I was tired of my bedroom, with its Ikea rug and curtains, inherited chests of drawers, and headboard-less bed frame. But I really didn’t want my current furniture to end up in a landfill while I bought new, cheap furniture that I’d feel just as tired of in a few years from now. What’s an environmentally conscious home decorator to do? How could I redo my bedroom without relying too heavily on fast furniture and its purveyors—Wayfair, Ikea, and Amazon?
In an ideal situation, I wouldn’t buy anything new at all. After all, fast furniture takes a significant toll on the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, upwards of 9 million tons of furniture end up in landfills every year. And the cheaper and poorer quality the furniture, the more likely it is to get tossed. But buying a mismatched bedroom set from Good Will isn’t a great solution for discerning shoppers, either. Here are four lessons I’ve learned so far in my quest to redo my bedroom affordably, stylishly, and without hurting the environment.
Skip 2-day shipping: Try out Craigslist alternatives that deliver
One of the best parts about buying furniture on Wayfair or Amazon is the fast, easy delivery. Startups are now popping up to make buying used furniture much more convenient than schlepping to someone’s house to pick up the old dresser you bought on Craigslist. You can try out sites like Kaiyo or AptDeco, both of which sell used pieces from brands like West Elm and Crate & Barrel and deliver them right to your door.
One thing to note: These companies tend to have slower shipping options than Amazon’s lightning-fast two-day shipping (though Kaiyo can ship items in two days). But that’s not necessarily a bad thing: Experts point out that slower shipping options like these are better for the environment.
Having your used furniture delivered certainly beats buying a bed frame from an acquaintance on Facebook, which I did recently—I love the frame, for which I paid almost nothing, but I did not love that I had to rent a U-Haul van to pick it up.
Buy furniture that can last forever
If you do need to buy something new, make sure you’re picking pieces that will last and grow with you as you transition from home to home.
That’s the idea behind the Detroit-based furniture store Floyd, which sells simple but smartly designed wood furniture that it plans to always have in stock. That means that you’ll still be able to find the company’s furniture, like its clever modular shelving system, years from now, because they don’t sell their products in seasons like many larger furniture companies. If you buy a small shelf now, you can buy another matching one years later when you have a larger space, with the assurance that they will match perfectly. The shelves aren’t cheap—prices range from $425 to $695 depending on the size—but they’re designed to last your entire life. And the clean aesthetic is simple enough to look at home anywhere, whether a cramped dorm room or a capacious suburban house.
Do you really need to buy at all? Skip Ikea, consider renting
These days, there are more options than ever for filling your apartment or house with furniture—and some don’t even involve owning furniture at all. Several startups, as well as more established companies like West Elm and soon Ikea, offer furniture subscriptions. Silly? Maybe. After all, furniture isn’t the kind of thing you switch up as frequently as, say, a dress. But as I looked around for new ways to think about decorating a space, renting a piece of furniture started to make sense.
For instance, I’m still on the hunt for a set of dressers to replace two different hand-me-downs from my husband’s college days that have been storing our clothes for years (yes, it’s embarrassing we still own them). The thought of renting a dresser for six months or a year to decide if I like the look in my room is an appealing one, and also solves the problem of wanting to change up my bedroom’s appearance again soon without the guilt of getting rid of furniture.
The idea is that you’re renting quality furniture that you could never afford to buy, instead of buying something cheap that you’ll ditch when you’re ready to move. Startups like Feather and Fernish let you swap or return furniture after your rental period is up, or you can decide to buy it outright, too. I love the idea that these services provide a built-in plan to take the furniture when I’m done with it so that someone else can use it, extending the piece’s life while limiting what goes to the landfill.
It’s always the cheapest proposition: a white chest that I’d consider for my room costs $155 per month on Feather (if you’re a member, it costs $45 a month along with a monthly $19 membership fee), while a similar piece costs $40 a month on Fernish. If I went with the cheaper Fernish option, I’d be able to pay off the chest in two years, as it retails for $949, or just return it.
Your old stuff should go somewhere that’s not the curb
If you’re environmentally conscious, the last thing you want to do when redecorating is send all your old furniture to the dump. Instead, you should try to donate or resell what you can. It’s nice get a little extra cash, for one thing. But the real goal is to find homes for pieces of furniture that have outlived their usefulness to you.
That doesn’t always mean you have to take old things to Good Will or the Salvation Army. Facebook groups are a great option for selling. You can join Facebook groups dedicated just to your neighborhood, where locals are buying and swapping everything from baby clothes to bed frames. (Groups like these have become one of Facebook’s most popular features.) They also feel a little safer than selling to random people on Craigslist, because it’s connected to real people’s profiles and there’s a measure of guarantee that they’re your neighbors (some groups ask questions to verify that you live in the area).
A bonus of selling on your local Facebook marketplace? Shopping there, too. It isn’t necessarily as convenient as a used furniture company that will deliver, but picking a group that’s limited to your area can make picking up smaller items as easy as a walk around the block.