In this article, Damisola Sulaiman explores the rise of fast homeware and the various ways to shop for homeware sustainably.
In the public consciousness, a lot of attention has been brought to the harmful effects of fast fashion. But, a conversation that has been less mainstream, is the impact of fast homeware and where people can find sustainable alternatives.
“Fast homeware” (coined by Refinery29) refers to interior décor that is sold by high street retailers or the homeware section of fast fashion brands which is mass produced and largely based on the trend cycle. It also produces large amounts of waste.
In fashion, we speak endlessly about aesthetics and trends that come and go, but the same can be said for interior décor. In the 2000s and 2010s, we witnessed the rise of modern minimalist interiors being the most mainstream and garnering the highest praise. Nearly every home had the sleek white look with barely any furniture.
But, with the 2020s came the rise of cluttercore and return to maximalism, there has been far more opportunity for more trends to come and go and for fast fashion brands to release homeware lines. These lines typically contain decorative accessories that people can add to their home for a short period of time to make it feel more personal rather than actual furniture.
Social media has encouraged this. On Instagram, influencers and celebrities constantly post aesthetically pleasing pictures and reels of their homes. On Pinterest, there is a great deal of home inspiration. I personally have a whole dream home décor board. Even on YouTube, apartment tours and makeovers are known to constantly perform well on the platform.
The question that arises from this is, “What do we do?” Wanting to make your home more personal and reflective of you is a perfectly reasonable desire, especially for students and young people who are typically renting and move around a lot.
Sustainability should always be approached from a variety of different angles. Wastage – how can we buy homeware we keep and doesn’t end up thrown out by the end of our lease? Materials – how can we ensure the brands we’re shopping from use materials that are good for the environment and are ethically sourced? Labour – how can we ensure we are shopping from brands that have ethical and sustainable labour practices?
The age-old solution to wastage is intentionality. Similar to buying basics that live in your closet for years and years, it is vital to buy pieces for your home (even decorative ones) that are going to have a longer shelf life. Perhaps rather than buying that adorable fake plant from that high street retailer, try becoming a plant parent and buy a real one that will grow and evolve with your home.
That being said, wanting to change up the style of your home makes perfect sense. A smart solution to this is shopping second hand. It offers the opportunity to have those adorable decorative pieces without contributing to wastage as much and the added benefit of them being one-of-a-kind. Local charity shops and flea markets are always excellent places to start because you truly never know what hidden gems are living there, and every shop can be like a treasure hunt. You also get the opportunity to see it in person and make sure any purchase is of a decent quality.
The issue for a lot of people with the above option is convenience. Not everyone drives, and lugging around furniture on foot or on public transport is not ideal. So that’s where the internet comes in. Places like eBay, Vinted, or Facebook marketplace are online resources that offer postage or convenient pick up options. More often than not, on these platforms you’re dealing with real people who can work out something more convenient.
Homeware made of fully recycled or reclaimed materials is typically the most readily available sustainable option when it comes to materials.
Reclaimed wood and recycled plastic are sustainable options that a lot of great sustainable brands use. But as a result of greenwashing, a lot of companies come out with ‘recycled’ lines while having a majority of their other products still being sourced from the same things.
Thus, there are some other sustainable options when it comes to materials that it can be wise to look out for. These include bamboo (which is becoming increasingly popular with a lot of brands), plant based materials such as hemp, eucalyptus wood, and rattan.
A good way to go about it is taking a look at the things you consider buying, finding out what they are made of, and if these materials are biodegradable and cruelty-free. In another life, this could have been a lot of work, but, fortunately, a quick Google search does most of the work for you.
The unethical labour practices of a lot of huge brands, many of which have these fast homeware lines, have come to light in recent times. Trying to ensure that every brand you shop from treats their employees ethically is very challenging. Unfortunately, it is difficult for previous or current employees to talk about their working conditions without getting in a great deal of trouble.
A good way to do the best you can is definitely shopping from small businesses. Etsy is a haven for one-of-a-kind, creative gems that are typically hand crafted by the sellers. It has the added benefit of still providing a large amount of options to suit a lot of different price ranges.
There are also incredible brands that have been transparent about their practices and that provide you with the ability to trust them and their products. Aerende is a great example of this, as all of their products are created in the
UK by people facing social challenges. Another incredible brand is Weaver Green who turn recycled plastic into textiles that look and feel just like cotton and wool.
Shopping sustainably is definitely a tasking practice, especially considering that the world has encouraged doing the opposite for so long. But with the right information, it is definitely possible to have a gorgeous home that reflects you and also helps the environment.
You can read more of Damisola’s work by following @damisulaiman26 on Medium.