10 ways to renovate sustainably

My name is Kat and I am a zero waste lifestyle, travel, and fashion blogger. Over the last eight months, I have been renovating a 100-year-old house with my family. Bathrooms, living rooms, bedrooms, you name it, we’re doing it! Since I live a zero waste lifestyle, it is important for me to implement sustainability into our renovations. While there will always be some waste in a renovation, there are still many ways to reduce waste and renovate sustainably!

10 Ways to Renovate Sustainably:

1. Keep what you have. This may sound counter-intuitive since the purpose of a renovation is to make something new or improved, but it’s helpful to consider when starting the renovation process. Before you begin your renovation, I recommend evaluating what you need to renovate and what you can keep! Let me give you an example. I am currently renovating my bathroom. When we first started the renovation, I believed our only option was to gut the bathroom due to plumbing, mold, and other issues. However, after speaking to different professionals and watching YouTube videos, I re-evaluated the bathroom and discovered that we could actually keep and restore a lot of the existing materials!

To Renovate:  To Keep:
  • Moldy ceiling
  • Install new wallpaper
  • Install new toilet
  • Restore 100-year-old floor tile
  • Re-glaze shower tile
  • Re-glaze 100-year-old bathtub
  • Power wash shower doors

2. Use recycled materials for any rebuilds. This is one of my favorite tips for a renovation. There is so much material out there. Whatever you end up needing to renovate, I recommend checking Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for materials. We have had success on Craigslist finding repurposed clapboard for the outside of our house among other supplies! There may even be some materials in your own home! We had an old bookcase that wasn’t being used so we took the shelves off, sanded them down, stained them, and a screwed them to brackets on the wall in our closet to make more storage space.
3. Flip furniture you have. Before buying any new furniture from Ikea, Target, Wayfair, or other popular “fast-furniture” stores, I recommend scanning your home for furniture that you can flip to fit your new space. I owned a 100-year-old dresser that was chipped and in poor condition. Plus, the color didn’t match my style. Instead of buying a new piece that was made of lower quality materials, I sanded the hardwood piece, painted it, and added some floral detail to the surface. Not only will you bring life to a new piece, but you will also have something no one else has! 
4. Buy secondhand furniture from Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or estate sales. If you don’t have anything in your home that has flipping potential, turn to secondhand! My favorite ways to find secondhand furniture are Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and garage/estate sales. There is so much furniture already out there and much of it is extremely high quality for a low price.
5. Choose quality over quantity. If you can’t find what you need secondhand or don’t have access to these sites in your area, choose high quality pieces over multiple low quality pieces. A well-made piece will last much longer, have a higher resale value, and is likely made with stronger materials. A lower quality piece may chip or scratch and doesn’t have much resale value. The end life of this piece has a higher chance of ending up in the landfill. Here’s a personal example: I renovated a home office for myself and needed a desk. I didn’t have one in my house and couldn’t find a white trendy one on Craigslist at the time. I didn’t even think about flipping a desk because I wanted to buy one as quickly as possible. I ended up purchasing a desk for under $150 from Wayfair. It’s been less than three years and the product is chipped and the surface is filled with scratches. The desk is made of cheap materials including a laminate top. It doesn’t have much life left in it. Now I know for next time, I will purchase a high quality secondhand desk and flip it!
6. Use zero VOC paint. If you are painting a room or flipping furniture, purchase zero VOC paint. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. Standard paints have these chemicals which are released into the air when you paint. When you breathe in that air, there is a risk for many health problems. Plus, these chemicals are not good for the environment! Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore both make zero VOC paint options. There are other sites that offer zero VOC paint options, but only for delivery. I don’t recommend getting paint supplies delivered. There is a risk that the paint can will open! Been there, done that! I ended up with white paint all over my stairs outside.
7. Buy vintage wallpaper from Etsy or Ebay. If you are not painting and instead opting for wallpaper, try searching for vintage wallpaper on Etsy or Ebay! There are many sellers who offer unused rolls of paper. This is a great way to reduce waste and buy something that already exists! Bonus tip: use extra wallpaper to line drawers!
8. Upcycle old fabric for pillow cases and curtains. This is another favorite tip of mine! I love going through the linen section at thrift stores or looking through old linens at antique shops. There is something so romantic and one-of-a-kind about the lace detail, embroidery, and history! You can search on Pinterest or YouTube how to repurpose fabrics for different projects such as pillow cases, curtains, or even framing pieces of fabric for decor!
9. Buy decor from thrift stores. So you’ve finished the renovation process. Now it’s time for the fun part of decorating your new space! I have the same suggestion as before with the furniture. Use decor you already have, repurpose existing materials, or shop secondhand! For my latest DIY decor piece, I repainted and distressed an antique frame from a thrift store, collected vintage postcards, and framed a collage! I even used extra paint we had left over from another project so there was zero waste created in this project and I have a beautiful, unique piece that no one else has!
10. Utilize Pinterest for inspiration and DIY projects. Lastly, for whatever renovation you are doing or if you need inspiration for design or decor, search on Pinterest. There are so many people with creative ideas who can help you with your own DIY projects! Remember that every renovation is different and sustainability looks different for every house, every project, and every person.

Article written by contributor: Kat Rose. Follow along her eco renovation journey @anewerkatintown on Instagram.


Plastic-Free Living Blog by Me.Mother Earth may contain testimonials or reviews by contributor writers. These testimonials reflect the real ­life experiences and opinions of such users. However, the experiences are personal to those particular users, and may not necessarily be representative of all users of our products and/or services. We do not claim, and you should not assume, that all users will have the same experiences.

Me.Mother Earth was created by Amanda Runkle and Alberto Gomes who aren’t experts, just two Mother Earth loving humans who share their plastic-free tips and advice with the help of contributor writers. The various DIY & zero waste methods, suggestions, and tutorials on Me.Mother Earth are not error proof, they’re merely what worked for Amanda and Alberto along the way. Extra precautions and additional research are always advised and Me.Mother Earth cannot be held responsible for your personal health or the outcomes from any of the articles shared on our Blog.


Leave a comment