There are all kinds of things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint, and the list is likely familiar to many of you by now—biking to work, turning off household lights when you’re not using them, buying local produce. But one method you may not have thought of is to buy eco-friendly curtains.
Our curtains are one of the features of our house that we may not actively think about much, but they serve so many purposes (decoration, warming the house, keeping out light, giving us privacy) that we would be hard-pressed to live without them. However, the synthetic fibers that many curtains are made of have an extremely negative effect on the environment. What’s an environmentally-conscious person to do, then? That’s where eco-friendly curtains come in.
What to Avoid
Synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, and rayon are petroleum-based, are not biodegradable, and can still carry a chemical residue. Unfortunately, these are the materials that a lot of curtains are made from. To make matters worse, many curtains are also coated with stain treatments and flame retardants, which can be a source of toxic PFCs and PBDEs. And in the unfortunate event of an actual fire, synthetic fibers can melt and release extremely harmful toxic chemicals into the air. If you’re interested in going green with your curtains, avoid these fabrics and look to see if the curtains are labeled as treated to be stain and flame-resistant. You should also watch out for curtains that have been colored with artificial dyes, as these contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment.
What to Look For
Luckily, there are plenty of natural fibers that are used to make beautiful and practical curtains. Popular options include cotton, linen, wool, hemp, and bamboo. Silk is a more expensive option, but it’s another natural fiber with a great aesthetic appeal. Wool is a good choice for anyone who is worried about not having curtains that have been treated to be stain and fire-resistant because this material is naturally resistant to fire and doesn’t stain easily. It’s also a great fabric for a colder climate because wool curtains can help insulate your house during the winter.
If you want to further offset your carbon footprint, look for curtain fibers that come from an organic farm—this guarantees that chemicals were never used on the plants. And if you want colorful curtains without the harmful dyes, look for naturally pigmented materials such as “color grown” cotton. This naturally grown cotton is bred to be a wide range of colors and is not treated with insecticides and pesticides.
Advantages of Eco-Friendly Curtains
The obvious advantage of eco-friendly curtains is that they don’t have the negative impact on the environment that synthetic curtains do and they don’t have a chemical residue that can be harmful to you and your family. However, another significant advantage is that eco-friendly curtains can help you save on your heating and cooling costs for your house.
During the summer, pick out a light-colored curtain lining made from a natural material in order to deflect sunlight and minimize the need for air conditioning. During the winter, switch that curtain lining out for a dark-colored one in order to absorb any external heat and lock in warmth.
If you’re a tactile person, the natural fibers of eco-friendly curtains may appeal to you because they are generally very soft to the touch.
If all that’s not enough for you, curtains made from materials like bamboo and silk make for great room accents. Bamboo in particular is noted for its elegant and sophisticated look. Additionally, it’s an extremely durable material that can withstand a lot of sunlight without fading. That means you’ll be able to use those curtains for longer without worrying that you’ll have to replace them because they’ve started to show their age.
Where to Find Eco-Friendly Curtains
Most major department stores will carry some types of eco-friendly curtains—you just need to keep your eyes out for the natural fibers described above. There are also plenty of online retailers who have special lines of eco-friendly curtains, including west elm, Light in the Box, and American Draperies & Blinds and Moshells. Some environmentally-conscious retailers will even offer an incentive for buying their eco-friendly products, such as planting a tree for every purchase that you make. As the green movement continues to grow, especially in the realm of home decorating, there will be no shortage of stores and sites from which to buy eco-friendly curtains.
Juliana Weiss-Roessler runs writes about green living topics her husband Josh. Her writing has been featured on high-traffic websites, such as Yahoo.com, and in major publications, such as PARADE and People. Follow her on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.