Sustainability & Home Decor: The Perfect Marriage

More and more value-driven shoppers are looking for sustainable products. Here’s what your brand can do to help them find sustainable home decor products they will love.

Sustainability is more than just a trending topic these days. It’s become a central value for home decor consumers and businesses alike. Many shoppers and retailers have shifted their focus from trendy, cheap, or synthetic looks to high quality, naturally-sourced products that will last a lifetime. This change in consumer behavior is the result of a number of different factors, including (but not limited to) pandemic-induced manufacturing and supply chain issues, increased exposure to climate change, and the global rise in prices due to inflation.

As sustainable products become more and more popular, home decor brands and retailers that want to keep up with demand will need to adjust their product catalogues to offer what shoppers are looking for. In this post, we will take a look at the materials and manufacturing processes that contribute to sustainably sourced home decor options. Then, we’ll discuss a few important ways that eCommerce retailers can help their customers find and purchase sustainable items, as well as some final tips to help home decor brands operate a more sustainable business model overall. 

Home Decor Sustainability in a Nutshell

So, what exactly is it that makes a home decor material sustainable? The answer is two-fold. 

Sustainable materials:  

  • Occur naturally and can be replaced quickly by nature.
  • Can be extracted without toxic chemicals or environmentally harmful practices. 

Sustainable Home Decor Materials: Examples & Where to Use Them

Here are some of the most popular sustainable home decor materials: 

  • Bamboo – This is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. Some species can be harvested just 90 days after planting! Others can take up to four years – still significantly less than the 60 to 70 years it takes for most hardwoods to mature. Additionally, bamboo plants are resistant to a wide variety of pests, so pesticides and fertilizers are usually not necessary. Bamboo is also extremely versatile as a sustainable home decor material. It can be used in furniture, floors, roofs, blinds, and even accessories, such as lampshades.  
A photo of a bamboo forest.
  • Aluminum – Known as “the green metal”, aluminum is extremely environmentally friendly because it is 100% recyclable and, incredibly, it loses no quality during the recycling process. As such, nearly 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use today. It’s the perfect material for outdoor furniture, as it does not rust or require regular upkeep, or it can be used indoors for countertops, serving dishes, candle sticks, wall art, display cases, and more. 
  • Glass – Glass is made by heating and then rapidly cooling a mixture of sand, sodium carbonate, and calcium carbonate – all of which exist in nature. The downside with glass is that the initial heating process can lead to the emission of carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas. However, glass is extremely long-lasting and completely recyclable. So, if you look for home decor products made from recycled glass, it’s 100% eco-friendly. Besides the obvious use of glass for windows and mirrors, this material can also be used in table tops, shelves and cabinets, lamps, vases, kitchenware, and more. 
  • Cork – This material comes from tree bark and can be removed while leaving the tree standing and totally unharmed. It is recyclable, biodegradable, and antimicrobial – a win-win for eco-friendly households that want a material that can keep mold, dust, and toxins at bay. Cork is a great option for floors and countertops.   
A recently harvested cork tree.
  • Stone – Natural stones like marble, granite, limestone, or travertine can add a touch of color and elegance to floors, bathrooms, kitchens, and gardens. Each cut of natural stone is different, which means that every area containing stone materials will have its own, unique look. You can also combine different types of stone by using terrazzo flooring, a composite material consisting of marble, quartz, and/or granite chips set into cement.
  • Natural fibers – Naturally sourced textiles, such as wool, linen, hemp, and organic cotton are perfect for anywhere inside your home that requires fabric. For example, blankets, chair cushions, table runners, bedding, and carpets can all be made with natural textiles instead of synthetic options like polyester, rayon, or microfiber. 

