Some products last a lifetime. Others last only a short time. You may have already cut the really short-lived products, like single-use plastic bags, out of your routine. However, there are plenty of home products you use on a regular basis – from dish sponges to sofas, mini-blinds to major appliances – that will eventually be added to the tally of waste your home generates over time. The same goes for doors, windows, and flooring.
You can make product choices today that will help you reduce your home’s waste in the future. Look for the style and price you want – but don’t forget to add product lifespan, durability, and room-specific needs to your criteria list. These three simple considerations will help you choose home products that will look good and perform well for decades, which means you will replace them less often over the life of your home.
The big deal about home products going to waste
In 2018, Americans landfilled an estimated 37.4 million tons of durable goods, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines as products designed to last for at least three years. This category includes certain types of flooring, electronics, and household goods. Furniture added about 9.7 million tons to the total, while appliances comprised about 3.7 million tons. That is a massive volume of bulky, oversized products (not to mention still-valuable resources) taking up the limited space in our landfills. The longer your products last between replacements, the smaller your home’s long-term contribution to this waste.
Consideration #1: How long will the product last?
When it’s time to buy a new big-ticket item for your home, consider the product’s expected lifespan. Is a certain brand of product longer-lived than another? The question also applies when you’re considering products made from different materials, which may have significantly different lifespans.
A study from the National Association of Home Builders, for example, showed that flooring products made from different materials run the gamut of average lifespans. (Many blog posts from flooring contractors also illustrate this fact.) Hardwood can last the life of your home, resilient flooring (such as luxury vinyl tile, rubber, and linoleum) lasts 20-plus years, and carpet lasts an average of 8-10 years.
Whether the product lives up to its expected lifespan in your home depends on the material’s everyday durability – how well it rebounds from the wear and tear of real life. If your flooring rips, stains, or scratches with ease, you’re more likely to replace it before it reaches its predicted lifespan.
Consideration #2: How hard will it be to maintain this product?
For some materials, the ability to reach the full lifespan also depends on how well (and regularly) you maintain the product. It’s time to be honest with yourself: how often will you clean the filters in your vacuum? Will you refinish your hardwood floors or have your carpets professionally cleaned at regular intervals? Will you use the special cleaner the manufacturer recommends or your all-purpose one?
It’s worth considering how high-maintenance a product is before you invest in it. Everyday life can be messy, and easy cleaning is a virtue. If a product requires a lot of elbow grease or harsh chemicals to look good or perform well over time, you may be ready to replace it long before its usable life is over. That means more waste over the life of your home and potentially more expense, too.
Consideration #3: Does this product meet the room’s specific needs?
Carefully choosing products that suit each room’s needs can help you waste less over time. Floors are a perfect example. The bathroom, of course, needs a water-resistant or waterproof floor that won’t warp or rot. The kitchen needs a floor that won’t be damaged by spills, while the hallway needs something that won’t wear.
In the kids’ rooms, you want something that can take whatever your kids can throw at it (literally).
Where are the pets running through? A floor designed to resist scratches and stains will last longer.
Shrinking the cycle of waste
As homeowners, you have many opportunities to make your home more beautiful, more functional – and more responsible. One important way is to choose durable products that will last for decades. Long-term endurance is a win-win for your finances and the environment, as you will cut down on the waste that comes with having to replace damaged or worn products before their time.
Learn about the benefits of resilient flooring – a category of products designed to give you great durability, easy maintenance, and options for every room’s needs.