing the amount of energy needed for heating, lighting, running appliances, and other uses.

  3. Low Environmental Impact: From a sustainability perspective, it’s very important to pick materials and products with the lowest environmental impact. Organic materials (e.g. wood, wool, natural stone) seem to be the obvious choice, but we must not forget that natural resources need to be treated responsibly. Choose materials that are quickly renewable (such as fast-growing bamboo), and are extracted in an environmentally responsible way. 

  4. Waste Reduction: The planet’s precious resources are limited, so the mentality of discarding products as soon as they go out of style and replacing them with those that are currently trendy is no longer justifiable.

  5. Quality and Longevity: To prevent materials and products getting discarded too often, we should consider the lifespan of any material they plan to use, especially for those elements that experience a lot of wear and tear (such as flooring). The goal of designing for longevity is to design durable and timeless spaces and suppress the urge to change the whole design every couple of years. The best way to achieve timelessness is to choose quality over quantity, classics over trendy, and simplicity/functionality over embellishments.

Guide to choosing Green Materials

Paint: Low-VOC Paint. Typical household paint contain 10, 000 chemicals, of which a 150 have been linked to cancer. Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) is a harmful chemical found in paint. As paint dries, these harmful VOC’s are released into the air. There are many types of non-toxic paints and finishes now available.

Textiles: The textile industry is one of the most polluting industries on earth. Large-scale farming uses huge amounts of water and typically involves fertilizers and pesticides that make their way into our water and air. Then, during the dyeing process, leftover dye washes out into the water supply, polluting it. Heavy metals are used as dye fixatives, adding to water and air pollution, and the bleach used to whiten fabric also can have a significant negative impact. Opt for organic fabrics such as cotton, silk, wool, linen, hemp. These are renewable and will decay at the end of their life, so they won’t be in the landfill forever.

Wood: Opt for furniture made from solid wood such as walnut, teak, oak or maple. Wood furniture is typically held together by basic wood joinery techniques, ensuring a stronger bond and requiring less adhesives, which are the main culprits in harmful VOC emissions.

Avoid furniture composed of MDF or particleboard, which is made from compressed shavings or sawdust held together by synthetic resins, binders and glues. One of the ingredients often found in these adhesives is formaldehyde, which can cause wheezing, nausea, and severe allergic reactions and is known to cause cancer in animals.

Guide to Choosing Green furnishings – What is it made of?

  1. Look for a certified Sustainable wood certification like (FSC).

  2. Look for furniture made with reclaimed and recycled materials.

  3. Look for furniture that is durable and fixable.

  4. Look for low toxicity furniture. When you buy a piece of furniture, bring it home, and set it down in a room, it doesn't just sit there. No matter what it's made out of, chances are, it's offgassing (or releasing substances into the air). Almost everything offgasses, which isn't necessarily bad, but synthetic materials or those treated with synthetic substances can offgas chemicals which are toxic.

  5. Avoid flame retardants, go organic. Standard upholstered goods are made from polyurethane foam (poly-foam) wrapped in dacron. Both materials are man-made and petroleum-based. They contain isocyanates and polyols that are highly flammable and are often treated with flame-retardant chemicals to reduce combustibility. The chemicals in these flame retardants have been linked to a wide range of health problems such as impaired fertility and IQ and developmental problems in children.

A sustainable interior design does not mean you have to sacrifice beauty. You can create something that’s environmentally sensitive, and still looks stunning.


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