Dear Urbaneer: How Can I Incorporate Eco-Friendly Décor And Products At Home?

Dear Urbaneer, Healthy Home

Welcome to this month’s edition of Dear Urbaneer, where I open my virtual mailbag to field real estate questions from my readers. This month, in celebration of spring, Earth Day and an awareness of the necessity in incorporating sustainable choices in all of our daily living- including life at home – I’m offering a reader advice on how to integrate eco-friendly décor choices, habits and products at home.



Dear Urbaneer:

I’m motivated to reduce my footprint – starting with my home and how I furnish and decorate it. I’ve read your piece Dear Urbaneer: How Can I Make My Outdoor Space More Eco-Friendly? and I’m working on incorporating some of your tips to make my yard and gardens more sustainable, but do you have any tips on how to elevate with eco-friendly inside my home too?


Seeking Household Harmony



Here’s my reply:

Dear ‘Harmony’:

I’m glad you enjoyed my post on eco-friendly exteriors and that you are interested in exploring ways to make similar changes inside. Our homes are havens, and making yours eco-friendly will contribute to your health and wellbeing, peace with your social conscience and as you will see – your style as well! This had always been a passion of mine – sustainable products, but also CANADIAN products. I love bringing natural materials into my home!

I often explore the relationship between home and health. In fact, I’ve written an entire series on it (aptly!) called Healthy Home.

The demand for eco-friendly décor, accents, products, and finishes is quickly growing, as consumers seek ways to reduce their carbon footprint at home. In addition to making their homes airtight and energy-efficient (which is doubly important – both for the earth and for household budgets with the cost of living rapidly rising) homeowners are getting creative with ways to bring organic or earth-friendly elements inside to enhance daily living.

Here are some tips to give your household an eco-friendly makeover.




Where To Start: A Game Plan 

What is your goal? In addition to reducing waste and upping your sustainability game, one of the biggest benefits of bringing eco-friendly in is creating a sense of calm at home. One of the major reasons that we engage with nature for respite, reflection and relaxation is that nature – and its elements – is innately calming.

Remember experiencing nature – and its benefits – is multi-sensory, so be sure to remember that when planning.

Sketch out your home and all of the rooms. Have a goal not just of incorporating natural and organic materials, but plan to include nature in each room. This could be making a point of using sustainable household items, using organic material, choosing prints or patterns that replicate nature (i.e. water drops, birds, flowers, leaves etc.)  or bringing physical touches of nature into each room. List some objectives with each room and commonly used items or spaces.

Not only does this make your eco-friendly overhaul more efficient, but it also makes it more cohesive throughout your home, especially when it comes to your overall aesthetic. Get in the habit of always looking at household items with a critical eye. Is there an eco-friendly alternative available? If not, is there something that is interchangeable? Where are areas for improvement?

Have a mental checklist in mind for all your purchases in order to reduce, reuse, and recycle. (So you don’t get a hundred separate packages using excess packaging!) Moreover, before you go out to shop for anything, always do an inventory at home to reduce waste. 

And, of course, when you are buying something new, make a point of seeking out local companies, sustainable companies, or companies that engage in fair trade. Every little bit counts!




Windows & Ceiling Fans

Although the structure of our homes provides us with necessary shelter from the elements, they do block the natural flow of light. Natural light is essential for mental and physical health. Centre your décor around harnessing as much natural light as you can. If you don’t have tons of windows in a particular space, make use of design elements like light colours or reflective finishes to redistribute the light.

It’s a worthwhile investment to have windows upgraded to be energy-efficient, particularly if they are older. At the very least, attend to minor repairs for cracked seals, and cracked panes as soon as possible.

In terms of dressing your windows, opt for blackout drapes. In the summertime, when the sun is high and hot, closing them can block heat transfer in and out (and the opposite is true in the winter). You can also use solar blinds, which come in variety of designs and styles. They are quite efficient in blocking heat transfer!

Ceiling fans can create a striking focal point in a room, especially if they are paired with an eye-grabbing light fixture. They aren’t just for good looks though. A ceiling fan is a year-round way to make your home comfortable while relying less on conventional heating or cooling.

