By Michela O’Connor Abrams
The past year has literally stopped us all in our tracks and forced us to be still in our homes. On our best days, we’ve been able to gain a deeper understanding of what’s most important to us. Many of us have refocused our priorities on making our spaces more comfortable, functional and nurturing, whether its creating a home design that promotes sustainable living, health and mental wellness or planting a garden that literally feeds us.
We invite our readers to share the ways you’ve improved your homes with a focus on the environment with the hashtag #MOCA+lovestheplanet.
As we welcome spring - a very different spring than 2020 - optimism is starting to break through the darkness. This month we’ll be celebrating Earth Day on April 22nd and Arbor Day on April 30th. At MOCA+, we want to expand these days into a month of sustainability. We invite our readers to share the ways you’ve improved your homes with a focus on the environment with the hashtag #MOCA+lovestheplanet.
Recent studies have shown that the pandemic has inspired consumers to make more buying decisions based on health and sustainability, but often people don’t know where to start. Our recommendation is to start with two focuses: planting an edible garden and buying home goods that are designed with the environment in mind. MOCA+ and our Design Insights Forum conducted a study done annually by the Sustainable Furnishings Council. Our latest study found that the words “sustainable,” and “environmentally-safe” are now a top priority for new affluent consumers when buying products for their homes.
Our recommendation is to start with two focuses: planting an edible garden and buying home goods that are designed with the environment in mind.
Home Gardening: Wellness and Sustainability
It’s been one year since we went into lockdown, and it’s now time to replant the garden we started in 2020, or break ground on a new one. Whether you live in an area that allows for large garden beds or have an urban deck or roof for planters, we now know that literally reaping what we sowed has offered a bounty of mental wellness and sustenance in the past year. As a result, home gardening brands are now seeing a huge surge in sales. For example, the U.S. seed company W. Atlee Burpee & Co sold more seed than any time in its 144-year history in March of 2020.
And these sales have had a direct benefit on our mental health. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that spending time in a garden has been an important way to improve mental wellness during the pandemic, especially for older people who experienced stronger consequences of social distancing on their psychological and physical health.
Home Projects and Furniture: Sustainable Not “Green”
Our DIF study found that both homeowners and renters have exactly the same penchant for sustainable products. That means that consumers are more likely to choose brands that are transparent about their environmental policies. Both groups of consumers, which equally represent men and women, are willing to pay 15%-20% more for these products. But style and comfort must be part of the equation, and the word “green” is out because of the all too frequent “green-washing” on the part of marketers.
Sustainability, on the other hand, implies that the brand and products don’t just have a environmentally friendly label, but that sustainability is truly part of the product’s story. This could be that the furniture wood is sustainably grown and harvested, or that a rug has a Good Weave label on it, which guarantees that children did not work on the looms on which it was made.
Think about the brand Patagonia, which really has nothing to do with the best mountain climbing clothing and everything to do with protecting the planet. Or consider the story behind the mattress company Naturepedic. When the company's founder, Barry Cik, went to buy a crib for his first grandchild, he discovered that most bedding manufacturers used environmentally harmful chemicals and materials in both their assembly process and products. “I knew all about vinyl/PVC, polyurethane foam, and the various chemicals contained in them, and there was no way I was going to put my grandchild to sleep within a few inches of these chemicals,” he said. The company now sources all of its materials to not only protect the health of the people who buy their products, but also to protect the environment of the regions from which many of the materials come.
For our month of sustainability, we look forward to hearing your stories.