Just like fast fashion, fast furniture puts a major strain on the planet. In the United States, the EPA reports that about 12.1 million tons of furniture end up in landfills each year. I am sure that number is just as bad here in Canada. So before you rush out to buy that cheap and cheerful couch, consider these 10 ethical and sustainable home decor brands that are good for the planet and pretty great for your pad too!
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What to look for when shopping for Ethical And Sustainable Home Decor Brands?
Finding the best ethical home decor used to be hard, but now there are so many wonderful brands to choose from. But why do you need to think about sustainable home decor? There are many reasons! Let's jump right in.
Fast furniture has allowed us to buy cheaply made items for our home that last only a few short years, with most of them ending up in the garbage. And on top of that, there are all the nasty chemicals that are used to manufacture that cheap stuff. Here are some examples of what you can expect to find in conventional furniture.
That comfy couch is normally filled with polyurethane foam, which can be toxic and off-gas VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into your home. Harmful flame retardants are also present. These are known as PBDEs and can shed toxic dust into a home.
There are a few companies that make PBDE-free furniture foam that mixes conventional polyurethane foam with 20% soy. There is controversy here, though: some say it's a move in the right direction, while others say it's greenwashing. Ultimately, you have to make the decision for yourself. It will most likely be cheaper than going fully organic, so it might be a good middle ground.
Latex-stuffed is another option. We are seeing more brands opting for this.
I want to touch on flame-retardants again. These are chemicals that are used to prevent your couch or furniture from bursting into flames. Many of these chemicals are highly toxic. A common family of flame retardants is known as PDBE (polybrominated fire retardant). They stick to our fatty tissue and can cause real health problems.
PBDEs are found in the foam of couches and pillows, fabric drapes, and other upholstery. They've also been found in breast milk and even umbilical cords. We are exposed to PBDEs from factory emissions as well as dust in the home.
What can you do to avoid these? Dust often. If you have pillows and couches that are falling apart or crumbling, it's time to get rid of them. Shop for PBDE-free furniture. Look for furniture that is treated with natural flame-retardants like borax or made with naturally derived flame-retardants like latex or wool.
Where to find Ethical And Sustainable Home Decor
Luckily, all the ethical home decor brands featured here have so many options to choose from!
Obakki is by far one of the best fair trade artisan home decor brands. They really just check all the boxes when it comes to ethical manufacturing, fair wages, and sustainable materials.
I've featured them before in the sustainable candle guide and the Amazon alternatives blog post. Obakki was founded by Treana Peake, who has traveled all over the world to connect and develop one-on-one relationships with artisans and communities.
No matter what you are looking for, you're likely to find it on Obakki! Homeware, kitchen and dining, pottery, jewelry, and even apparel. Each and every item is carefully curated to meet the most stringent ethical and sustainable criteria.
Obakki's Natural fabrics & materials
Throw blankets and pillows are made with natural materials like organic cotton, linen, and wool. Lighting is made from sustainably sourced palm leaves (you have to take a look at these!). Some of the pottery is made using clay, all the jewelry is made from reclaimed and upcycled materials. You'll also find third-party certifications like WFTO Fair Trade and OKEO-Tex. Every single fabric, textile or material is vetted for quality and environmental stewardship.
Obakki's Ethical Souring
Every time you purchase from Obakki, you are supporting meaningful income opportunities for artisans and their families.
Peake meets personally with each and every artisan to ensure the highest levels of "dignity, respect and social responsibility are upheld as we work with these vital communities." Rather than paying wages, they purchase products directly from the artisan partners at a price determined by them (and often higher than the local market value).
Every single item you see comes with an artisan story, not only who made it, but where it's made and how the raw materials were sourced. Obakki is all about transparent and that is evident on their website.
Obakki's Corporate Responsibility
Not only is Obakki one of the most ethical brands in Canada, but they also are one of the most philanthropic. They actually also run a charity called the Obakki Foundation, by "identifying gaps and strategically investing in sustainable solutions, we're able to facilitate real change in the following areas, clean water, food security, education, and artisan partner programs."
Their fashion brand, Obakki, covers the Obakki Foundation's administrative costs. This means 100% of your contribution goes directly to our programs.
Fair Trade Winds offers affordable, sustainable home decor that includes wind chimes, birdhouses, lanterns, and wall art. They are members of the Fair Trade Federation and partner with 150 artisans from 57 counties, all of which are paid fairly for their work.
Every item sold on their website comes from artisans who use "centuries-old techniques passed down from previous generations." Each item is unique and will provide something special for your home filled with cultural heritage that you can enjoy.