Hot air rises, so a ceiling fan will pull the warm air up and out, creating a cooler environment at the ground level. Make sure it is switched to a counterclockwise direction to create that downdraft. Similarly, in the wintertime, simply reverse the direction of the blades, and you will have the opposite effect to stay warm.




Rattan, Wicker & Bamboo

Did you know that rattan has been popular in fashioning furniture, as far back as the 17th century? Rattan and wicker are very in vogue today when it comes to furniture and accents- and a bonus- is made of natural materials that are environmentally friendly.

There is so much to choose from on the market now- be bold and mix and match, whether it is for major furniture items (i.e. dining table and chairs) or smaller accents (vases, frames, ottomans).

You can add an extra dash of style spice with cushions and seat covering fabrics. Both rattan and wicker can be easily painted to match your décor and work well indoors and outdoors.

As for bamboo, it might just be the king of materials that marry sustainability with style. Sleek bamboo flooring is comfy underfoot, durable and looks great in any room. Bamboo blinds are a nice touch on the windows. You’ll find a ton of bamboo-based accents, like frames, coatracks, vases, lamps and more.

Bamboo also works well in the kitchen for countertops. They are low-maintenance and moisture-resistant. Their neutral colouring also provides a great tool for contrast in the kitchen as well.




Natural Stone, Wood & Brick

Natural stone adds substance and depth to any décor. I love it!! The patina of marble or travertine, for example, exudes warmth and natural wear that are perfect for a kitchen island or backsplash. Granite is another popular sustainable option that comes in tons of colours and veining patterns. Bonus – it is super durable and will let home cooks really embrace life in the kitchen without sustaining damage or discolouration. Limestone and fieldstone are also popular. And it’s not just countertops; stone is great for floors too, as well as built-in accents like shelves and fireplaces!

Who doesn’t adore wood?! It adds an element of rustic warmth (and durability) to surfaces, can serve as a textured or painted backdrop for your art, or can be the art itself; would is a great medium to showcase exquisite artistry and craftsmanship! And there are so many choices. Pick from a wide variety of species, applications and levels of finish- for just about anything you can think of inside your home. A wood accent wall is particularly spa-like in the bathroom, or rich and luxe in a living room.

You can’t talk about brick without thinking about the urban aesthetic – like lofts! What’s more chic (and sustainable) than an exposed brick wall at home? Often a reflection of period décor, or of grittier urban style, exposed brick is a décor choice that is very coveted. A brick fireplace is also very popular, and can be refreshed fairly easily to make it more current to today’s styles with a simple coat of paint!




 Shells & Seagrass

Bring those beach vibes home by integrating grasses and shells into your décor. Fill a vase with treasured shells or create wall art by mounting them in a shadowbox. Adorn table tops with loose bouquets of grasses.





 Your floor is your fifth wall, so make the most of it with an environmentally-friendly rug. Look for a rug made from non-synthetic – natural – fibres (liken the photo above!). Some great choices that add flair to your décor as well are jute rugs, wool or cotton. AND make sure underpads are non-toxic and made from sustainable materials as well. [<– This is a big one!]

You can often get funky and fairtrade rug doing a little research into vendors. Rugs are one item that makes great use of material scraps and upcycling. Waste not, want not!



Use of Plants

One of the best ways to bring nature inside is by placing plants around your home. Not only do they elevate the natural experience, they offer air purification benefits. What’s more is their aromas will help create that sense of calm and peace that the outdoors bring. The sense of smell elicits a strong emotional response.



Heavy Metal Room Painting



 Thinking of a spring refresh with some new colours? Your best bet for an eco-friendly choice is to use recycled paint where possible. This option saves you money- and the planet as well! Water-based based and low VOC paint are also good options and come in a wide variety of colours.





 Upcycling is a DIY trend that is really taking off (do you love ‘Flea Market Flip’?!), mostly because of the opportunity to be creative when you re-purpose items. It’s generally pretty easy and can yield some really fantastic results.  Plus, who doesn’t love saving money?

