Every day, we are becoming more and more aware of the adverse effects of global warming and climate change on our lives. Campaigns for environmental conversation have become popular across the globe.
The little efforts we put in at a personal level play a great role in making our planet safer. Buying sustainable furniture is one of the ways you can take part in campaigns for environmental conservation.
But what is sustainable furniture? What makes furniture sustainable? This post will help you understand what sustainable furniture is and how to make your furniture sustainable.
What is sustainable furniture?
Sustainable furniture is one that is made of eco-friendly materials and made with sustainable methods. Sustainable furniture has a less environmental impact and is made to stand the test of time.
Your furniture is sustainable if it ticks the following boxes;
- Causes less damage to the environment- the furniture is made of sustainable materials that have a long life cycle, which means they don’t end up in the landfill within a couple of years.
- Creates a safer home environment- does not release harmful gases, like VOCs (we talk about these down here), which impact human health. Sustainable furniture provides improved indoor air quality.
- Encourages recycling and reusing of materials- furniture made of reclaimed materials reduces your overall carbon footprint.
- Versatile- it can be used both indoors and outdoors. It is resistant to inclement weather when outdoors. Check out these amazing dining chairs and coffee tables.
- Saves money- sustainable furniture may seem expensive up front, but it is economical in the long run.
Why sustainable furniture
Our home’s interior design preferences change based on the latest trends, leading to a cultural phenomenon referred to as fast furniture.
Fast furniture aims to create affordable, fashionable, and easy-to-breakdown furniture. It offers convenience and mobility, especially for frequent movers, budget-conscious consumers and first-time renters.
Like fast fashion, fast furniture is quickly produced, sold cheaply and not expected to last long, and fast furniture increases waste that ends up in landfills.
On the other hand, sustainable furniture is meant to stand the test of time.
How to make your furniture more sustainable?
Making sustainable furniture choices can be a hard task, and here is what you need to keep in mind when looking for eco furniture.
Buy furniture made of sustainable materials.
Sustainable materials are ones that can handle years of use. Sustainable products are made of durable materials like bamboo, steel and wood.
The following are choice examples of the most sustainable materials;
- Wood– well, cutting down trees to furnish a home isn’t really sustainable. Wood takes years to grow. When purchasing furniture made of wood, be sure to check that the timber is legally logged. Check for wood harvested under FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) guidelines. Fsc certified wood is one step in the right direction.
- Bamboo– is probably the most eco-friendliest furniture choice available due to its fast-growing nature. It is also very durable and even stronger than mild steel. How amazing is this bamboo dining set from Etsy?
- Aluminum and steel– while the manufacturing process of metal is not so green- requires tons of energy- metal is a great choice of furniture material. The materials are sometimes made of recycled content and can be easily recycled once the furniture is worn out.
Buy second-hand/vintage pieces.
When shopping for vintage pieces, remember to;
- Check out for faults on the furniture. Minor faults that you can repair at home will offer you a bargaining advantage due to the damage, saving you some coins.
- Measure the place you intend to fix your furniture before purchasing. You don’t want to experience the pain of having a perfect fixture that can’t fit in your room.
- Visit a few second-hand shops to see the varieties available.
If hunting down the perfect pre-loved piece isn’t your cup of tea, there are other ways to go vintage. Furniture makers and designers now use recycled materials such as scrap and salvaged wood to create new furniture pieces.
Sourcing furniture from local producers is one of the ultimate steps to sustainability. Shopping locally reduces the transportation and the packaging required when shipping imported items. Locally made furniture is thus a great opportunity to cut down your carbon footprint.
Most local furniture products are also made from recycled materials. Moreover, shopping locally boosts the local economy.
Purchase furniture that can be effectively maintained. Ensure the furniture can be easily cleaned, reupholstered or replaced with spare parts. This extends the life span of the furniture.
Ensure the piece of furniture meets your needs and can serve you for a long time. This will significantly limit the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.
Whenever possible, choose multifunctional furniture. It will help conserve the furniture production resources and save you on space – Perfect examples are coffee tables with inbuilt storage or sofa beds.
What to look for when buying sustainable furniture
Today, most brands attempt to promote their ‘sustainability’ or ‘eco-friendly’ credentials to boost sales. The furniture industry is not an exception, and it can be difficult to know how sustainable a product is or what you buy.
When looking for green furniture, look for the following characteristics.
