Here at the University of Arizona, times are still very uncertain. Right now, it is as important as ever to stay home and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, there has never been a better time to focus on making your at-home workspace and study space truly feel like your own. Decorating, organizing, and even DIY-ing can be done at a low cost and a low environmental footprint. If you are looking to make your quaran-house a quaran-home with minimal environmental effects, look no further!
There are so many fun ways to decorate or revamp a space without harming the environment. According to Intersectional Environmentalist Leah Thomas and domino.com, it is always important to follow these guidelines in order to create a green, clean, and totally unique space:
1. Make Simple Swaps
2. Do Your Research
3. Investigate Materials
4. Shop Secondhand
5. Look to Family Tradition
Make Simple Swaps
Believe it or not, all household products have an environmentally friendly replacement. These days, there are countless products and brands that actively try to reduce carbon and environmental footprints while also delivering a standout product. Some of these brands include Dropps, by Humankind, and many more! Be sure to check out our Green & Clean highlight for more information on how you can replace everyday products with environmentally friendly substitutions.
Do Your Research
Doing your research about brands, products, and companies is easier than most people think. According to Waste Advantage Magazine, there are five key ways to tell if your purchases are environmentally friendly…
1. Disregard “Greenwashed” Branding
Many companies will brand their products with simple materials and earth tones to create the ambiance of an environmentally focused mission for their brand. Oftentimes packaging alone can be deceiving, so don’t be afraid to look further into any brand!
2. Focus on Specific Claims
Many brands make broad statements regarding how “green” or “all natural” their products are. These kinds of broad statements don’t hold a lot of value, so it’s important to pay attention to brands that use more specific statements like the amounts of recycled materials they use, how they pay and treat their workers, and transparency about all aspects of their product.
3. Look for Official Certifications/Labels
A great way to tell if a brand is environmentally friendly or not is to look at reputable third party organizations and their past claims of the brand. Some simple indicators of environmentally friendly practices are Energy Star seal, USDA Organic seal, Forest Stewardship Council seal, and the Green seal.
4. Check the Company’s PR
Although it is important to pay attention to third party opinions of different brands, it is also necessary to focus on what the brand says about itself. Check out the websites and social media accounts of different brands/companies to see if they have marketed focus on their environmentally focused efforts.
5. Research the Company Externally
Pay attention to customer reviews and media statements about companies you consider purchasing from. Sources like Good On You and Ethical Consumer are great resources to see both the environmental and the humanitarian impacts of different brands.
An important aspect of consuming is considering how a product will affect the environment both before and after you use it. Make sure that products are sustainably sourced and made ethically by workers who live in good conditions and make a true livable wage.
Additionally, you should always scope out the different materials that the product is made of. Ask yourself, “can this be recycled or repurposed?” This is to avoid the products you use to decorate or make your space unique ending up in a landfill years down the road.
Tucson is home to so many different consignment, second hand, and antique shops. Because of this, it is so easy to inject your own personal style and preferences into any space without purchasing any brand-new products.
One of the least picked through sections at most secondhand shops is the literature section. There are typically many books with beautiful prose and stunning images that would make for unique wall decorations. Tear out the pages that you are fond of, and put them on your wall! You can even use glue and modge podge to make a multimedia collage of different pages for a striking feature wall.
Many thrift stores also have large selections of glassware that are ready for repurposing! Cups, glasses, jars, and vases can be made into soft lighting using tea candles. They can also be used as organization and storage of jewelry and school supplies. Plus, if you mix baking soda and acrylic paint, you can transform glassware to colorful “clay” pots with a simple paint job.
Always experiment with textiles, decorations, photographs, and pieces of furniture from secondhand shops before you go looking for something brand-new. Remember to never buy from secondhand shops in bulk quantities and always leave behind essentials like cookware, heavy jackets, shoes, professional ware, and children’s toys for those who cannot afford to buy these items anywhere else!
For some further inspiration on how to decorate your spaces with the environment in mind, check this out!
Look to Family Tradition
Have you ever opened a cookie tin expecting to find a snack but instead find your grandmother’s sewing kit? Or have you ever noticed that your mom keeps a bunch of miscellaneous items in those big old butter containers? While this use of repurposed items is primarily affordable, it is also incredibly helpful to the environment. Plastic Tupperware and other food storage containers are reusable, but not always necessary! Turn to your mother’s insight about alternative ways to use cereal boxes, plastic milk jugs, and yes, butter containers as food and object storage.
We hope that these simple guidelines on how to ethically and sustainably customize your at-home spaces are particularly helpful while we stay at home and continue to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Being a homebody has never been more respectable, so embrace this time to yourself to get creative with your spaces!
For more information on COVID-19 on the University of Arizona campus, visit covid19.arizona.edu. And remember to mask up and Bear Down!