Have you heard the term Hygge? It’s a Scandinavian concept, roughly translated to creating a cozy and intimate environment in your home. Think soft blankets, a crackling fireplace, a mug of something warm, and a good book. I don’t know about you, but this time of year, when the temperature is dropping and all the holiday obligations are stressing us out, Hygge becomes more important than ever.
Living a hygge life and being environmentally responsible can go hand-in-hand. Just follow these suggestions about how to stay warm and cozy — and green — until Spring.
1. Turn the thermostat down
Hear me out on this one. If you turn the heat down a few degrees, you have all the more reason to slip into your coziest stuff: Soft sweaters, fleece slippers, a velour throw blanket. For the best energy savings, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends keeping your thermostat at 68˚F while you’re at home, and turning it down between 7 and 10 degrees when you’re not at home or while you’re sleeping. (Adding an extra blanket to the bed is another way to get cozy!) And research suggests a cool room is better for deep sleep anyway.
2. Make a cup of tea
A warm cup of tea or hot cocoa can really complete a hygge setting. To make an eco-friendlier brew, use an electric kettle rather than the stove to heat your water, and heat only the amount of water you need. Reduce packaging waste by buying loose-leaf tea in bulk and using a reusable infuser or tea ball. If you do prefer teabags, look for ones without metal staples, and compost the bags when you’re done.
3. Choose candles wisely
I love turning off unnecessary lamps and overhead fixtures and enjoying the soft light of flickering candles. But I recently read about a study that determined churches had levels of toxic chemicals similar to the air around a busy highway, all thanks to the cheap paraffin candles burning inside. If you love candles, seek out versions that are better for the environment as well as for your interior air quality. Beeswax and soy candles with organic cotton wicks are your best bets. And beware: If you have a stash of old candles that might date back to before 2003, they could potentially contain lead in the wicks. When you’re done with your candles, get creative with reusing their pretty vessels!
4. Add some natural decorations
One component of a hygge home is incorporating natural materials into your setting. Certain houseplants will not only add to the ambience but also improve your interior air quality. If you don’t have a green thumb, you can make arrangements with pretty fall leaves, pine cones or cut branches, or even create arrangements with smooth stones or seashells gathered from your last vacation.
5. Pick up a good book
To go along with the cozy blanket, warm tea, and comforting setting, a book seems just the thing. When it comes to the environment, the e-reader vs. paper debate puts paper books a hair ahead of their electronic counterparts. Borrowing books from friends or the library, buying used books (and passing on your own copies when you’re finished), and, if you’re an e-reader, using your device until it breaks, then recycling it with an e-cycler, will all further reduce your book-lover’s footprint.
6. Enjoy your fireplace (if you have one)
A crackling fire is the ultimate treat on a cold night. Fireplaces can be causes for energy waste and interior air-quality pollution so it’s important to make sure that yours is as environmentally responsible as possible. Wood-burning fireplaces can release soot and toxic chemicals, so consider getting a gas insert or an insert that uses cleaner wood pellets, which are made from lumberyard byproducts. While the fire is burning, turn your heat down or entirely off and enjoy cozying up to the flickering flames instead.
7. Knit a scarf
While enjoying that fire, give your hands something to do by taking up knitting or crocheting. Feeling the soft yarn between your hands is a pleasure in itself, and pulling on a handmade hat or scarf is so gratifying! There are plenty of sustainable options for your knitting gear. Choose yarn made from unusual but eco-friendly fibers, such as seaweed, corn, hemp, soy silk, or recycled sari silk. As for the needles, you can often find secondhand needles at thrift stores or estate sales. Other choices are needles made of renewable resources like bamboo or recycled plastic, or you could always make your own with a pair of chopsticks!
Armed with these sustainable tips, you’ll be able to enjoy making your home a little more hygge, just in time to escape from holiday stresses.