Photo above: Dunelm Conscious Choice Floral Midnight bedding set £34
Article by Barbara Chandler
As truly “conscious consumers” we need to know not only that a product is sustainable, responsible, green and / or recycled / recyclable – perhaps also with recycled packaging – but also how the makers of the product run their business. For example, the energy they use for production, transport and their offices, the pollution they create or minimise and the resources they expend or conserve.
Waste is also important and the best companies strive to be “circular,” eliminating waste both in design and operation. This also means products will be durable and able to be repaired. And it’s good to know a brand’s declared progress towards net zero (aka zero carbon) when the amount of greenhouse gases it produces is equal to the amount it is absorbing through the atmosphere.
When you’re shopping, look for the sustainability statements. The best brands will flag this up but with many you’ll still have to scroll down to the small type at the bottom of a website. This is the true “eco-audit” for everything a brand produces. Again, the best businesses have regularly updated, extensive reports published online.
Here are five brands – three large and nationwide, two small and local – trying to do their best for the planet.
- On the mass market, Dunelm is a leader, with a full sustainability statement online. It promises to be carbon net zero by 2040 and now has a Conscious Choice label for goods made from at least 50 per cent more sustainable materials by weight than conventional alternatives. Dunelm has extended guarantees for many products, running from five to 25 years. Then there’s its Textile Takeback Scheme, where stores collect clean, undamaged items. Then 65 per cent of material is given a second life, 20 per cent is repurposed and 15 per cent recycled, www.dunelm.com
- Swedish furniture giant IKEA is aiming high with a detailed sustainability report online: “We aspire to be 100 per cent circular by 2030.” This means its products will generate minimum waste and be easy to reuse, refurbish, repurpose or recycle. Ideally, circular products are themselves made from waste, and IKEA has
already recycled wood, plastics, papers, metals, and textiles into over 30 quality materials. The company also puts emphasis on durability, natural materials and handcrafts, www.ikea.com
- John Lewis has published an impressive 58-page sustainability report online and has reduced greenhouse gas emissions across all operations by nearly a quarter. It has a continued commitment to net carbon by 2035, and has several new schemes for renting and recycling, including FashionCycle where customers get a £5 voucher when they return five or more items of “preloved” clothing, www.johnlewis.com
- It’s easier to check out small brands or even one-person outfits who are totally transparent about what they do. Newly graduated furniture-maker Christoph Kurzmann saw a whole hall of university bedrooms being discarded during renovation. He rescued the furniture and is turning it into elegant stools and storage towers, www.christophstudio.com
- Ella Doran is known for the beautiful and sometimes quirky photographs she applies to homewares, in particular roller blinds. She only uses materials that age well and, if possible, are already in their second or third life. She will “take back” your old blinds for reuse or recycling. www.elladoran.co.uk Ella is a passionate eco-activist and a founder member of Urge, the new creative industries collective using its skills to combat climate change, www.urgecollective.com
SOMETIMES IMPERFECT CAN BE JUST PERFECT
When you buy goods as ex-display, seconds or overstocks, you are saving them from landfill or incineration and saving money for yourself, too, so it’s a double whammy.
Check your favourite brands online for a clearance section. Many outlet stores are out of town – but perhaps you could combine the long journey with a visit to family or a bit of sightseeing.
Heal’s does clearance online with perfect goods, www.heals.com/clearance
An outlet store for designer furnishings from upmarket label Andrew Martin is at 29 Deer Park Road, London, SW19 3TL, www.andrewmartin.co.uk
Also check out the changing clearance design bargains, including Anglepoise and Tom Dixon, online at Brand Alley, brandalley.co.uk
The Cotswold Company is popular for solid wood furniture painted in pretty colours, plus cushions, throws and lighting, “reducing waste, energy use and carbon footprint wherever we can”. The outlet is at Unit 4, Wednesbury Trading Estate, Wednesbury, WS10 7QD.
The Homeware Outlet offers more than 500 discounted quality brands online from the likes of Le Creuset, Joseph Joseph, Tom Dixon, OKA, Wedgwood, Waterford and Villeroy & Boch, www.the homeware outlet.com
John Lewis is at McArthur Designer Outlet, Kemble Drive, Swindon SN2 2DY, along with Denby, Le Creuset and M&S Home, www.mcarthurglen.com
The Curtain Fabric Outlet has discount fabrics and ready-mades, plus a full curtain-making service, at 281 Ballards Lane, North Finchley, N12 8NR, www.curtainfactoryoutlet.co.uk
The Haines Collection sells discounted top brand fabric “overstocks” rescued from landfill or incineration, www.hainescollection.co.uk
The Designer Fabric Outlet offers discontinued fabrics, seconds and exclusive roll ends at discounted prices, sold in one, two and three-metre lengths, www.designerfabricoutlet.co.uk