Sustainable Home Decor Manufacturing Processes: What’s Involved

Sustainable manufacturing is defined by two main themes: the creation of minimal waste and little environmental impact during the manufacturing process. Home decor brands and retailers should look for manufacturing partners that prioritize the following critical goals: 

  • Energy use reduction – One of the simplest ways to check if a manufacturer is committed to energy use reduction is to ask about plant lighting. Manufacturers that use LEDs consume up to 80% less energy than those who use traditional incandescent light bulbs. This means less electricity is needed to keep the lights on and, because LEDs generate less heat, the plant’s air conditioning system won’t have to work as hard. 
  • Water use reduction – Ask your manufacturing partners if they have installed water filtration systems on-site. This is a great solution for factories that produce contaminated water, which can be treated and reused after going through an effective filtration system. This not only reduces the amount of water needed for production and cleaning, it also prevents harmful chemicals from entering the environment. 
A water filtration system.
  • Carbon emissions reduction – Two important considerations for choosing a home decor manufacturer are the factory’s machinery itself and the way in which that machinery is powered. Ask your manufacturer if their machines run on fossil fuels or renewable energy and whether or not they use multi-tasking equipment that can combine several steps in one solution. You want to find a partner that values modern, efficient machinery that doesn’t generate any toxic emissions.
  • Waste generation reduction – Look for a manufacturer that takes an eco-friendly approach towards product packaging. An enormous amount of waste is created simply by packing finished products with non-recyclable materials, such as traditional packing peanuts made of polystyrene (styrofoam). Two popular alternatives are biodegradable packing peanuts (made from wheat and corn starch) or recycled cardboard and paper.  

4 Ways to Help Customers Find Sustainable Home Decor Products on Your Website

An aircraft marshall on the runway.

Once you’ve updated your product catalogue to include home decor items made from sustainable materials and produced by sustainable manufacturers, it’s critical for shoppers to be able to easily find and purchase those products. After all, you don’t want to put in all that effort just to have a poor search experience that turns away customers who are ready to convert. Here are four ways to improve your website navigation so that shoppers can find the sustainable items they’re looking for: 

  • Site search – Make sure your on-site search engine can handle both text-based queries as well as the option to search by image. For text searches, your site needs to be able to surface relevant results if shoppers type the word “sustainable” or any relevant synonyms (e.g. vintage, pre-owned, refurbished, etc.) into your search bar. For image searches, you should utilize visual AI technology that can identify every attribute in a photo and then display all of the matching sustainable items from your product catalogue. 
  • Material filters – Allow shoppers to filter their search results by material. For example, shoppers who are looking to avoid synthetic materials will appreciate the option to narrow down the results to those that are made from bamboo, reclaimed wood, glass, stone, aluminum, etc. 
  • Personalization – Enable your recommendation engine to identify when a shopper is looking at sustainable products so that it can provide similar options that are also sustainable. 
  • Shipping filters – For shoppers who want to buy locally as part of an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, offer shipping filters that enable customers to choose the shipping distances they are comfortable with. 

How to Improve Demand Forecasting & Reduce Excess Stock

In addition to offering sustainable products to customers, home decor brands and retailers can make an effort to run their own businesses more sustainably by following these tips and tricks of the trade:

  • Optimize inventory management with AI deep tags – If you overstock your inventory, it can lead to extra storage costs and loss of revenue. One way to avoid overstock wastage is to use product tagging data to see which types of items are trending right now. AI-powered product tags let retailers see what’s driving sales and which particular attributes are popular. This will enable more accurate demand forecasting so you’ll know which items to order more of and which items to phase out – leading to less waste and surplus sitting on the shelf collecting dust.
A storage warehouse.
  • Implement smart merchandising rules and ranking strategies –  If you do end up with excess or old stock, you can use smart merchandising rules and ranking strategies to promote the items you want to clear out. You can do this by prioritizing these items to display at the top of product listing pages, before other faster-moving results. 

When you implement a more effective inventory management strategy, your home decor business will benefit in the following ways:

  • Inventory costs are minimized.
  • Dead stock is prevented.
  • Cash flow management is improved.
  • Order fulfillment is optimized.
  • Customer experience and satisfaction is improved. 

Contributing to a Greener Future for Everyone

Home decor brands and retailers that prioritize sustainability will not only achieve a better relationship with their customers, but will also play a significant role in the bigger movement towards reducing waste and pollution worldwide. It’s a win-win for everyone involved: the brand, its customers, and manufacturers all contributing together to a more beautiful and healthy future together.