This week a reader wrote to me about her bedroom. She’s moving into a brand new home and starting from scratch. She wants to create a Zero Waste bedroom and was asking for tips.
Here are some things to consider:
Covering walls with conventional paint can be a pretty damaging thing for the environment, but there are better options. Look into water based paints, lime washes, natural clay plaster or natural pigments. Paint can be sourced second hand through initiatives like Freecycle, but check out your own supplies first. Research shows that an estimated 50 million litres of paint sold in the UK each year is either thrown away or stored in homes or garages. Have a rummage through your own supplies before purchasing new. You could take a look at Community Repaint to see if you can source ‘recycled paint’ locally.
Floor rugs, curtains and cushions are the perfect excuse to purchase second hand. If you’re handy at sewing then repurposing fabric into cushion covers or curtains is a great opportunity to give old material a new lease of life. Rag rugs can be made from scraps of material that are too small for a project of their own. Reading University Museum of Rural life tells us that [rag] rugs became widespread during the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, but by the 1920s the craft was dying out except in areas of poverty or where tradition had a stronger hold. The necessity for thrift during World War II brought a brief revival, but it did not last long. What a great excuse to revive that craft!
With more and more people suffering from sleep issues, getting the lighting right in your bedroom is important. Personally, I like to move away from conventional lighting and create ambiance. In my room, I have a Himalayan salt lamp and I light beeswax or soy candles. I know candles aren’t for everyone, especially if you have lively pets or children, but they work for me. I do have an oil lamp as well (sourced second hand via eBay), but I didn’t think through the ‘oil’ part and so far haven’t found a source of lamp oil that is anything other than petroleum-based! For more conventional lighting, second-hand lamps and shades can be found in antique shops and second-hand stores or in charity shops that accept electrical items.
Now when it comes to a bed, my opinion is that there are bits that can be second hand and others that need to be new. The bed itself can definitely be sourced second hand. A wooden bed frame will last for years if looked after and as long as the slats are strong, there’s no reason to purchase new. Bedding such as sheets and duvet covers can also be sourced from charity shops or second-hand stores.
The bit that I think should be invested in and bought new – unless you happen to a second-hand one that has been used on an infrequently used guest bed – is the mattress. There’s nothing worse than sleeping on a bad quality mattress, and when you consider you spend a third of your life in bed, it’s wise to invest in the best mattress you can for a good night’s sleep.
It is recommended to replace a mattress every seven years! Sadly the mattress industry can be pretty damaging to the environment. But quality mattresses can be found that use eco-friendly manufacturing processes and work to reduce the carbon footprint (both with the materials used in making the mattresses, shipping the mattresses, and in the processes used to recycle a mattress). So, do your research and ask questions about the materials used and end-of-life disposal.
This is where you can have a field day in antique shops, second-hand stores online with sites like eBay or Freecycle! Wardrobes, chests of drawers, bedside tables – all of it can be sourced second hand and as Zero Waste as you like. I’m fortunate enough to have a fantastic second-hand place near me where the owner regularly runs classes to help you upcycle furniture you buy from her – she’ll teach you how to sand down, paint, cover and embellish to your heart’s content! Perhaps you have a similar class nearby – if not, check out YouTube for some fantastic ‘how to’ videos. You’re only limited by your imagination.
The small things – Tissues and Makeup wipes
Most of us keep a box of tissues by the bedside and these are one of the easiest things to replace with Zero Waste alternatives. Reusable handkerchiefs can be thrown in with your regular laundry; they don’t need any special treatment, though you might want to do a separate hot wash if you’re suffering from a cold. For makeup wipes or cotton wool pads, there are lots of alternatives available. You’ll find tutorials for making your own washable rounds (a great one here) or you can source items through Etsy
What about you – what aspects of a Zero Waste bedroom do you have at home?