What is fast homeware? The unsustainable shopping habit you’re doing without realising

Stop buying those trinket trays


We all think we know what’s bad for the environment in our homes. We’ve stopped buying beauty scrubs with micro-beads, we don’t chuck oil down the sink and we use tupperware rather than sandwich bags.

But what about the things we decorate our house with? In that summer before our first year of uni, we head to the local IKEA with our mum and a list in hand. There we buy plates, glasses, duvet covers and fake plants. They’re cheap and by the end of your three years, they’re dumped.

Just like fast fashion, we’ve been committing another sin against the environment – fast homeware.

Originally coined by Refinery29, fast homeware refers to furniture and homewares that are driven by trends. They’re usually cheap and made with recyclable materials. In the UK up to 22 million items of furniture are thrown away every year.

This is everything you need to know about fast homeware:

What exactly is fast homeware?

Engaging in fast homeware feels different and less obvious than fast fashion. You know you’re damaging the environment and supporting bad working conditions when you buy another dress for a night out that you don’t need. But with homeware, it feels like an essential. And a lot of the time it is. Buying plates, cutlery and bedding when you move to uni is essential. How else are you meant to eat? And to some extent decorating your new room is important for your mental health when you first move away from home, it makes you feel connected and homey even if you’re 300 miles away.

However what happens to those cushions you bought from IKEA? When you finish uni and decide they don’t go with your room back home? Or your new cool London flat? Most of the time they end up in the trash.

And it’s not just your basics. I know I’m not alone in going for a casual hungover shopping spree and popping into Primark, Tiger or Wilko and picking up a new mug, trinket tray or a light up plastic sign.

Or spending an evening browsing the many affordable online homeware sites. I just need another wall hanging from Urban Outfitters or a pink fluffy cushion from PrettyLittleThing (ok maybe I don’t need that). The point is, buying disposable homeware is becoming just as frequent as buying fast fashion and it needs to stop.

And it’s not just decorative items we need to consider, big pieces of furniture like beds, bookshelves and sofas are often ditched after a few years.

Now that so many people are renting, we often buy things to keep for a few years before chucking away and buying new stuff. Or they just don’t last as long because they’re made of cheaper material, so you have to replace them.

What impact is fast homeware having on the planet?

Unlike the fast fashion industry which is well known for having an extremely detrimental effect on the planet and often using modern slavery to produce garments, not as much is known about fast homeware.

However it doesn’t mean it still isn’t having an effect on the planet and workers. In America more than 12 million tonnes of furniture and furnishings are thrown away every year. Nine million of these end up in landfill.

IKEA uses almost 1 per cent of all the world’s wood. That doesn’t sound like a lot but when you consider it’s to make Billy Bookcases at the rate of 15 per minute, it all of a sudden seems far too much.

And considering each new sofa has an average carbon footprint of 90kg, which is equivalent to driving 220 miles, we could all do our best to cut down on buying new interior products.

All our new products could also be impacting our health. Interior designer Nicola Holden told Refinery29 many cheap sofas are made from polyurethane, which can emit toxic chemicals into our homes.

She said: “For example, a ‘cheap’ sofa is usually filled with foam and many of these upholstery foams have been made from polyurethane. Polyurethane is flammable, so it’s also treated with flame retardants that often contain hazardous chemicals.

“All of these products will off-gas in our homes, emitting toxic chemicals into our indoor environments for up to five years! Most people are unaware of this.”

What to do to stop your fast homeware consumption?

We all need something to sit on, no one is expecting you to sleep on the floor. However we can all be mindful of our purchases.

Firstly stop with the fast homeware purchases from big companies that probably don’t produce your trinkets in the most ethical or sustainable way. Seek out second hand shops or source small independent companies who can tell you how and where their goods were made.

Buying big pieces like sofas or bookcases from second hand websites like eBay, is often cheaper than buying them and you get the added benefit of saying your new desk is vintage.

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