Everything You Need to Know About Sustainable and Green Interior Design

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated October 28, 2021
Office with wood desk, chairs and accessories
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Making “green” choices for your home doesn’t mean sacrificing style

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As an eco-conscious homeowner, you want a stunning interior design for your home—but not at the cost of the environment. A growing niche of interior designers with a green focus has been bringing in earth-friendly practices and products into their work. To help you get in on the trend, we’ve broken down the different elements of green interior design and how you can incorporate sustainable designs into your home.

5 Key Elements of Green Interior Home Design

Planning a green interior design overhaul is a major undertaking. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and aren’t sure where to begin, don’t worry; these five key elements of sustainable interior design can help you get started on this exciting project.

1. Increasing Energy-Efficiency

The most sustainable home design is an energy-efficient one. This term can mean many different things, but overall, an energy-efficient home includes the following elements:

  • Energy-certified appliances: The most common certifications include LEED and Energy Star. Appliances that qualify for these certifications use less energy than your average appliance. 

  • Lower water consumption: From low-flow toilets to rainwater collection tanks, sustainable homes aim to use less water than conventional homes.

  • Weatherized windows and doors: Keeping homes insulated helps prevent leaks that increase utility bills and waste energy. By sealing windows and doors, homes can better conserve energy.

  • Renewable energy: Many sustainable homes utilize solar, wind, and geothermal energy to help offset carbon emissions.

2. Limiting VOCs

One of the biggest elements in sustainable interior home design is limiting or eliminating Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in your home. According to the EPA, VOCs are artificial chemicals commonly found in industrial products but may also be found in paint, furniture, and other household items. 

These chemicals have both short- and long-term side effects, especially when released in an enclosed place like rooms in your home. HealthLinkBC states that VOCs may worsen allergies, irritate lungs, cause sore throats, eyes, and noses, and may even lead to long-term liver problems. 

Check labels before you buy paint, sealants, and other solvents to ensure they have low or no VOCs. If you’re concerned about VOCs already present in your home, you can also hire a pro to perform an environmental safety test.

3. Focusing on Materials

Being aware of the materials you’re using is an important component of sustainable design. Every material has its own level of sustainability that you can determine by researching its origins, harvesting practices (if applicable), and production. 

Sustainable alternatives for interior design materials include natural, renewable, or upcycled materials, such as certified organic cotton, wool, bamboo, or hemp upholstery. These materials are more likely to have sustainable manufacturing methods than artificial plastics or other compounds. 

Likewise, recycling furniture or buying second-hand—regardless of material type— can be green, so if you have your heart set on a particular design piece that might not be sustainable in production, consider buying it second-hand.

4. Expanding Your Color Palette

Despite its name, there’s no one set color for a green design. Don’t worry about limited color availability or having to choose between palettes that don’t fit your expectations for a perfect interior space. Many home improvement manufacturers have incorporated sustainable practices into their materials, allowing you to have a wide selection of colors from which to choose.

5. Incorporating Different Styles

Green interior design doesn’t mean you have to live in a neutral space with bamboo floors, plants, and upcycled furniture (unless that’s your style, of course!) Be it traditional, contemporary, rustic, gothic, or any other style, you can bring in green interior design because sustainable materials are versatile. 

For example, you can upcycle old wood for that rustic look, purchase bamboo floors for a modern look, or use natural stone flooring for a gothic or minimalist look, depending on other design features you incorporate. The sky's the limit when it comes to sustainable styles.

How to Incorporate Green Interior Home Design into Your Home

Living room with wood furniture and natural rug
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Now that you know what to look for in a green interior home design, it’s time to figure out how to incorporate those elements into your home. Just a note, you don’t need to incorporate everything on this list to work towards a greener home, but each point can serve as a bit of inspiration. Here are some tips on how to apply green practices to your home’s interior:


Making eco-friendly changes to your home can be as simple as adding lighting timers and dimmer switches to rooms to reduce energy consumption or installing skylights to let in more natural light. Also, consider replacing those old incandescent light bulbs with LED lights, which are significantly more energy-efficient.


Many paint brands contain harmful VOCs, biocides, and fungicides. When choosing an environmentally friendly paint for your home, search for paints that contain any of the following:

  • Water-based

  • Zinc oxide

  • Balsam- or citrus-derived

  • Milk paint

  • Lime putty

  • Linseed oil

  • China clay

  • Natural latex

  • Beeswax

These ingredients or properties tend to be the most environmentally friendly options available for paints. In addition, look for paints made with natural pigments and contain as few VOCs, biocides, and fungicides as possible.


When it comes to sustainability, nearly anything can be reused or repurposed as an accessory if you put your mind to it. Don’t be afraid to get creative, whether you want to purchase an upcycled rug and some aesthetic plants or make DIY a cork picture frame or natural wood shelving.


Traditional furniture is often stained with harsh chemicals, made with synthetic materials, or created using deforestation practices that harm the environment. Instead, consider using sustainable alternatives to traditional materials for your indoor and outdoor furniture. A few of these include rattan, which is made from woven vines, or bamboo. In addition, upholstery made with soy-based foam is far more sustainable than furniture made with petroleum-based foam.


Your dream kitchen can be as stunning as it is green. A few tips for making a green interior design kitchen include buying recycled kitchen countertops, avoiding laminate or vinyl floorings, and installing a low-flow kitchen faucet.


Speaking of laminate and vinyl floorings, you’ll want to take extra consideration when choosing sustainable flooring for your home. Sustainable materials—like bamboo flooring, for example—have a low carbon footprint and low environmental impact. This eco-friendly floor material also doesn’t emit the VOCs commonly found in finishes of other floor types.

Since flooring is a big investment with many different choices, you may want to speak with a professional floor installer near you to learn about the sustainable materials that will best be suited to your needs.


You can also limit water usage by adding low-flow plumbing fixtures, like a low-flow toilet, faucet, and showerhead. If you’re really hoping to up your green game, why not invest in a solar water heater tank to heat your hot water?


Last but not least, what better way to give friends, family, and neighbors a taste of your new, green interior design than to have a yard to match? Native plants encourage local wildlife to your home and help restore the environment while adding stunning curb appeal to your home.

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