Fast homeware: the next big unsustainable shopping trend

Though we’re well-aware of the dangers of fast fashion, our newfound obsession with interiors is looking to be just as damaging for the environment.

It isn’t anything new to say that the world of interiors is booming. Particularly amid a pandemic that’s given us a heightened sense of ‘nesting,’ with over 37% of participants in a Bernardo’s survey agreeing that the look and feel of their home became a top priority in lockdown.

But with the emergence of social media trends on TikTok and Instagram that continue to bombard us with beautiful images of people’s homes, we’ve been more inspired than ever before to personalise our living spaces in keeping with these fleeting crazes.

Unfortunately, this comes at a price. And, no, I’m not referring to that relatively hefty portion of your paycheck you spent on a set of ‘aesthetic’ candles.

The issue with this newfound obsession is similar to that of fast fashion, a phenomena we’ve been pushing for the demise of for a good few years now. ‘Customers seeking availability and accessibility are now approaching the homeware category in the same way they buy their clothes: trend-oriented, impulsive, and seasonal,’ explains art director Fredericke Winkler.

Alongside this steep rise in homeware purchases – made with little or no consideration to satisfy our immediate desire for trend-based products – is one, seriously concerning fact: the majority of what we’re buying is, once again, damaging the environment.

According to Mintel, furniture sales hit a record high of £17.2 billion in the UK last year. Over 75% of this figure being those decorative knick-knacks we tend to simply throw away.

That’s an alarmingly high amount of picture frames, table lamps, and plant pots (to name a few) made from single-use synthetic materials that are ending up on landfill annually.

22 million items in the UK and nine million in the US, to be exact. Unfortunately, this can be attributed to how difficult a process recycling homeware can be as the mix of materials and chemicals used to produce them makes treatment in a specialised facility almost impossible.

Why we're hunting for treasure – in old landfill sites

Just like fast fashion, it seems we are committing yet another crime against our planet, though engaging in it feels a lot less obvious because, in most cases, homeware is essential.

‘The homewares market has always been fragmented, but this has increased as a number of clothing brands launch homewares collections while supermarkets reconfigure their non-food offering in an effort to offset challenges in their own sectors,’ expands the Mintel report.

‘Meanwhile the homewares market continues to grow, as an increasing population of renters seeks to make their homes more “Instagrammable”.’

Of course, our reliance on fast homeware is slightly complicated.

A composite of popular home decor trends

Most of us would love to splash out on vintage pieces and second-hand finds we can treasure for ever but, realistically, this isn’t all too convenient and often far too expensive for those of us already spending the majority of our income on rent.

However, in opting for cheaper alternatives, we’re encouraging overproduction, accelerating the popularity of this trend straight into the stratosphere, and further contributing to the climate crisis.

As is the case with fast fashion, cheap labour and the manufacturing rate will likely lead to shortcuts that are bad for the planet, namely the use of chemical dyes and cheap materials like polyester as well as the cost of transportation to meet quick turnarounds.

Thankfully, unlike fast fashion, fast homeware is still in its early stages which means there’s a great deal of potential for the current situation to change.

London startup debuts eco-friendly 3D printed homeware » 3D Printing Media Network - The Pulse of the AM Industry

It’s expected that, given the extensive knowledge about our impact on the environment we’re already privy to, people will soon begin questioning the approach to creating this surplus of stuff we don’t genuinely need.

This is echoed in Mintel’s report, which has examined the industry’s areas of prospective growth.

‘From the introduction of circular business models to a heightened focus on materials, upcycling and product life, sustainability is increasingly under the spotlight in the furniture market,’ it finishes.

‘49% of consumers agree that growing environmental concerns have made them more conscious when purchasing furniture. This is extremely promising looking ahead.’


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