Look Under Your Fanny: Sustainable Furniture
|Click here to see LIL's complete collection of sustainable furniture|
You seek out non-toxic cleaners, organic foods and energy-efficient appliances and lighting. But what about that new sofa? We often forget about the largest component of our home interiors, even when it's right under our derrieres. Choosing sustainable furniture has wide-ranging impacts, from rainforests to landfills to labor and even to our health. The exciting news is that sustainability now also means great design. When we think about furniture, we usually ask ourselves "How does it look and how much does it cost?" We'd like to encourage you to add a third question: "How was it made?"
Why sustainable furniture?
Manufacturing and shipping furniture draws significantly on unsustainable natural resources and demands a great deal of energy. Furniture-grade wood is often sourced from tropical rainforests. Not only are some of the most diverse forests destroyed in the process (over 80% of the world's old growth trees have already been razed) but also the great biodiversity they support.
Furthermore, furniture manufacturing is rapidly moving overseas, which necessitates greater fuel consumption for shipping. Over the past eight years China has assumed ~1/3 of the world trade in furniture. And the US furniture industry accounts for $80 billion in annual sales. That's a lot of wood, fabric and tanker fuel!
Then there is the healthy home interior factor. Furniture manufacturers typically use finishes, paints, adhesives and other chemicals that contribute significantly to indoor air pollution. This pollution is caused by off-gassing, a process of emitting chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. And the bonding agents used in furniture made of pressed woods (like particle board) often have high formaldehyde content. These toxins have been linked to many illnesses and allergies, and they leach out into the air we breathe as we sit on the couch watching TV. This is no small matter when you have young children in your house.
Recondition, Reuse, Recycle
Don't despair-- there is so much you can do! First and foremost employ the Three Rs of furniture sustainability: Recondition, Reuse, Recycle. How about reusing that old door as a desktop? Or how about putting some bright new cloth on that old arm chair?
And be sure to explore your local vintage stores, antique shops, and flea markets-- you'll be amazed at what people give away and at how much you can save. Speaking of which, if you do decide to get rid of that dining room set, please be sure to donate it or have a yard sale--just do whatever you can to keep it out of the landfill.
|This purrrfect kitty-chaise is made from recycled corrugated cardboard - strong enough to hold you or your cat!|
No Thanks, I Really Do Need New Furniture
But what if you want to change your entire furniture aesthetic from Country French to Modern? That might require more recyling creativity than you can muster. Fortunately for you there are ways to lower the negative impacts of the environment and your health when buying new furniture-- without sacrificing design.
There are several non-profit organizations that offer furniture certifications. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies timber cut in an environmentally and socially responsible manner; the FSC seal can be found on furniture from hundreds of manufacturers and distributors(www.fscus.org). Greenguard (www.greenguard.org) certifies safe, low-emission products and materials for indoor use, including furniture.
Also look for the following attributes of sustainable furniture:
- - Paints, stains and finishes that contain low or no VOCs (e.g., shellac, beeswax, and milk paint)
- - Reduced use of glues, sealants and formaldehyde
- - Natural fabrics, organic cotton, recycled fabric content and toxin-free upholstery
- - 100% natural latex foam
- - Use of materials that have been and can be recycled
- - Minimal packaging
- - Local manufacturing, which saves fuel and associated emissions
We also have to give a special shout-out to bamboo, the miracle material! Bamboo is renewable, durable, and versatile. It's a grass and one of the fastest growing plants on earth. It requires no replanting, fertilizers or pesticides. And it's even harder than furniture-grade maple.
Some Of Our Favorites
Whew!! If you're feeling overwhelmed you can always buy furniture lines that already promote sustainability. Here's where we can help! Check out this clean-lined Arbor Tandem Loveseat that incorporates used seatbelts and non-toxic adhesives. Yes, those are seatbelts. To see more of our favorite sofas and love seats, click here.
Or how about this stylish Viesso couch made of certified sustainable wood, environmental fabrics and natural foam, without sacrificing an ounce of style. Viesso offers a wide range of sustainable choices, so visit their website at www.viesso.com.
And we LOVE this Bamboo Alpha Chair, hand-crafted with fine attention to detail. The smooth, sensous curves and minimalistic flair make this perfect for your contemporary furnishings collection. For other chair options, click here.
The bottom line for what's under your bottom? There's more to furniture than meets the eye. There's beauty in environmental integrity. And sustainable furniture can be aesthetically beautiful. Now that's a beautiful thing!
Individual results of using green products and services listed herein may vary. Low Impact Living, Inc. takes no responsibility for individual results, nor for service providers or products listed on this website.