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Eco-decor: Not your Grandma’s throw pillows

They don't terribly sexy — but well-chosen throw pillows can turn the average couch into a lounging extravaganza. Here, GreenDAY's Marisa Belger handpicks the plushest, most planet-friendly ones for your home.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

There may come a time when you find yourself desperately in need of something you were pretty sure you’d never desperately need: the ultimate throw pillow. That’s right, throw pillows.

Available in an endless variety of sizes, colors and textures, the square, rectangle — even cylindrical — cushions can turn the average couch or bed into a lounging extravaganza. Make a bit of effort to outfit your home with eco-minded options (those constructed and stuffed with organic cotton or reclaimed materials, colored with toxin-free dyes and so on) and you will take your pillow experience to the next level.

I admit that it took me some time to come to terms with my need for these seemingly frivolous home accessories (at first utter there is something deeply uncool about the term “throw pillow”), but I recently purchased an extremely bare new couch and can’t deny the furniture’s calling for pillow accoutrement. I’ve been researching my options for months and have discovered — aha! — that deep into 2008, throw pillows are anything but dorky. In fact, they’re incredibly exciting mini-canvases that showcase the creativity of some of the world's best designers. Really.

I’ve yet to commit to a single pillow, but these are the ones that have me — and are keeping me — inspired. And why stop at the couch? A throw pillow can provide some essential lumbar support on a desk chair or, if significantly sized, extra seating on the living room floor.

I dig the handcrafted look and feel of Balanced Design’s 16” x 16” pillows (this is probably because they are actually silk-screened by hand). The simple graphic prints are dyed with water-based inks in blue, brown or green and are available in an eco-conscious hemp/linen blend or 100 percent linen. I'm partial to “Shade,” a design that looks like an abstract take on leaves. While you’re picking out a pillow, don’t miss out on the organic cotton totes — one of these can serve as a snazzy upgrade to the average beach bag.

Emma Gardner scores extra green points by designing striking (hot pink, teal, red — no pastels here) pillows made from "Sensuede," a synthetic suede made from 50 percent recycled polyester. I’m not sure where Gardner gets her material, but it’s fun to imagine a butterfly-collared shirt from the ’70s reincarnated into a sexy throw pillow.

Want to go more DIY? Make the throw pillow of your dreams with a quick visit to Freddy & Ma’s customizable pillow page. Pick your shape (12” x 12” x 4”; 12” x 17”; or 17” x 17” x 4”), choose your pattern and then see how they work together before purchasing. Playing with the patterns (kelly green with navy anchors? Red-and-blue tie-dye?) is reason enough to visit Freddy & Ma’s site, but the pillows’ eco-friendly filling is motivation to buy. Each pillow is stuffed with kapok, a fiber from the silk-cotton tree that’s a natural alternative to synthetic fillings and a great substitute for people with allergies to down.

Those who would readily choose a good old sleeping pillow over a throw pillow aren’t without eco-options. I’m completely smitten with Polver Organic’s dual-sided organic cotton pillowcases. Polver’s fabric is block-printed by hand, which makes every inch unique. Look for playful combinations like brown leaves and confetti (a different pattern on each side of the pillow) or yellow roses and blue waves. You have my blessing to throw these pillows anywhere.

Marisa Belger is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience covering health and wellness. She was a founding editor of, a multiplatform media company specializing in health, wellness and sustainable living. Marisa also collaborated with Josh Dorfman on “The Lazy Environmentalist” (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang), a comprehensive guide to easy, stylish green living.

Please note: Neither Marisa Belger nor has been compensated by the manufacturers or their representatives for her comments or selection of products reviewed in this column.