I’ve never been particularly good at or interested in decorating. My style could be described as a mish-mash of farmhouse, French country, apartment furniture purchased by us when we were in our late 20s and antiques given to us by family.

But after spending a lot of time in my house these past few years — like everyone else — I was ready for a change. The last thing I wanted to do was purchase something new online, have it shipped, spend an hour in assembly and deal with all the packaging waste, only to have the item fall apart.

Oh, and yeah — climate change.

In a study conducted in 2020, the purchasing of goods in Philipstown ranked fifth in terms of the carbon it creates that contribute to climate change, or 12.9 percent of consumption-based emissions. This includes furniture, clothes and appliances. The best way to reduce these emissions is to not buy new things.

Every item produced overseas and sold through a big box store or online retail giant is steeped in carbon emissions. And really, does the world need more stuff? We need to get much better at repairing, reusing and repurposing. 

We have a “fast furniture” problem. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 9 million tons of furniture are thrown away annually, or roughly 5 percent of everything transported to landfills, where it is buried. Not only is this wasteful, but it’s not a good investment.

If you applied a circular economy lens to home decorating, you might want to start with upcycling or repairing. For instance, I covered up my comfortable, well-loved sage green couch (with a small tear) with a white couch cover. I also took a broken 1950s white enamel table and converted it to a coffee table by purchasing hairpin legs. If you find yourself with broken furniture or ripped upholstery, try finding a repair cafe. Check out Repair Cafe Hudson Valley (repaircafehv.org) to see when they are happening.

The other option is to acquire previously loved items (aka “preowned”). I discovered, and became a bit obsessed with, buying and selling furniture and decor on Facebook Marketplace. Whether you love or hate Facebook, its marketplace is incredibly useful for buying and selling just about anything you can think of.  Craigslist is also an option, but I prefer Facebook because I find it easier to search for items and communicate with sellers.

Using Facebook Marketplace, I can search for items, select local pickup and set the radius in which I am willing to travel. I also use the Marketplace to sell. Alternatively, you can use Facebook to find or give away items through a “freecycle” group. See the Facebook group at bit.ly/philipstown-freecycle (which has nearly 3,000 members) or search at freecycle.org/find-towns.

I also used AptDeco, an online store that specializes in selling preowned furniture and decor. I purchased a dresser, couch and chair and was happy with them. While the prices are not quite the bargains you will find on Facebook Marketplace, you can find decent brands and they deliver, which makes a huge difference if you want to buy secondhand but don’t have the time or ability to transport the furniture.

I never bought anything at Renovation Angel, but I think it’s worth checking out. Its motto is to “renovate responsibly” and it sells previously owned luxury kitchens, bath fixtures, home furnishings and furniture. 

A little more time consuming, but fun: yard sales, estate sales and antique stores. There is no shortage in the Highlands.

Over the past year, I discovered that the interior design that resonates with me (and my husband) is Scandinavian. Now, whenever I walk into a space that I’ve redone, it feels right, like the space fits me, and I feel relaxed. I also don’t feel that I have added to the world’s landfills or contributed carbon, which is priceless. 

Behind The Story

Type: Opinion

Opinion: Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.

Ford, who lives in Garrison, is The Current's Living Green columnist and coordinator for the Town of Philipstown's Climate Smart Communities program.