Mad About . . .

Sustainable paint brushes and other eco-friendly interiors ideas

15th September 2021
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Today I wanted to share a couple of initiatives with you relating to sustainability. Did you know that currently only 10 per cent of the furniture and homeware items that are disposed of within the UK is recycled? Or to put it another way over 20 million pieces of furniture are thrown away in the UK alone every year – this is enough to fill 100,00 houses.

Over 15m cubic metres of landfill is taken up by sofas alone – that’s 6,000 Olympic swimming pools and each household will probably add eight sofas to that number in our lifetime.

image via the haines collection

I thought that was a pretty shocking statistic and so I wanted to tell you about some schemes that are working to help with this. Firstly, to recap, you know I am always talking about The Haines Collection and Jules has now saved over 10,000 metres of textiles from landfill. This is four times the height of Ben Nevis for context.

I have also often talked about buying vintage furniture and The British Heart Foundation is a great place to look as they have real life shops, online shops and also sell via eBay. The Emmaus foundation, which works to end homelessness is also a great place to look for furniture as well as your own local charity shops.

And finally – for this recap –  I want to highlight Furnishing Futures, an organisation that aims to fully furnish the homes of families who are experiencing furniture poverty by using good quality items donated by the interiors industry that would otherwise have gone to landfill as well as collecting community donations of good quality preloved furniture and items for the home. Currently founder Emily Wheeler is only able to help families in north London but clearly she can take financial donations from anywhere and do get in touch with her if you have item of furniture you want to donate.

furnishing futures works to help women and child who have been re-homed and have nothing to put in their houses

On to the new initiatives. Now, sit down is new eco brand that has just launched with the aim of promoting circularity. Their national cushion swap offers customers a £10 redeemable credit for any of their old, unwanted cushions as credit for their own range. This means your old cushions will be re-used and recycled when you buy new ones rather than them going to landfill.

Every now,sit down product sold comes with a Second Life Guarantee which means customers can return any product, or part of, in exchange for credit. All products returned will then be used again – whether through resale as pre-loved or reusing the materials in other items such as the reusable packaging that every purchase arrives in.

How it works:

  • Enter your email on the cushion swap page (com/pages/the-cushion-swap) to receive a unique code
  • now, sit downwill send you a link to generate a postage label
  • On receipt, the brand will give you £10 credit to spend on your next purchase with them
  • Alternatively, if you’ve already ordered your replacement cushions from now, sit down, you can use the reusable packaging to return your old cushions and receive £10 off your next order.

I think this is a particularly good idea as cushions are a great and affordable way to refresh a room, but this does raise the issue of what to do with the old ones. Some of my cushions are 18 years old (I know this because they came with the sofa we bought when my younger son was born. And I have to say the sofa didn’t last as long as the cushion covers!)

Since its launch in July over 2,000 customers nationwide have participated in the cushion swap initiative. Co-founder Louise Barnard said: “Everyone is waking up to the realities of climate change and people are looking for ways they can make a difference on a personal level. We’ve been delighted with the reaction to the cushion swap so far. By upcycling all the old cushions that we receive, we’re contributing to a more circular model of design and production and at the same time, offering our customers a quick and easy way to update their living room.”

The now, sit down’s current cushion collection includes several patterned and plain options in regular (45 x 45cm) and large sizes (55cm x 55cm). All cushions can be brought as either feather-filled or covers only. Prices range from £30 – £54.

The other business, which is so simple and so clever and so overdue, is Eco Union, a company that provides eco decorating tools such as paint trays and brushes and rollers. The latter have a bamboo handle, recycled metal frame and use recycled plastic for the end caps. The sleeve has a recycled plastic core and the nap is made from recycled polyester.

The paint trays (take a moment to think that every plastic paint tray ever made still exists) can either be wiped clean and re-used and are made from 100 per cent recycled waste material – pulp discarded from the food industry – so while they are strong enough to carry a whole tin of paint they will also biodegrade if you do decide to throw them away. There are also two sets of brushes to choose from – pro and made in the UK.

That’s it. It’s that simple. Now you can decorate using eco friendly paint with eco friendly tools and I wonder why would you ever buy anything else. The only thing that might be worth noting is that the roller, with its wooden handle, is heavier than a plastic handle so be aware if that might be an issue for you.

For more information on how companies are working to reduce their environmental impact check out my Do Less Harm Directory.




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  • Vicky Wilford 15th September 2021 at 10:09 am

    Morning Kate

    Absolutely love this article! Cushions and paint – two of the easiest and quickest ways to update the home – sustainably. I shall definitely take a look into these 🙂

    Do you happen to know what the big DIY sheds (Homebase, B&Q etc) are doing to address sustainability in their products? I know F&B say they are eco friendly, and sell in Homebase, but what about the others – Dulux, Crown, Homebase own etc. And then there;s all those black plastic trays you mention. Black plastic has been mostly phased out for food packaging as it can’t be recycled but what about the home improvement industry? It’s not until the mass products / major outlets get with the programme to be more sustainable and actually promote those credentials that we will see change in this sector as most people will still go with the cheapest most readily available option.

    Would love to hear you thoughts on this.

    Best, Vicky

    • Pia 15th September 2021 at 2:51 pm

      I don’t know if that is a UK problem that you cant recycle black plastic? That is totally possible to do. And it is usually bought by China to use in remote controls and TVs and such things. The problem might be that it is hard to make a profit. China is not famous for paying that much 🙂 But if you are not doing it more market shares for us who do!

      • Kate Watson-Smyth 15th September 2021 at 2:52 pm

        I think you can recycle it but it often doesn’t go in the recycling bin outside your house and needs to be taken to a special place.

        • Pia 15th September 2021 at 2:58 pm

          Ah. Ok. Different way of handling it. Got it. Works a bit differently here in Sweden 🙂

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