It’s fair to say that sustainability is a hot-button issue right now. And rightly so, of course. Over the last few years, sustainability (at least as a concept) has trickled down into our way of thinking about almost everything – from food to fashion. The idea of “waste not want not” has transcended the hippyish mantras from whence it came – no longer the butt of jokes about hemp trousers, dreadlocks and the pitfalls of “natural deodorant” – and made its way to the forefront of mainstream discourse.
And yet, when it comes to our own homes, the same way of thinking doesn’t quite seem to stick. Perhaps it’s a natural consequence of a much less natural way of living – it’s hard to keep a lid on your electricity usage when there’s no way to do your job that doesn’t involve having at least your router and laptop running all day. (And probably either music or television, too.) The same goes for things as simple as heat and light, too: if you’re working at home, which – even before the pandemic – more of us are than ever, then you’re unlikely to want to do that freezing and in the dark. And, well, that’s understandable.
Still. It’s strange, though, as anyone who grew up in the 90s will remember being made so acutely aware of their part in “murdering penguins” (or polar bears, depending on who was handing out the reprimand) if you so much as left the TV standby light on when you weren’t watching it. That glowing red bulb instilled a sense of guilt in an entire generation.
We have, of course, come a long way since then. Developments in LED lighting mean that televisions aren’t quite the emissions fiends that they once were and the prolificacy of double glazing has set new standards for base-level energy efficiency.
All of that is great. It makes a difference. But it’s still a very passive difference.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of smart sustainability technology and some of the best sustainably designed accessories for your home to make a contribution of your own – without a thread of hemp in sight.
Lutron light controls.
We tend to be complacent about light. We’ve all been told — in some form or another — that “it looks like the Blackpool Illuminations in here” and, rightly, shamed into thinking more about having every light in the house on at once.
Still, if our home isn’t lit up like an alien spaceship then we tend to feel like we’ve done our part. But there’s much further to go – and it doesn’t take much work to get there.
Lutron light controls are an efficient and cost-effective way to save energy: even at the highest lighting levels, a Lutron dimmer can save 4-9% energy compared to a standard on-off switch. That might not sound like a lot, but it can make a big difference to your output and to the cost of running your home.
Ceramics from Studio Arhoj.
Sustainability is serious business. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a sense of humour about it. That’s an idea which Copenhagen’s Studio Arhoj very much have their head around.
Arhoj’s playful ceramics have become something of an interior design totem as of late – I know they’ve been appearing all over my flat, popping up where you least expect them, and brightening my day with their off-piste energy.
Of course, ceramic ghosts won’t actually save energy in your home – but shopping from a designer who values the principles of craft and conscience as well as quality design feels good, looks good, and (over time, at least) pushes everyone else in the same direction.
Crestron Climate Control.
Okay, so you’ve got your lighting sorted — you can see your cool ceramics now that it isn’t either pitch black or so bright that you feel like you’ve passed on to the next realm or Gandalf is about to appear to save you. Great. So what about your heating?
Recent years have seen simple solutions like insulation and glazing make energy-sapping space heaters and old school radiators far less commonplace. A relatively new building, my flat has underfloor heating with a thermostat in pretty much every room — it gets warm, and it gets warm quickly.
But why not go further? Smart technology from Crestron uses remote sensors to keep better track of the temperature in your home and regulate your energy usage. What’s more, you can do it at distance, too: you never have to come home to a cold house and whack the heating up to an absurd level again just to feel your feet.
Get a Waterpebble.
Water is a strange thing. We all learned about the water cycle at school, so we don’t think of it as a finite resource when we’re taking 30-minute showers or when we keep the tap running over the course of a well-earned bath. But how we use our water matters, and a Waterpebble is an elegant solution to keeping track of that.
This device measures exactly how much water escapes down the plughole and, by showing you exactly how much water you’re using, prompts you to be more conscious and – eventually, incrementally – to use less.
And, of course, it’s good for your water bill.
I know this one sounds like we’re getting back into Glastonbury-type territory again here, but here me out. Committing to low-waste, low-carbon furniture and homeware doesn’t mean you have to swap ethics for style. Far from it, in fact.
If you have the money, the time, and — of course — the necessary eye for detail to buy or even commission one-off pieces directly from the craftspeople who create them, well, yes. You should do that.
For those of us who aren’t quite there yet (for any or all of those reasons above), while plenty of household names like Habitat already have their own, impressive range of sustainable furniture on offer, there are also dedicated marketplaces like Wearth which make it their business to sell contemporary style with a conscience. Every piece of furniture that Wearth has to offer is individually crafted by hand in the UK from sustainably sourced wood.