Fair Trade Winds fabrics & materials
The stunning lanterns are just one example. They are hand-made from partially recycled iron by artisans in India. The birdhouses (pictured above) are made from ipil-ipil which is a sustainable, fast-growing wood harvested by artisans to create these adorable little homes. On each side, you will find coconut leaf fibres with scented galtang vine.
Fair Trade Winds' ethical sourcing
All of the items in this shop come from artisan co-ops and small workshops where the materials are reused to reduce waste. Fair wages are an essential part of this business, where women and men and paid equally for their work, this allows them access to a better standard of living, health care, and even education.
"Fair Trade Winds provides something a typical shopping experience doesn’t – unique gifts with purpose."
I met the Brothers Dressler years ago when I was hosting a TV show called A Greener Toronto. Twins Lars and Jason create some of the most stylish ethical home decor you will not see anywhere else.
They are innovative thinkers and you can see this reflected in all of their designs. Each and every piece has an emphasis on sustainability.
Brother's fabrics & materials
They use a lot of reused materials. One of their most popular pieces is the Onege, it's a rocking chair made from a single sheet of plywood and joined with steel rods rather than the usual toxic adhesive.
Brother's Dressler Ethical Sourcing
You will find this type of craftsmanship in all of the work they do. All of the wood they use is sustainably sourced, all of the other materials used are reclaimed or salvaged and repurposed, and they make all of the items in their woodshop located in Toronto.
If you are looking for something custom, they will make it for you! Choose from tables, chairs, beds, storage, and even lighting. Any of these sustainable designs are sure to be conversation starters in your home!
All of Parachute's comfortable essentials will make you feel right at home. They carry everything you need to create your own sanctuary, bedding, bath linens, and of course eco-friendly home decor products.
Parachute's fabrics & materials
Some of my favorite products include the jute baskets, handmade in a rural community in Bangladesh by women who are fair trade paid.
Their linen curtains are to-die-for and made in a family-owned factory located in northern India. All the fabric is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified which means there are no harmful chemicals or synthetics used to make them. And none of their fabrics are artificially softened like other brands.
Parachute's ethical sourcing & corporate responsibility
They even carry sustainable rugs that are ethically made in India by an 80-year-old heritage textiles factory! Find what you need for your home! You will not be disappointed.
Parachute also partners with the United Nation’s Nothing But Nets campaign to send life-saving malaria-prevention bed nets to those in need. If you are lucky enough to live near one of their retail locations, I suggest you pop in to say hi! They do ship to Canada.
VivaTerra has been around for as long as I can remember. I bought my first ethical vase from them at least 15 years ago. They have gorgeous stuff for your home and carry furniture, kitchen, bed, bath— you name it.
Whether you are looking for minimalist sustainable home decor or something with that wow factor, you will find it here. VivaTerra means "living earth" which is what inspires them to work in harmony with nature by working with artisans from all over the globe who make some of the most beautiful eco-conscious designs.
VivaTerra's fabrics & materials
Most of the items are made with sustainable materials like recycled cotton, FSC woods, flame-retardant-free, regenerated fibers and so much more.
They believe that "ethical and sustainable conduct should be prioritized—not sacrificed". VivaTerra was founded in California back in 2004, so I guess you could call them OG of stylish ethical home decor. Some of their most popular items include recycled glass accents, reclaimed wood furnishings, and block-printed textiles.
VivaTerra's ethical sourcing
They source from and support artisan communities in more than 20 countries across the globe, as well as seek out fair-trade partners and sustainable methods of production. Their product selection continues to grow. Artisans are paid fairly for their work and all the raw materials are sourced sustainably, most of them also come with third-party certifications like GOTS-certified 100% organic cotton and FSC woods.
The website is so easy to navigate. You can actually filter the items based on your style, so whether you're more bohemian or minimalist, they've got you. Shop by price range, product type, and even product rating.
Loomy sells rugs and when it comes to sustainability, they never sweep anything under the rug! Rugs are super interesting because most of the time they are made with different types of plastics or synthetics and also contain a whole lot of toxins (thanks to the glues and backings that are used). That's not the case with Loomy.
Loomy's fabrics & materials
A good carpet can really warm up a space and all of Loomy's textiles are and with natural fibers like jute, cotton, hemp, wool, recycled textiles, and even banana silk. On the website, you will find detailed descriptions about each rug, from materials to if they are good for pets or high traffic areas and of course who made it. I love this feature.
Shop for vegan rugs, vintage rugs, indoor/outdoor, you name it!
Loomy's ethical sourcing and corporate responsibility
When you buy from Loomy, you are directly supporting a community of certified artisan weavers. And with 5 billion pounds of rugs heading to landfills each year, they are a fantastic sustainable home decor brands that you will be proud to have in your home.
