Research carried out by the British Heart Foundation last year has shown that a third of UK adults throw away furniture which could be recycled or reused. The charity said that this is likely to be linked to the rise of ‘fast furniture’ where homeowners are choosing to replace perfectly good items to keep up with rapidly changing interior design trends.
The fashion industry has famously come under scrutiny for this ‘throwaway culture’, being the second largest polluter in the world following the oil industry. However, research has shown that attitudes are starting to shift and that consumers are beginning to ditch fast fashion in favour of vintage and second-hand clothing. Fashion and lifestyle magazine Vogue reported that 64% of women are now willing to buy pre-owned clothing in 2018, compared to 45% in 2016.
This shift is also starting to be reflected in the purchases we make for our homes, evident in the popularity of online vintage homeware retailers such as Vinterior. However, although our shopping habits are changing, constant consumption is something that is deep-rooted in our culture. Figures from Statista show that the homeware market in the UK has expanded considerably in the last decade, growing in value from £10.8 billion to £13.6 billion since 2008. This demonstrates that our desire to buy is definitely not going anywhere anytime soon.
So how can we continue to feed our need to buy and decorate our homes without destroying the planet?
Use borrowing websites
Websites such as Badlee and Streetbank allow you to borrow household items for free from people in your local area. This means you don’t make unnecessary purchases on things that you don’t use every day, such as jet washers, steam cleaners or tents. Not only does this reduce demand on supply chains, but you save money and storage space too.
Buying preloved or vintage items is a great way to shop more sustainably. Not only do you save perfectly good homeware items from going to landfill, but you’re likely to find unique, one-off pieces for your home. Flea markets, second-hand stores and bootfairs are a great place to find vintage goods at a bargain price. Online retailers such as Etsy are also great places to find bespoke vintage pieces.
Upcycling is a great way to give old furniture a new lease of life. The North London Waste Authority (NLWA) released figures in 2018 that show that 22 million pieces of furniture are thrown away each year in the UK. By taking on an upcycling project, not only are you doing your part in helping to reduce waste, but you are also able to create something unique for your home. Sites like Freecycle and Gumtree are great for finding pieces of furniture to upcycle, and old pieces are typically a better choice as they are typically better quality than the flat-pack furniture you see today.
If you have an old piece of furniture but don’t fancy an upcycle project, don’t just chuck it in the bin. List it on an online marketplace or donate it to a charity shop. This applies to homeware items too, no matter how big or small. If this isn’t possible, be sure to take your unwanted items to your local recycling centre so that they can be disposed of responsibly.
Rachel is the co-founder of vintage homeware store, Zebra Homeware