Interior design is all about creating aesthetically pleasing spaces that are safe, practical and in harmony with the rest of the surroundings. In order to carry this out effectively we must source the best materials, furniture and fixtures and fittings for the job, and in doing so, we inevitably have an impact on the environment albeit inadvertently. These days with so much emphasis being placed on global climate change, reducing consumption, and recycling, interior design can be a bit daunting if we want to limit our carbon footprint and still get the effect we want. However, armed with the right information, it needn't be a big challenge and we can still create beautiful rooms that are stylish, healthy and that are environmentally friendly too. So where do we begin? First of all it's important to note that every single thing we buy has an impact on the environment somewhere along the line either, from the way they are extracted, manufactured and processed, or from the distances they have to travel to end up in our home. Take for example paint, wood, glass, metal, textiles and furniture, each of which can have a negative impact if we don't know what to look out for but with a little effort and forethought, we are able to find eco friendly alternatives. Paint Conventional paint contains solvents and lot of other harsh chemicals and toxins but it is possible to source paints that have a reduced effect on the environment and that don't contain solvents, which are not only a much healthier option as they won't release harmful gases into your home and the atmosphere, they can be just as effective. Wood If possible, try to buy wood that is grown in a local forest so it doesn't have to travel long distances to end up in your home. Also, choose woods that don't have a negative effect on the environment. Look out for the FSC symbol which stands for Forestry Stewardship Council, an international non-profit organisation that will ensure that when you buy you will not be contributing to global forest destruction and threatening the livelihoods of people who depend on the forest or timber to survive. Glass and Metal Glass and metal are fairly easy to recycle and one of the advantages of both is that in most cases they can be recycled over and over again without losing any quality. Using recycled glass and metal helps reduce the amount of resources needed to produce these materials from scratch, also the process of recycling uses a lot less energy than what is required to make new glass and metal. Textiles Textile production can include processes like dying and bleaching which uses a lot of energy and will produce toxic gases which are then released into the environment not to mention the harmful pesticides that are often used whilst growing the raw materials. The main things to consider when choosing an eco friendly option is how renewable the product is, in other words, can it be replenished quickly, whether the product is dyed or if natural dyes are used, and whether a lot of chemicals are required to produce it. Some of the more eco friendly choices include organic cotton, wool and hemp although there are many others available too. Furniture How eco friendly your furniture is will depend on the material it is made from, how it is processed and what finishes have been used, so choose carefully. Consider buying second hand furniture or items made from recycled or reclaimed materials and doing them up as this helps to keep existing items in circulation and reduces the amount of perfectly useful items ending up in landfill. When sourcing eco friendly materials for your interior design project, try to stick to the following guidelines: - Buy from local producers and suppliers as much as possible as the less distance an item has to travel, the lower the impact on the environment - Consider the type of materials you choose and whether they come from renewable and sustainable energy sources - Avoid materials that contain chemical additives or that use a lot of energy during manufacturing processes - When buying new items, try as much as possible to choose products that can be readily recycled after use or that can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner - Consider low energy or energy saving devices and buy as much as you can from recycled or reclaimed materials Finally, as a result of the massive amount of publicity given to global warming and the need for conservation of energy, many producers make claims about their products that are misleading or even false so check out the credentials of any suppliers claiming that their products are certified as natural, organic or eco friendly.