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5 Sustainable Home Improvement Tips That Benefit the Planet and Your Wallet

You can upgrade your home in a way that isn't harmful to the environment—and save some money in the process. Here's all the tips and tricks you need before your renovation.

sustainable home improvement tips
Written by
Tehrene Firman
We all love the feeling of accomplishment from making small upgrades around the home. Unfortunately, some of these changes can come at a cost to the planet if you're not careful, whether that's in the form of
excess waste
, buying decor or furniture that’s cheaply made and doesn’t last (hello,
fast furniture
!), or using non-renewable resources that have a hefty environmental footprint.
Luckily, there are plenty of eco-solutions to the problem. In the latest episode of
Good Together
, Brightly founder Laura Alexander Wittig is sharing sustainable upgrades she's made around her own home—and how you, too, can plan home improvements that keep the planet in mind.

5 Sustainable Home Improvement Tips

sustainable home improvement tips

1. Rehome Materials After Big Projects

When you do a home renovation, you're often left with lots of waste. Think torn-out cabinets, old fixtures, and more. Wittig has a solution she wished she would have known about sooner—utilizing local
Buy Nothing groups
, interior salvage companies, and
creative reuse centers
"We recently redid our kitchen. What I should have done, which I didn't do and I'm always here to be vulnerable—I should have tried to list those cabinets (and other things that could be salvageable) on our Buy Nothing group. I also should have reached out to interior salvage companies like
Habitat for Humanity
," she says. "It's a big regret that I had because I didn't even think about it. So if you're about to undertake a new project in your home, and you have things you need to get rid of, look into these options."

2. Buy Secondhand Before Buying New

Before buying new, look around on Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, in Buy Nothing groups, or at local
thrift stores
and antique stores. Wittig says you'll likely find something close to what you're looking for (or something you didn't even know you needed!), saving you money and keeping waste out of landfills.
"I got this beautiful canopy bedframe," she says. "I want to say, retail, it costs like $3,000 or something, which I would never ever spend. I got it for $200."

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3. Avoid Fast Furniture

It's tempting to opt for fast furniture—aka furniture that's mass-produced and cheaply made—that's bound to break down and wind up in landfills. But Wittig says to think about the lifecycle of it and instead choose options that are secondhand or sustainably made using materials that are better for the planet.
When buying new, Wittig says to pay attention to certifications: "I actually was really excited to see that when I needed new barstools recently, I found some at Target that were FSC certified. It meant the wood was coming from a place that was responsibly managed," she says. She also noted some other options to look out for: "Different types of wood can be more environmentally friendly, like bamboo or reclaimed wood," she says.

4. Skip the Trendy Stuff

When thinking about the upgrades you're making around your home, ensure you're not just hopping on trends you're not even going to like down the road.
"Think pink carpet in the bathroom. I don't think anybody likes that. I don't think anybody wants carpet in the bathroom. It's gross. It's not sanitary," Wittig says. "So there's an example where for a while, it became very trendy to do that. Don't do that. Try your hardest to think about yourself years down the road."

5. See What You Can Upcycle

It's tempting to hop on a new purchase for your home the second you spot one, but hold off. According to Wittig,
upcycling something
that already exists over buying new is both beneficial to the planet and your wallet.
"We're looking to get a new playhouse for my daughter. The aesthetic person in me wants to have this really cool, mid-century modern-looking thing there's an Amazon deal on. I'm not going to buy that," Wittig says. "What can I do is look around to see some of these playhouses that have already been used and loved by kiddos. They're taking up space in backyards. I can find one of those and I can maybe paint it with some eco-friendly materials. I can give it a little bit of a facelift from that perspective."