So you're ticking all the boxes on your ethical journey. Cosmetics? Ha! Sulphate-free, no-plastic and no testing on fluffy bunnies. Clothes? Too easy. You've ditched fast fashion, have a capsule wardrobe of locally-made organic cotton staples and own at least one pair of vegan boots. You religiously carry around your keep cup, stick two fingers up at the offer of a plastic straw and have learnt to enjoy the weird texture of bamboo cutlery in your mouth when you eat on the go. But ethical homewares, hmmm, I'm betting they're still on the 'too difficult' pile like understanding compound interest and the offside rule. Am I right?
Ok ok so I'm being a bit facetious. I don't yet own vegan boots and I really struggle with bamboo cutlery. However, I look around at home and feel twinges of guilt at some of the things I own that don't meet my now high standards of slow living. Case in point - the console table in my hallway is from Freedom. It's made from concrete and steel so while it isn't environmentally the worst choice I could have made, it was probably manufactured in a factory in China under less than ideal employment conditions with the only people benefiting the already wealthy company shareholders. Ugh.
I figure I'm not the only one who struggles with ethical homewares shopping - particularly when I've got my eye on a particular item or style. With that in mind, I thought I'd jot down the little changes I've been making to guide my purchasing decisions for a more ethical home. These tips were published in the last issue of Nadia magazine after they kindly interviewed me to learn more about Needs More Cushions' double-impact model of trying to make a positive difference:
- here in New Zealand - by providing employment opportunities for former refugees excluded from the traditional employment market; and
- overseas - by sourcing traditional textiles crafted by talented artisans who struggle to make a living, helping to keep ancient weaving skills alive for future generations.
That's our way of doing our bit, but there are oodles of others that we as conscious consumers could, and should, support. So with no further ado, check out some easy-peasy, quick-win ways to edge your way towards a more ethical home.
Image credit: Foxtrot Home
1. Better textiles
Opt for natural and sustainable textiles for bedlinen, towels and tableware. Flax, hemp and cotton (preferably organic to maximise their environmental credentials) offer both style and durability in colours to suit every design scheme. I’ve invested in some stunning Ottoloom towels – handwoven by families in Turkey using traditional techniques. I’m also agonising over which beautiful colour of French linen bedding I’m going to invest in from the lovely ladies at Foxtrot Home – tobacco, ochre or mustard? Or maybe I should play it safe and go for white? Argh! Decisions!
I adore how Babatree Baskets picture each artisan with the piece they've made
2. Better storage
Think outside the (plastic) box when it comes to storage. My stack of see-through plastic boxes in the study make me sad every time I look at it. Woven baskets on the other hand are both practical and beautiful, with many brands, like Babatree Baskets, partnering with weaving communities around the world to provide a sustainable income through trade, not aid. Let's reduce plastic storage, support those guys instead and make other people's lives better as well as improving our living spaces. Sounds good right?
Our luxury cushions support artisans overseas and former refugees forging new lives in New Zealand
3. Better accessories
I'm a big believer in creating a home that tells a story through finishing touches like cushions, throws and rugs. Contemporary takes on traditional designs deliver an ethical style statement with the added good vibes that come from supporting global artisans. Our cushions do just that. Made from baoule fabric by artisans in the Ivory Coast and mudcloth fabric crafted in Mali, they have traditional roots but look super modern.
Our Kati cushion looking divine on Created Homewares Largos sofa
4. Better furniture #1
Bag bespoke or limited-edition furniture by buying from local designers and makers. And look out for products that use locally sourced timber. You’ll get quality hardwood rather than MDF and I guarantee you’ll still cherish it 10 years on. Good bets in New Zealand include Yoyo and Created Homewares (whose sofas use NZ sourced timber and are made responsibly).
Buying vintage is one of the most eco-friendly options - image via Mr Bigglesworthy
5. Better furniture #2
Own your style with one-of-a-kind vintage and second-hand homewares. Best case - you score a design classic for peanuts. Worst case – you get a pre-loved piece that’s quintessentially you. Everyone's a winner!
I hope you've found this little guide helpful. I've found that the more I look for more ethical and environmentally friendly homewares, the more amazing things I'm finding. And with new conscious brands opening all the time, there's more choice than ever, no matter your style.
Shop our ethical, artisan-crafted cushions here.