I’ve got my own upcycling projects to share. Have you seen this post: BLeisure, WFH, & An IKEA Hack where I transform a table for my Black House in PEI?

Upcycling really starts with having an open mind about how an item can be used. The sky is the limit. Your upcycling project may be as simple as simply modifying slightly to accommodate a new use (i.e. a ladder for a bookcase or display shelf. Mason jars for tealights or vases. Using old plates or ceramics to create wall art. And the list goes on and on. Check out this post that lists 101 different ideas- most of which are very, very easy and provide that aha! I hadn’t thought of that- moment.

If you see an item (let’s, say a new piece of furniture) that catches your eye, see if you can find it elsewhere as a used item first. Pinterest is also a great source of inspiration. There are tons of products available to support the upcycling revolution, as well as an endless stream of DIY blogs and YouTube tutorials!




Room-Specific Tips

The kitchen is a great spot to really dial into eco-friendly choices. Make sure that you’ve got a good recycling and composting system in place. Use re-usable food wrap and eco-friendly dishcloths. Use bamboo cooking utensils and get a bamboo lunch kit if you bring lunch to work with you.

Make sure aprons, kitchen towels, and table linens are made from sustainable materials; ceramic and earthenware dinnerware is preferable. Buy organic food and wherever possible, support local farmers and purveyors to ensure the most eco-friendly materials for meals at home.

Grow a table-top herb or small veggie garden indoors.

Make sure cleaners for all rooms are environmentally friendly. Many natural materials are effective cleaners, and smell lovely too.

In the laundry room, use wool dryer balls- or skip the dryer altogether and get a bamboo drying rack. Make sure laundry detergents are eco-friendly.

In the bathroom, choose shampoo and soap that are organic. Bamboo is a popular choice for the bathroom- for example with biodegradable toothbrushes, where the handle is made from sustainable material. Luxuriate with Turkish or Egyptian cotton towels and robes. Switch out a PVC shower liner for a linen option. Make sure that you’ve got a low-flow showerhead and toilet, along with motion-activated faucets.

In your bedroom, ensure that your linens, mattress and pillows are all sourced from organic and ethical materials. Organic cotton, for example, is not only a socially conscious choice but breathes extremely well and will support a good night’s sleep.

For all your household cleaners, shampoos, body wash etc. use refillable containers.


*Title image – Marbella candles from Prosperity are sustainably sourced and created- and become great planter pots once used!



Seeking inspiration? Check out these posts: Upcycling for beginners: 11 things to know, 5 Ways to Use Natural Materials In Your Home and 10 natural materials you can use for your home décor.

In celebration of Earth Day, check out the past year’s posts, as we acknowledged Earth Day in the context of the pandemic. The Irony Of STILL Navigating COVID-19 On The 51st Anniversary Of Earth Day and –Healthy Home: The Irony Of Navigating COVID-19 On The 50th Anniversary Of Earth Day.

With a particular interest in sustainable housing and embracing the beauty of nature at home, I love to share my design inspirations. It’s my passion!



Whether it’s making simple changes like installing LED lightbulbs, energy-efficient appliances, or a Nest Thermostat, or undertaking a comprehensive renovation with the commitment to reduce construction waste, reuse building materials, and select sustainable materials, every action to live green is an improvement.

Here are some further posts which offer more insights:

Dear Urbaneer: What Is Involved With Installing An Electric Vehicle Charger In Toronto?

Hello Toronto, Ontario, Canada! Make Your Home A ‘Net Zero’ Hero

A Black Garden At The Black House In PEI By Dan Does Design

The Irony Of STILL Navigating COVID-19 On The 51st Anniversary Of Earth Day

On Building Sustainable Housing In Canada

For The Love Of Trees

How Would Your Home Compare To A Sustainable Property?

Breathe Deep With A Green Wall

What Is Biophilia And How Can I Use It In Home Design?

The Value Of Public Transit In Toronto

On Cycling In The City: Then And Now

Toronto Trends Toward Sustainable Moving.

Rain Gardens Are Sprouting Up



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Thanks for reading!

-The Urbaneer Team

Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-8000

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