In most cases, cheaper products don’t last long and end up in landfills sooner. When purchasing a piece of furniture, please take it as an investment. While it may seem expensive at first, it will be cost-saving and eco-friendly in the long run.
Also, before buying a product, ensure the manufacturer guarantees a long service life and spare parts or refurbishment programs.
Choice of materials
Ensure that the furniture is made of eco-friendly and sustainably sourced materials that are easily renewable or can be recycled or repurposed. For example, bamboo is a good material as it grows very fast, hence easily renewable. Metal and wood are easily recycled.
Unless it is reclaimed wood, avoid wood products from trees that take too long to mature.
Types of chemicals used in the manufacturing process
Most furniture materials (plywood, etc.) and surface treatments (e.g., paints) contain VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). These are toxic chemicals that evaporate at room temperature, releasing dangerous gases. You know that smell of new furniture you get when unpacking VOCs.
There are also concerns that flame retardants and stain-resistant fabrics could harm human health. Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are commonly found in upholstery treated with stain-resistant coatings.
The foam inside couches, chairs and other upholstered furniture contains flame retardant chemicals.
When released into the air, these chemicals affect your home’s air quality and negatively impact human health. Though the chemicals cannot be completely avoided, check with furniture retailers to verify that the furniture is low on such.
You can also opt for furniture without filling as it is unlikely to contain flame retardants.
Transportation of raw materials and finished products requires energy. The most environmentally friendly mode of transport offers the best energy efficiency. Check that your manufacturer’s mode of transport is energy efficient.
Aim for locally produced furniture made with locally sourced raw materials to minimize carbon footprint. Remember that transport increases carbon dioxide emissions.
Packaging is another key factor to consider. Aim to buy furniture with zero or minimal packaging. Sustainable packaging could include items such as cardboard or recyclable plastic.
Another advantage of purchasing furniture locally is that there will be minimal packaging.
Besides sustainable materials, you must consider the manufacturing process of the furniture. The manufacturing practices must be safe for the environment, including minimal carbon emissions.
The manufacturers should be able to provide relevant certifications from authorities such as the Forest Stewardship Council. Such certifications will help you assess how environmentally friendly a piece of furniture is.
Also, look for furniture manufacturers who are environmentally conscious. Such manufacturers often employ schemes to offset their carbon footprint, such as tree planting.
Tips to make your furniture last longer
Protecting the furniture you already own is key to sustainable furniture. Furniture used daily is prone to wear and tear. Protecting your furniture will save you money and reduce the amount of furniture waste, thus creating a more sustainable lifestyle.
Here are a few tips to protect your furniture to last longer.
- Sofa and armchair covers- removable and washable covers are highly recommended, especially if you have kids or pets. They help reduce the amount of dust, dander and even dirt in your living room
- Repainting- if your furniture is still in good condition but looks gloomy, try repainting. A little paint or varnish will give your piece of furniture a whole new look. Remember to look for paint that has low VOC.
- Keep wood furniture away from direct sunlight- it prevents the paint from fading and ensures the wood does not crack over time. Window treatments are a perfect way to minimize the amount of sunlight that enters the room.
- Move furniture carefully- dragging can cause damage to the furniture and even on your floor. When you need to move heavy furniture, ask for help to lift it.
- Keep your furniture clean- dust particles may accumulate on your furniture, making it look old. Regularly clean and vacuum the furniture to maintain its appearance. Also, while cleaning, ensure that you use appropriate cleaners only. Avoid all-purpose cleaners. There are specific cleaners for specific furniture.
- Donate old furniture- finally, don’t throw away an old piece of furniture when you get a new set. Donate to friends or relatives. You can also take it to a recycling center.
While it may be difficult to locate eco-friendly furniture, it doesn’t hurt to progress toward longer-lasting and green furniture. Keep in mind the long-term implications of fast furniture for your wallet and Mother Nature. Conserving the environment will have an impact on us and our future generations.
Take the extra step to dispose of your not-so-cherished furniture in an environmentally conscious manner when it’s time to send it to the graveyard. In 2017, an estimated 12.1 million tons of furniture waste was generated, with 80.1 percent ending up in landfills in the United States. Instead of sending old furniture to the landfills, recycle, sell, donate, or even restore it.
You are now empowered to be more eco-conscious when it comes to furniture. Let me know some other ways that you have made your furniture more sustainable.