I really love this store so much, there used to be a location near me but it has closed down... but you can still shop online! I've found so many wonderful treasures for my home from Ten Thousand Villages. Everything they carry is so unique and each product tells a beautiful story too. This fair trade home decor brand is one of the pioneers of fair trade.
Ten Thousand Village's fabrics & materials
Their global "global maker‑to‑market movement breaks the cycle of generational poverty and ignites social change." They have it all, from textiles to wall art, kitchen, outdoor, and even spa items, so you can shop with an intention for your home.
Ten Thousand Village's ethical sourcing and corporate responsibility
Each item is ethically sourced and they work with women and people with disabilities who are typically left out of the global economy. They build long-standing relationships to ensure they gain financial independence for their families and communities, breaking the cycle of poverty.
The average buying relationship with artisans is 25 years. They are a proud member of the Fair Trade Federation and the World Fair Trade Organization. The Maker-to-Market stories on the website are worth a look!
Not only are they fair trade but they also have high standards for sustainable sourcing and materials. Find goodies for the home from recycled and organic items. Their ethical home decor will have you "adding to cart" for sure.
7. West Elm
I love it when more mainstream brands like West Elm offer more sustainable options. When it comes to ethical home decor, they pretty much have everything covered, and they are slightly more affordable too. I do want to note that they are not fully sustainable, but I am including them because I want eco-friendly shopping to be more accessible.
West Elm's ethical sourcing and corporate responsibility
Their Fair Trade Certified affordable ethical home decor options support 13,000 workers who work in 16 fair trade certified factories, where fair wages and safe working conditions are paramount. Find carpets, couches, chairs, side tables, bookshelves, storage and options, and much more.
When it comes to wood furniture, they are GREENGUARD Gold Certified which means the wood is sourced responsibly and they use water-based finishes instead of toxins. They are also FSC-certified, meaning the wood comes from well-managed forests.
All fabrics and fillings are flame-retardent-free unless noted. The bedding is made from Tencel.
I love Etsy. Not all of their sellers are sustainable, but A LOT of them are. You can connect with so many local, ethical, and eco-friendly makers directly, which I simply adore. Etsy Reclaimed really takes it to a whole new level!
Etsy's Ethical Sourcing and corporate responsibility
Most of the woods are reclaimed from salvage yards, barns, and the construction industry. You can choose from a wide array of ethical home decor. You won't find mass-produced items; instead, you will find small, local shop owners that whom you can connect.
Rusted Nail Designs make some of the most beautiful and unique wood items for your home, all made from reclaimed and recycled wood products. They source everything locally and most of the time it's discarded waste. By using reclaimed wood they are preserving our forests by reducing the need for new wood.
Boho Pillow Canada makes pillows out of reclaimed designer fabric samples that would have otherwise gone to landfills.
The biggest piece of advice when shopping at Etsy is to connect with the seller. Most offer lots of info, but if you are ever unsure, I'd reach out directly.
Esty itself does offset their carbon emissions from shipping and was in fact one of the first companies to do this!
What kinds of certifications should you look for when investing in ethical and sustainable home decor?
I touched on chemicals at the beginning of this post and that's one thing you absolutely need to keep in mind when shopping for sustainable home decor. But there are other factors your should take into account.
If you are buying textiles, find out what the fabric is made from. If it's cotton, it is organic? If it's linen or anything else, are there third-party certifications like fair trade, Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC), OEKO-TEX 100, and Craftmark?
Where and how is the fabric sourced, are the workers being paid for their work fairly? Are the factories they work in safe? You can think of it in the same way as you think of #whomademyclothes!
When shopping for items made from wood, try to avoid tropical woods like teak, walnut, Brazilian cheery, or south America Mahogany. These woods come from monoculture plantations and are not grown sustainably. The other issue is some of these woods like teak from Indonesia can come from 200-year-old forests that we should not be cutting down.
A huge amount of logging in Brazil and Indonesia comes from illegal logging. Even wood from developed countries isn't always protected. Western Cedar is at risk in Canada and the USA and so is yellow cedar, Alaskan cedar, and western hemlock, so it's best to avoid these types of wood.
So what is the best option? Salvaged is the best and the second-best would be FSC-certified. Homegrown is always better as tropical FSC certification can still come from old-growth forests.
There is a ton of greenwashing in bamboo furniture. It's almost impossible to say. I'd avoid bamboo furniture unless there are strict credentials in place. The FSC does certify plywood or bamboo.
For this post, I chose ethical home decor brands that use certified materials, non-toxic glues, and adhesives that won't add to indoor air pollution and have as little plastic as possible.
A final word on eco-friendly home decor
Be mindful and shop with a purpose. Ask questions and choose brands that you can trust. There is a lot of greenwashing and confusing information in the home decor space and it can be really hard to navigate. If you ever have any questions, feel free to reach out.
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